“What makes it more your garden than the moles? Learn to coexist already!” — Cassandra, Out on a Limb, p. 9.
|Creator(s)||Isabelle Bottier (author), Hélène Canac (illustrator)|
|Environmental Themes and Issues||Animals in Danger, Animal Rescue, Conservation, Educational Nature Facts|
|Protagonist’s Identity||Cassandra: Biracial 14-year-old girl|
|Protagonist’s Level of Environmental Agency||Level 3: Moderate, Plot-Driven Environmental Agency|
|Target Audience||Middle Grade|
|Settings||Unnamed European city|
Fourteen-year-old Cassandra is an animal psychic: she can communicate telepathically with the animals around her, and she uses her powers to help creatures in need. In Out on a Limb–the sequel to Cassandra Steps Out–Cassandra has moved into a new home with her mother, her mother’s boyfriend Bruno, and Bruno’s daughter Juliet. She uses her psychic powers to learn about the moles in their garden and convinces Bruno not to exterminate them, encouraging him to coexist with the animals. Later, Cassandra walks her dog, Miss Dolly, at a park near their new house, where she meets Macha, an older woman with a cocker spaniel named Garrett. Macha informs Cassandra that she will soon move to a retirement community and needs to rehome Garrett. Cassandra decides to take on Macha’s case and help find a new owner for the spaniel. The comic includes practical information for responsibly rehoming pets, while also encouraging young readers to take pet ownership responsibly. Cassandra writes in her diary, “You need a good reason to part with your animal–it’s not a toy!!! Feeling abandoned can be an extremely painful experience” (Bottier 14).
With the help of Miss Dolly, Cassandra meets Jade, a young cashier who wants a dog to keep her company. Macha gives Garrett to Jade, but the dog soon runs away. Cassandra uses her psychic powers to track Garrett down at Macha’s new retirement home, where he is searching for his former owner. She tells Jade that she needs to give the dog time to adjust, saying, “It’s just a matter of time. He has to get used to missing Macha. Dogs are really loyal. Be patient and show him you understand him” (Bottier 38). When Garrett continues to escape to look for Macha, Cassandra convinces the retirement home to allow animal visitors so that Garrett can see his former owner. After gentle encouragement from Cassandra and with continued visits with Macha, Garrett decides to accept Jade as his new owner.
Though the comic portrays Miss Dolly humorously, it does not anthropomorphize the animals and provides an accurate portrayal of natural animal behavior. Cassandra actively works to resolve the issues impacting the creatures that she helps, and the book encourages young readers to treat animals with empathy and patience.
Like the first volume, this comic includes a paratextual section entitled “Secret Notebook: Miss Dolly” that includes facts about Cassandra’s dog and information about dog behavior. For instance, the paratext features a list of rules to discourage dogs from stealing human items, such as “Don’t feed her when you’re at the table” and “make sure your dog has her own things (toys, blankets)” (Bottier 54). Finally, the paratext includes a recipe for a dog birthday cake.