Tag Archives: human-animal relationships

Save that donkey

17 Sep

Maybe you’ve seen this video of baby goats in pyjamas.

It is the visual I held in my mind this weekend as I read Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech, even though the Winslow in the title is a baby miniature donkey who does not wear pyjamas.


With simple language and short chapters, this is a perfect book for an elementary age reader who loves animals.

Publisher’s Summary: Perfect for fans of Charlotte’s Web and The One and Only Ivan, Saving Winslow is an uplifting modern classic in the making about a young boy who befriends an ailing newborn donkey and nurses him back to health, from New York Timesbestseller and Newbery Medal winner Sharon Creech.

Louie doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to nurturing small creatures. So when his father brings home a sickly newborn mini donkey, he’s determined to save him. He names him Winslow. Taking care of him helps Louie feel closer to his brother, Gus, who is far, far away in the army.

Everyone worries that Winslow won’t survive, especially Louie’s quirky new friend, Nora, who has experienced loss of her own. But as Louie’s bond with Winslow grows, surprising and life-altering events prove that this fragile donkey is stronger than anyone could have imagined.

Written in the spirit of Creech favorites Moo and Love That Dog, this standout tale about love and friendship and letting go will tug at the heartstrings.

P.S. Pyjamas is my preferred spelling. It is the British spelling I grew up with. I like how it looks, with the y and j side by side, and just can’t bring myself to spell it with three As.

A Girl and Her Dog

2 Nov

This is such a sweet book, even though it got me a little teary-eyed.


Publisher’s Summary:Eli the dog has been with Astrid since her parents brought her home from the hospital as a baby. Now Astrid is getting older, and so is Eli. Before he slows down too much, Astrid wants to make fun memories with him. So she makes a bucket list for Eli, which includes experiences such as eating with him in a restaurant, and taking him down a slide at the playground.

But in the end, what is most important to Eli is the time he spends with Astrid, whom he loves dearly. Sisters Kate and M. Sarah Klise have created a story that reminds readers of all ages that time with our loved ones is the most precious gift of all.

This book would be a great way to approach a discussion of aging pets with young readers. It could also be used to talk to children about aging grandparents.

Back to the books

1 Apr

After 31 days blogging for the Slice of Life Challenge with the Two Writing Teachers, I am back to writing about books. And I have an excellent one for you today. If you haven’t read it yet, go oust asap and get a copy of Pax by Sara Pennypacker.


I got an arc of this in Boston, but only got around the reading it over Spring Break.

Right from the opening I was hooked. In fact, I started it at school during silent reading and was so enthralled by the opening paragraph that I read it aloud to my class.

Publisher’s Summary:From bestselling and award-winning author Sara Pennypacker comes a beautifully wrought, utterly compelling novel about the powerful relationship between a boy and his fox. Pax is destined to become a classic, beloved for generations to come.

Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day, the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house, three hundred miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be—with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.

Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own. . . .

Although very different, Pax reminds me a lot of that heart book of mine, The One and Only Ivan. Told through alternating chapters, with one strand following 12-year-old Peter and the other Pax, we see each of them grow as they try to find their way back to each other. Peter makes an actual journey, while Pax waits steadfastly. Pennypacker’s writing is beautifully poetic and fable-like. This book is grimmer than The One and Only Ivan, but the beauty of the cover is found in the honey of the prose.


Bad News Bugs

8 Jun

Last week or so (time blurs at the end of the school year) my teaching partner asked me to do her a huge favor: go through the Scholastic and Arrow book orders and spend her 6000 points on books for the kids in her class. I laughed. This wasn’t going to feel like a job at all; this would be a delight.

She has a couple of boys in her class who really like non-fiction, and history in general. One boy, Bryan, has become a biography-nut since our writing unit on biographies. So, for  two of the boys in her class, I chose this book


Bugged: How Insects Changed History by Sarah Albee is a fun romp through some of the icky and funny parts of human history. With chapter titles like

The Horrible History of Human Hygiene

Medieval Microbes

More Thinking but Still Stinking

It’s All Fun & Games Until Someone Loses an Isle

you know Albee will mix a lot of humor with the gruesome to make it palatable. Figuratively, not literally.  each chapter is broken into parts with headings and the illustrations, some originals by Robert Leighton, some reproductions from the period covered, give readers a sense of what life might have looked like at the time.  Each chapter is amply illustrated and has sidebars that add even more zest to the disgusting facts Albee writes about. Backmatter includes a glossary, further reading and surfing, notes of sources, picture credits and an index.This is a well-researched book that every history teacher should have to spice up their units. Upper elementary and middle school teachers would do well to add this to their classroom libraries. But be prepared for groans and gags from the kids as they read it.






Wild Animal Neighbors

31 Jan

Many years ago, in the days before Fiona & Lucy, I had Clara & Louie. We lived in a little green house in NE Portland with a woodsy backyard. As they aged, they often had to potty through the night, so I would open the back door for them and go back  to bed. One night I did so, and as I was almost back to sleep i heard the great alarm sound of basset hounds following their prey. I got up quickly and went out to find that they’d cornered a possum. In typical possum fashion, it didn’t move. I had to drag the gigs back in. The next morning my very kind neighbors wondered what kind of party we’d had. They laughed when I told them about the possum.

My sister lives on a rural road outside a small town in Canada. they frequently get deer, but have also seen a black bear in their yard. And this brings me to a new book.


Wild Animal Neighbors: Sharing Our Urban World by Ann Downer addresses the issue of human and animal interactions as we move into their habitat. We often hear about these stories in the news, and them seem sensational. Downer explains situations, what caused them and what people are trying to do to help the situation. Not all the endings are happy.

Each of the 7 chapters features a particular animal in a particular setting.


Each situation has impressive photos of the animal in the urban setting she is describing, and  a sidebar with facts about the animal. The animals footprints dot the pages as you read. This book is very well laid out, pleasing to the eye and full of great information. Backmatter includes source notes, a bibliography,resources for further information and, an index.

Animal lovers will gravitate to this book.  It would be a wonderful addition to discussions about habitats, nature, the environment, and animals in general.

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