Allie Carson: Interpreter Extraordinaire is a middlegrade/YA novel by Marilyn Kinghorn.
Since Allie's mother died in a tragic accident, Allie has noticed that her ability seems to be getting stronger. You see, she can speak with animals. She has regular conversations with her dog Whisper, in fact. But in the midst of everyday life, soccer, school, helping to take care of her special needs brother Jonah, and picking up the slack of her forgetful and busy, but well meaning and kind, dad - she can't imagine telling anyone about it. So, she keeps her ability to herself.
In the meantime, Allie has to keep an eye on her suspicious and unfriendly houseguest Gina, a girl her own age that is staying with them for a short time. From Allie's perspective, it can't be soon enough. But when marine animals suddenly begin getting sick and dying, Allie communicates with a young seal and decides to try her best to help. But what can a 6th grader do, even if she can talk to animals?
Allie Carson: Interpreter Extraordinaire is a fusion of Dr. Dolittle and light, meaningful, mystery. I found Allie to quickly be established as a normal, likable, bright young girl that is just starting to like boys, beginning to feel an awkwardness that was never there before with her male best friend Sam, with family responsibilities and hobbies. Plus, there's the added stress of keeping her ability a secret - but other than that, Allie is refreshingly angst-free and down-to-earth.
Marilyn Kinghorn presents a lovely consciousness of animals (perhaps inevitable in a novel like this, but done very well), a believable foray into the first days of Junior High, and a representation of taking care of and loving a special needs brother with sensitivity and a touching bittersweet awareness. This grounded quality makes Allie Carson: Interpreter Extraordinaire a great read for animal lovers of any age (like me).
Not to mention the perfectly written mean-girl-esque Gina and the horrible, but sadly realistic, plotlines her presence in the Carson house take the novel. I was in quite a state of suspense in some of the later scenes, as a direct result of her evilness. Okay, maybe she's not evil... but close. ;)
And the portrayal of a single-parent family will resonate with a lot of girls Allie's age out there. Yet again, it wasn't written from the standpoint of pity, nor was her father a bad dad. Life can be hard sometimes, and Allie Carson: Interpreter Extraordinaire didn't have any qualms about showing that - without ever becoming depressing or whiny. Instead you get a wiser-than-her-years, smart heroine that you can root for and relate to.
Admittedly, there were times early on that the plot seemed a bit too light - but the down-to-earth sensibility of the book and sweet animal scenes were enough to keep me involved. And as you can see, I grew more and more convinced, as the novel continued, that Allie Carson: Interpreter Extraordinaire was a great read.
In the end, I can say with assurance that Allie Carson: Interpreter Extraordinaire is an engaging, complete, human tale - despite having a cast of characters that are probably at least 50% animal!