All Things Wise and Wonderful Critical Context
by James Herriot

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Critical Context

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

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In All Things Wise and Wonderful and the other volumes in this series, Herriot was not writing specifically for the young adult audience. While his books have a great appeal for readers of all ages, however, they are of particular value for young people because of some of the themes that they explore. Herriot is almost daily confronted with decisions relating to life and death. His concern is not only for the animals he treats but for their owners as well. He fully realized his awesome responsibility when one pet owner committed suicide when his dog could not be saved; this was the only close relationship that the man had with another living being. Herriot’s accounts help others to come to terms with some of the experiences that they are confronted with in their own lives. The books are of worth in addressing the elements that form healthy relationships and in elucidating those things in life that have lasting value.

Any young person considering a career as a veterinarian would certainly benefit from reading Herriot’s work. While it is clear that Herriot is in love with his profession and is deeply committed to it, it is a job that is not for everyone. On the one hand, there is the joy on the faces of a young family when their dog has been saved from a near-fatal collision with a car. On the other hand is the image of being shirtless in subfreezing temperatures in the middle of the night while helping a cow with a difficult birth.

All Things Wise and Wonderful creates respect for the veterinary profession and inspires the young reader with a compassion for life. In addition, it is worthy of attention for its literary attributes alone. Herriot’s work will not easily be surpassed in the breadth of its appeal or in the perception of its subject.