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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Margaret Sophia Anna Maria Smith is a little girl on a mission. Her friends call her Little Pearl or just Pearly. She used to live on a special island with her parents and younger brother, but one day, Pearly woke up after star watching in the field with her mother and couldn’t find her family. Since then, she’s made all kinds of friends including In-Out, a blue bunny; Rusty, a stern red bird; Syd the snake and many others. She’s very good at making friends. Pearly tries to follow the Old Winding River because she believes it’ll lead her home. But this adventure has her hesitating at the edge of a thick, dark forest, lured into its confines by a gusty wind. Only In-Out can convince her to venture deep into the forest and join the birthday festivities. You see, the oldest and wisest tree on the island, Abe, is turning 100.
Sarah Ann Kinnear’s early reader, When the Plants Throw a Party, is the third book in the Little Pearl's Reflection mysterious adventure series. The author provides a short backstory to give young readers new to this series a bit of background so they’re not lost as the story continues to follow Pearly’s quest to find her family. The plot begins with the gusty wind pushing the little girl toward the forest and how Pearly hesitates as she recalls words of wisdom from her parents on how to stay safe if suddenly lost and alone. The story blossoms when her anthropomorphic characters join her and new friends are introduced and vow to help her in the search. The birthday party is an unexpected delay and Pearly is anxious to keep going. She feels pressured for time: “Time, time, always difficult to know time.”
The story is told in simple language with engaging descriptive passages so young readers feel part of the story. They’ll certainly relate to events like the opening scene where a gusty wind is pushing Pearly forward. The colorful illustrations are charming and help move the story along. Like Sheila Burnford’s The Incredible Journey, and many others, this story (and the entire series) is a classic to be cherished as friendships blossom between unlikely characters. Beautifully told.