All Things Bright and Beautiful is the first of three sequels to James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small, all of which were originally intended for adult readers. Focusing on the sometimes unusual events in the life of a veterinarian, this book will interest young readers who enjoy animal stories and books about other cultures. It also has the appeal of much young adult fiction because it treats a young man’s attempt to accomplish developmental tasks, such as establishing new relationships and selecting a career. More a collection of sketches than a sustained autobiography, Herriot’s account is admittedly subjective, focusing on his attitudes and feelings and generally ignoring factual details about his overall life. He creates a portrait of a changing society, one in which veterinary medicine is slowly developing.
In chapter 2, Herriot explains that he will not say much about World War II. Instead, he emphasizes the ordinary events of his life, particularly the Yorkshire Dales, the animals he treats, and his work, each of which he views with loving respect and humor. Thus, Herriot waxes eloquent about the Yorkshire landscape, as when he describes a snowy Christmas Eve and the sun on the crumbling walls of a country path. He also discusses the joy of treating small animals, especially dogs and cats, which sometimes results in free service to people such as the Dimmocks. It is the worrying and wondering about his patients that he believes is at the heart of veterinary service.
(The entire section is 630 words.)
Some of the most popular works of fiction for children and young adults deal with the relationship between human beings and animals. In particular, Fred Gipson’s Old Yeller (1956), Wilson Rawls’s Where the Red Fern Grows (1961), Robert Newton Peck’s A Day No Pigs Would Die (1972), and Gary Paulsen’s Dogsong (1985) realistically portray loving relationships between animals and the humans who care for them. Often, Herriot’s feelings toward his patients and his struggles to help them are reminiscent of scenes from these novels.
All Things Bright and Beautiful and Herriot’s other books have become classics because of their strong evocation of life in Yorkshire and their vivid descriptions of people and animals. A best-seller, All Things Bright and Beautiful has provided millions of readers with insight into the life of a veterinarian who shares his love of the Yorkshire landscape, people, and animals with his readers, which is his primary motivation in writing these books. This book is of interest as a social document that celebrates a particular way of life at a particular time in history and argues for the value of animals. At the same time, it is part of a growing number of autobiographies intended for adults, but often read by younger readers, that focus on scientists or doctors who deal with animals. Farley Mowat’s Never Cry Wolf (1963) shares many of Herriot’s concerns, while Louis J. Camuti’s All My Patients Are Under the Bed: Memories of a Cat Doctor (1980) and David Taylor’s Going Wild: Adventures of a Zoo Vet (1980) were clearly influenced by him.