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Literature / Animal Inn

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Animal Inn is a children's series by Virginia Vail, published from September 1986 to March 1991. It follows the Taylor family of Essex, Pennsylvania: "Doc" Theodore Taylor, who runs the veterinary hospital Animal Inn, thirteen-year-old series protagonist Valentine (who works part-time at Animal Inn as well), eleven-year-old ballerina-in-training Erin, and eight-year-old Teddy. The household also includes a number of pets.


The series consists of:

  • 01: Pets Are For Keeps (September 1986) Summary 
  • 02: A Kid's Best Friend (November 1986) Summary 
  • 03: Monkey Business (February 1987) Summary 
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  • 04: Scaredy Cat (April 1987) Summary 
  • 05: Adopt-a-Pet (June 1987) Summary 
  • 06: All the Way Home (August 1987) Summary 
  • 07: The Pet Makeover (March 1990) Summary 
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  • 08: Petnapped! (May 1990) Summary 
  • 09: One Dog Too Many (August 1990) Summary 
  • 10: Parrot Fever (September 1990) Summary 
  • 11: Oh Deer! (November 1990) Summary 
  • 12: Gift Horse (March 1991) Summary 

Not to be confused with the 2016 series of the same name by Paul DuBois Jacobs and Jennifer Swender, which follows an "all-inclusive pet resort/hotel/center/spa for animals".

The series contains examples of:

  • Alpha Bitch: Lila Bascombe, the snobbish daughter of one of the richest families in town and also one of the biggest jerks.
  • Berserk Button: Val can get very... passionate about animals who are abandoned or mistreated by their owners.
  • The Bet: In book 1, after Val diagnoses Harvey Curran the rabbit, Toby doesn't believe her, so Val bets him a week's salary that she's right with her diagnosis. Toby, in turn, agrees that if she's right, he'll work at Animal Inn, without payment, for two weeks. Val, naturally, is right, and her father agrees to the conditions when he finds out. Toby stays on as a paid employee after his first two weeks, and is still there at the end of the series.
  • Big Eater: Teddy Taylor, who claims it's because he's a growing boy and needs the nourishment. Also Cleveland the cat, who demands four meals a day plus snacks.
  • The Bully: Sparky, when first introduced. She stops after making friends.
  • Christmas Episode: Book 11 is set around the holiday season.
  • City Mouse: Marcy Butler, Mr. and Mrs. Bauer's visiting niece in book 4. She's more scared of the animals than anything, but opens up with Erin's help due to a shared interest in ballet and comes to bond with the new lambs on the farm.
  • Covered in Gunge: Val and Andy, the dog she rescues from a tar basin, in the start of book 9.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Book 3 features Little Leo, a lion cub.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Valentine Taylor is a lesser example, as she just goes by Val or Vallie most of the time. Philomena Sparks, on the other hand, can't stand her first name and goes by Phil or Sparky.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Val, who loves any and all animals (though even she has her limits, as seen when Gigi the capuchin monkey drives her a little bananas).
  • Interspecies Friendship: Pedro the burro and Ludwig the german shepherd, introduced in book 5 and adopted by Miss Maggie Rafferty.
  • Kindly Housekeeper: Mrs. Racer, the visiting housekeeper who's been helping out the Taylors since Mrs. Taylor died, and Mrs. Wilson, the live-in housekeeper for the Sparks family.
  • Lethal Chef: Val's really not that good a cook. Known examples include an incident where she forgot to put baking powder in "baking powder biscuits", and when she put a whole chicken in the oven with the plastic bag of giblets still inside. Her siblings also tease her by claiming she could burn lemonade.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Val's rabbits are named Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail... and Sam. (Which is apparently a retcon, since he's referred to as Peter in the first book.)
  • Like Father, Like Son:
    • Val takes after her father in her love of animals and chosen career as a vet.
    • Erin wants to be a ballerina like her mother, who performed in the Pennsylvania Ballet before her death.
  • Mischief-Making Monkey: Gigi the capuchin, who causes quite a bit of trouble for the Taylor family when she's recovered enough. The last straw for Val is when Gigi bites Cleveland's tail, prompting Val to insist that the monkey go. (And she does, to a nearby petting zoo that treats its animals well.)
  • Missing Mom: Val's mother died in a car accident three years before the start of the series.
  • Parent with New Paramour: Catherine Sparks, introduced in book 4, becomes engaged to Doc in book 11 and marries him in book 12. Val, Erin and Teddy aren't happy about the idea at first, despite liking her - they just don't like the idea of someone "replacing" their mother (and Erin had the hardest time with it). Fortunately, Catherine is very understanding of their reactions and, with time, the kids accept that she's not going to try and replace Mrs. Taylor in their hearts. Sparky, on the other hand, didn't have any trouble with the idea of Doc being her stepfather at all.
  • Plagiarism in Fiction: In book 3, Val Taylor has written an essay for a contest being held by the Humane Society. When she hands it in in class, her Alpha Bitch classmate Lila Bascombe manages to steal it and submits it under her own name. Fortunately, having written it longhand (and then typed up two copies, the second after her temporary roommate Gigi the monkey tore up the first one), Val's got it memorized and is able to recite it from heart, proving she was the original author.
  • Second Love: Catherine Sparks for Doc Taylor, who proposes to her during a Christmas celebration in book 11, and marries her in book 12.
  • Shout-Out: Teddy's temporary ferret Frank is explicitly named for Major Frank Burns (AKA "Ferret-face").
  • Shout-Out Theme Naming:
  • Straw Vegetarian: Averted by Val - she loves animals and won't eat meat because she can't bring herself to eat an animal she might have helped care for in her veterinary work (though she will eat animal products like eggs and cheese), and does occasionally cringe when someone else brings up the subject of eating meat in her presence. However, she doesn't try to force her beliefs on others, stating in book 4 that "I don't expect everybody to feel the way I do about animals", and will help prepare meat dishes for her family. She also isn't opposed to animals eating meat when it's in their species' nature.
  • Thanksgiving Episode: The later part of book 9.
  • Unexpected Inheritance: When elderly Mr. Roy Miller suddenly dies in book 12, he leaves his pride and joy - his six-year-old chestnut mare Dancer (and her bridle, saddle and horse blanket) - to Val, much to her surprise. Roy Junior, who inherited everything else (and plans to sell the family farm and move to New York), explains that his father knew how much Val loved horses (and Junior himself doesn't much care for them), and wanted to make sure Dancer went to a good home.
  • Wedding Day: The Grand Finale sees Doc and Mrs. Sparks marrying, holding a small ceremony in the Taylor family living room (despite the efforts of the mayor, who wants to turn the entire thing into a big to-do because of Doc being one of the family's most respected citizens) and the reception at Miss Maggie Rafferty's estate.
  • We Named the Monkey "Jack": A friendly version with two of Harvey (a female rabbit)'s babies, who are named for people that their owner Jake knows - Doc and Valentine (the last was Jake's brother Toby's idea).
  • Wicked Weasel: Mrs. Racer firmly believes in this trope and extends it to Frank the ferret, whom she mistakes for a weasel, in book 2.
  • Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: In book 1, Val meets Toby Curran when he brings Harvey, his little brother Jake's rabbit, to Animal Inn, thinking he's sick - he hasn't been eating right (but is looking pretty fat), and has started pulling out his fur. Val, hearing the symptoms, deduces that Harvey is in fact a pregnant doe, something her father confirms, and the rabbit gives birth to a litter of six late in the book.

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