When a nearby petting zoo catches fire, the homeless animals come to stay at Blackthorn Stables - and Mini Whinny's life is turned upside down. She builds a wall to try and keep the animals out of her stall, but when that fails and frustrations reach an all-time high, she realises they want to go home as much as she wants them to. So Mini Whinny decides to stage a circus show to raise money to help rebuild the petting zoo.
This is the fourth story in the Mini Whinny series, written by Stacy Gregg and illustrated by Ruth Paul.
Children can be very possessive about their belongings and their space, especially if they have never had to share. Having a sudden invasion of house guests can be quite daunting and pose a real threat to the host, especially if they have different habits. Mini Whinny is put into this position and does not take it well; in fact, she is really unkind to the visitors and makes it very clear that she does not want them in her home. By the time they have eaten her oats, chewed her hay, bitten a piece out of her rosette, and commandeered her bed, she is ready to fight back!
It is easy to sympathise with Mini Whinny - Miss Five and Mr Three are only too familiar with the importance of their own home after spending time in Lockdown - but then they got to thinking about it and wondered how they would feel if they were the ones who had lost their home and had to stay with people who did not want them. This book allows children to see both sides of the problem. Kindness comes naturally to most children once they have grown out of the "Terrible Twos" when it is all "Me, me, me!" By three years of age, children can relate to other people and empathise with them. This is certainly the case with Miss Five and Mr Three.
Mini Whinny redeemed herself in their eyes when she came up with a solution to the problem. She could see that her guests were just as unhappy as she was; all they wanted to do was go back to a home of their own. Her solution worked and she was happy to see her guests leave for their new home. The children were happy that she had solved the problem successfully, and had proved she could be kind after all. It just took a bit of thinking through!
The illustrations are stunning, colourful and full of detail. After the children had read the book several times, they went through just looking at the pictures and picking out the different animals and birds. Each time, they discovered something new. They were already familiar with Mini Whinny, but there were lots of new creatures in this story. The pigs were especially cute! The page where they all cuddled down together to sleep for the night was particularly sweet - at least, we all thought so, even if Mini Whinny did not! And as for Mini Whinny's lion impersonation, that was quite something.
If you asked me for my favourite character on my kids bookshelf, Mini Whinny would stand head and mane above the rest. In the series of adventures she has been on so far her antics have provided funny yet valuable lessons on sharing, being kind and also standing up for others when things get tough. My 6 year old is a huge fan, and the other three books are some of our most commonly requested reads. Because of this we were excited to hear of a new Mini Whinny adventure being released, and stoked to receive a copy of 'No Place Like Home' to review. The book even beat out the chocolate covered almonds for the first thing she wanted to dive into (need I say more)!
In this latest title, Mini Whinny finds herself having to share her home, and even her precious stable, with other animals as the nearby petting zoo catches fire. Anyone who knows the character will realise immediately that Mini Whinny does not take kindly to this (as per her previous escapades), and tries to block them out. However, most of the animals make themselves at home on her haybale barricade, much to her annoyance. When she eventually talks to them, she realises that they want to go back home as much as she wants them to leave, and so she hatches a plan to enable them to raise enough funds to re-build their zoo.
Mini Whinny is back at her hot-headed best, playing the part of the average 5 year old to perfection. The book takes you through her journey, exploring, but never condemning, the range of emotions and responses she has. She may have her own interests at the front and center of her mind, but she also shows amazing courage, growth and ingenuity to help the animals who have taken over her space, and ultimately help everyone get what they want. As always she has her mother figure Palomina to gently but firmly guide her, as well as Berenice her cat best friend to make her think about her decisions. Previous favourites Goody Four Shoes and Bandit also make an appearance, providing additional familiarity amongs a host of new characters. The fire at the zoo is handled gently and carefully, making it sad but not scary for younger readers. The illustrations by Ruth Paul are, as always, absolutely fantastic. Full of detail and expressions, they provide just the right support to the text, without overwhelming it. These two are the perfect example of symbiosis- each enhancing what the other brings.
Stacy Gregg always has such a beautiful way of pitching a story perfectly for the audience. My daughter really empathised with Mini Whinny, but also loved seeing how she was able to realise that by helping others, she was achieving what they all wanted. I think at any time of year, but particularly Christmas, this is such a valuable lesson, which could be retold over and over again. My daughters loved this book and I loved this book- no small feat in the world of children's writing. The perfect gift for any horse or animal lover this Christmas (or any time), I know this book will be a regular read at our house. This fourth installment builds on the three previous titles, and I can't wait to see more additions to this series.
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