New Twists on an Old Classic – Old MacDonald Revisited

Most classic children’s songs are classics for a reason – they have catchy tunes, repetitive lyrics, and opportunities for kids to get involved in the action.

Old MacDonald Had a Farm is just one such classic. It couldn’t be simpler – the lyrics name some of the different animals that can be found a farm, and give kids a chance to make funny animal noises. They also include nonsense lyrics (E-I-E-I-O), which are always fun to say and easy for kids to remember!

Kids are happy to sing this song again…and again…and again…It’s enough to drive anyone mad!

Fear not, though, because the Raincity Librarian is here for you. Here are three picture books that put a new spin on an old classic, and might just make your storytimes or programs a bit more exciting for everyone!

Old MacDonald Had a Truck

Forget the animals – Old MacDonald has heavy duty machinery! Great illustrations, trucks and construction equipment, and a Mrs. MacDonald who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. There’s lots to love in this cute, fun story.

Old MacDonald Had a Woodshop

More tools! In this version of the song, Old MacDonald and his animals are working on a surprise, and are pulling out all the tools in the woodshop to do it. There’s sawing, drilling, chiselling, filing, painting and more, with fun sound effects to match!

Old Mikamba Had a Farm

Rachel Isadora puts an international spin on the old farmyard classic, transporting the action to Africa! Old Mikamba’s farm is filled with all sorts of exciting animals like lions and elephants, with great sound effects to match. A fun and refreshing twist, with Isadora’s signature fantastic illustrations.

Hopefully these three twists on Old MacDonald will help inject a bit of variety into your programs. Enjoy!

MONDAY FUNDAY – March 27, 2017

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

Did you catch my collection of picture books celebrating women in STEM earlier this week? You can find it here (you can go check it out now, don’t worry, I’ll wait). I also wrote about some of my favourite story time songs, which are especially useful when trying to salvage a sinking story time shop. Fun times!

Who’s That Scratching at My Door?: A Peekaboo Riddle Book

So…this is pretty much a straight rip-off of Dear Zoo. A boy wishes he had a real friend to play with (instead of a pet), and he opens flaps to discover all sorts of animals with major drawbacks, before finally discovering the perfect pet – I mean friend – a puppy! Many of the animals are the same (a lion, a giraffe, a monkey, a frog, a puppy), though there are a few additions (a bear, birds, a mouse). It’s pretty much the exact same book.

But you know what?

I’m not mad at it, not by a long shot. My story time groups are obsessed with lift-the-flap books. My toddlers in particular have taken to chanting “open it up!”, which is pretty dang adorable. The suspense just about kills them! Sure Who’s That Scratching At My Door? an almost page-for-page knock off, but it does allow me to give my kids more of what they want, while still introducing them to new books. It has simple, colourful, cartoonish illustrations, those all-important flaps, vocabulary-supporting repetition, and opportunities for audience participation in the form of animal sounds. My little ones delight in the surprise reveals, while I can have funny conversations with my older kids about the pros and cons of having each animal as a pet. Predictable? Yup. Original? Nope. But definitely still worth including in your storytime repertoire.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re heading back to the classics with this one, which has been beloved by children, caregivers and educators for decades. And for good reason! Simple rhyming text, large, colourful illustrations and animals! It’s fascinating to use this one with groups of different ages – toddlers are typically perfectly content to accept the purple cat and blue, but preschoolers often struggle with these creative liberties – horses should be brown, and cats should not be purple! You can have inspire some great conversations about art, creativity and personal expression.

Monkey And Me

Monkey and me, monkey and me, monkey and me we went to see….this simple, repetitive, lovely picture book! I’ve been using this one for years, and I still love it. Adorable animal illustrations are combined with limited text and fun actions to act out, making it perfect for babies and toddlers.

Well, that’s it for this week – have a great one, everybody!!

Survival Songs for Storytimes

I’ve been doing storytimes for 2+ years now, and I am currently doing four preschool storytimes a week. I typically feel pretty confident about my programming skills, but let me tell you, there are still times when everything just goes belly-up. No matter how carefully I plan, sometimes my picture books still go over like lead balloons, my finger plays are big-time duds, and all my little ones just want to run around in circles and bop each other on the head.

When everything just seems to be falling apart, that’s when I pull out the aces that I’ve cleverly tucked up my sleeves (and which I cling to for dear life when as my storytime ship seems to take on water at an alarming rate). Those aces are….

JUMPING SONGS

When in doubt, jump up, jump and get down! Movement songs harness kids’ energy, allowing you to work with your little ones, rather than against them. And don’t worry, these songs still pack an educational punch – they provide kids with an opportunity to practice listening to and following directions and expose them to new vocabulary. AND you get to fit in a bit of an aerobic workout into a largely sedentary profession, too! Everybody wins!

Here are a few of my current jumping song favourites (click on the song title to watch a Jbrary video!):

The Elevator Song

I use this song every.dang.day. It’s an all-time winner. When I’m working in an urban setting I ask kids what floor they live on, and work that into song, so I can sing it again and again and again.WINNER.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Another classic, and one that kids would happily sing over and over again. I like to take audience requests as a way of getting the kids more involved in the activity, so sometimes we go to Saturn, sometimes we go to the stars, sometimes we go to the puppy planet (I don’t know why, just go with it), and sometimes we go to the robot planet, which means we have to sing and move our arms like a robot.

Sleeping Bunnies

Oh, how I love this song. It’s amazing how the mere mention of its name will get a rowdy group of preschoolers to quietly lie on the floor and pretend to be asleep. This is another great opportunity to get audience requests – some of our favourite verses include lions growling, dinosaurs stomping, kittens meowing, and frogs/kangaroos jumping. More jumping! Sleeping Bunnies is actually a fantastic way to help kids practice self-regulation – they have to practice soothing themselves, calming their bodies, staying still and waiting for instructions. A deceptively complex song.

Toast in the Toaster

This is such a simple little rhyme, which is really more of a chant than a song. I like to use this one as a bit of a wiggle break because it’s short, and not quite as wild and woolly as the other songs, making it easier to wrangle my little ones back into the program. I have also been known to put waffles and even Pop-Tarts in the toaster, again based on audience requests.

The moral of my little tale is this – kids are, by their very nature, wiggly, and some children are wigglier than others. There is a time for sitting still, and a time for moving, and that will likely change from day to day! Sometimes kids can sit still for an entire program and listen attentively to book after book, and sometimes….they can’t. And that’s okay! Learning takes many different forms, and can happen in all sorts of different ways. Just remember to have fun!

Poetry Friday : The Payoff

I have a feeling there are quite a few kids out there (and grown ups who were once kids) who will be able to relate to this hilarious poem!

THE PAYOFF – Mary Blakeslee

For seven months I made my bed

And cleaned my room up neat.

I said my prayers, hung up my clothes

And always wiped my feet.

I brushed my teeth three times a day

And slicked my hair with goo.

I even washed behind my ears,

I scrubbed my elbows too.

I ate my liver and my greens

And never made a face.

And when I spilled my milk I cleaned

It up without a trace.

A lot of good it did to be

So perfect every day.

‘Cause Mommy went ahead and had

The baby anyway!

This wonderful poem comes from a collection of children’s poetry that has had a nostalgic home in my personal collection for decades. The poems in Mary Blakeslee’s It’s Still Tough to Be a Kid, first published in 1988, really capture the spirit of childhood in all its craziness, warts and all, and as a child I remember being enthralled by, and connecting with, so many of these little wonders. The illustrations are wonderfully weird, and at times more creepy than cuddly, making them incredibly memorable. Sadly the collection is very hard to find – few libraries carry a copy, and it’s even difficult to find a copy on Amazon, which is a shame, because these illustrated poems are so very memorable! I might share a few more of my favourites from the collection on future Poetry Friday posts, because I really do love them.

Happy Friday, everyone – it’s time to let your inner child out!

Five Feisty Woman – STEM

Happy Wednesday! It’s time to join with Kid Lit Frenzy to celebrate the wonderful world of children’s nonfiction, and once again we’re celebrating strong female role models. Last week I shared five feisty females who shaped the arts, and this week we’re looking at five feisty females who made an impact in the world of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Once again I had the wonderful problem have having too many picture books to choose from, and it was a real challenge to narrow this list down to only five titles.

Swimming with Sharks: The Daring Discoveries of Eugenie Clark

As a young girl, Eugenie Clark was absolutely fascinated by sharks. She refused to accept the common belief that sharks were simply mindless eating and killing machines, and pursued her passion into a career as a respected scientist. Curious and spirited, Japanese-American Eugenie triumphed against sexism and racism, and her pioneering work earned her the nickname of “Shark Lady” whose discoveries helped change society’s views towards sharks.

Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea: Marie Tharp Maps the Ocean Floor

Like Eugenie Clark, Marie Tharp was drawn to the sea. Her supportive mapmaker father encouraged her to be curious and to follow her dreams, and Marie certainly dreamed big. She was determined to map the poorly understood ocean floor – no small task for any scientist, let alone a woman in an age in which women were often turned away from ships for being “bad luck”. Marie persevered against sexism and social expectations, and eventually made pioneering discoveries that would help prove the theory of plate tectonics.

You Should Meet: Mae Jemison

As a young girl, Mae Jemison knew she wanted to be an astronaut, but her teachers encouraged her to pursue a more socially acceptable career, such as nursing or teaching. Still, Mae never lost sight of her dream, and refused to let anything stand her way. She went on to graduate from medical school, serve in the Peace Corps, and eventually become the first African-American female astronaut. Jemison continues to be an inspiration for young people around the world.

Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine

Creative, imaginative, passionate and brilliant, Ada Byron Lovelace was a woman ahead of her time. Nicknamed the Enchantress of Numbers by Charles Babbage, the father of the mechanical calculating machine, Lovelace had a keen mind for numbers and has been credited as the creator of the first computer program. This beautifully illustrated picture books introduces this pioneering woman to new generations of budding scientists and engineers, and celebrates her contributions to science and technology.

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science

Maria Merian, Mary Anning and Maria Mitchell lived centuries and worlds apart, but each spirited, creative woman fought against the sexist restrictions of her age to follow her passions for learning and discovery. Merian studied the development of caterpillars into butterflies, Anning was a fossil hunting specialist, while Mitchell turned her eyes to the stars. This beautiful collection uses poetry to share these lesser known female pioneers with the world, and to celebrate their individual accomplishments and achievements.

MONDAY FUNDAY: March 20, 2017

It’s Monday, What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date, and adapted by Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts with a children’s/YA focus. The Sunday Post is hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer. These weekly roundups are a great way to discover new blogs and bloggers, share some of the titles you’ve been enjoying, and add to your ever-growing to-read list.

its-mondaywhat-are-you-reading

Happy Monday, everyone! I hope everyone had a safe and happy St. Patrick’s Day on Friday. I shared a poem by W. B. Yeats in honour of my Irish heritage, which you can check out here.

I also shared a collection of picture book biographies celebrating feisty, fabulous, fearless females as part of Nonfiction Wednesday, be sure to check out the list and share these amazing stories with the young people in your lives!

Finally, just for a bit of fun, I participated in a book tag – the Stationary Book TagCheck it out to find out a bit more about the mysterious person behind the blog!

And on to this week’s mini reviews – there’s not a huge assortment of books this week, as I’ve been pretty busy, but here we go!

Rhino’s Great Big Itch

rhino

Poor Rhino has a great big itch in his ear, and no one seems able to scratch it! Frog is too slimy, lizard is too prickly, and silly old monkey is just too silly to be of any help at all. Fortunately bird, though small, is clever, and knows just what to do to solve a pesky itch. Sure the “size doesn’t matter” has been done countless times before, but it’s always worth repeating. There are a few movement scenes that are fun to act out, and the brief, limited text and sweet illustrations make this a pretty OK choice for a wiggly, impatient story time crowd.

Hoot Owl, Master of Disguise

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Everyone knows that owls are wise, but Hoot Owl is also a master of disguise! A hungry night hunter, Hoot Owl sets his sights on several tasty meals, including a bunny, a bird and a sheep. His disguises, however, leave a little something to be desired! But Hoot Owl isn’t one to give up easily, and eventually his persistence pays off with the best dinner ever! This is a sweet story about a little creature who doesn’t let his failures dent his optimism. The text is a bit long for my group, but it’s easy enough to shorten it to suit a wiggly audience (pro tip – I’m always adapting my picture books to meet the needs of different audiences. The kids aren’t reading along with me anyway – they’re too busy staring intently at the pictures!). We had some great conversations about being persistence, having self-confidence, and never giving him, which are always worth having!

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Carrie

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The back cover warned me of a tale “gruesome, gory and horrifying”, but while the deeds of telekinetic teenager Carrie are indeed violent, the text left me more saddened than horrified. Even if you haven’t read this early Stephen King novel, you’re likely familiar with the general story – Carrie is a plain teenage girl who’s bullied and tormented both at home and at school. Her mother, who is clearly insane and gripped by a violent religious mania, locks Carrie in a dark closet for perceived transgressions, and abuses her verbally, emotionally and psychologically, as well as physically. Unable to fit in with other teenagers, Carrie’s peers mock her mercilessly, taunting her and driving her to despair. Eventually something has to give, and a truly terrible act of bullying causes Carrie to snap and exact a terrible vengeance that leaves swathes of destruction in its wake.

Carrie is in no way a subtle book – King wields his distaste for religion like a club, beating readers over the head with his “religion is evil!” sentiments. Whether or not you share his point of view, the lack of subtlety can be tiring. I get it, Mr. King, Carrie’s mother is a religious fanatic. Yeesh.

Still, Carrie’s experiences are so harrowing that you can’t help but feel sorry for her. There’s no condoning acts of violence, whatever their motivation, but you can see how years of ceaseless torment with no outlet or support could cause an individual to become “unhinged”, and to lash out at a world they see as cruel and uncaring. While Carrie is a fictional character, and her actions are outlandish, with a supernatural element, there are countless young people out there like Carrie who are mistreated at home and / or at school, and who feel that there is no way out, no way to end their suffering.

Carrie is a short novel and a quick read, but its depictions of abuse, both at school and at home, are harrowing, and could be upsetting for some readers. Hopefully, though, it might just inspire people to take a harder look at their own treatment of others, and to consider how their actions (or lack thereof) might impact the people around them.

Have a great week, everyone!

Poetry Friday: When You Are Old

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to everyone lucky enough to have a bit of Ireland in them, and to everyone who is Irish just for a day! My grandmother was proudly, fiercely Irish, a Roman Catholic from Northern Ireland – she used to tell my English father that she didn’t hold his heritage against him, since it wasn’t really his fault he was born English! My mum was only half Irish, but she grew up surrounded by her mother’s large Irish immigrant family, which essentially colonised a Toronto suburb in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I’m only 1/4 Irish (though like most Europeans I’m probably far more mixed than that), but on St. Patrick’s Day I’m happy to embrace that quarter for all it’s worth, and to celebrate my Irish heritage.

My Irish grandmother Anne Herbsen (born Anne Devlin), with two of her three daughters (my mum is the taller girl) and her son in their Sunday best. 

The Irish are a poetic people with a long and proud literary tradition, and they have produced some of Europe’s best-known and most beloved poets. In honour of this most Irish of days, here is one of my favourite poems, from the incomparable Irish poet and statesman William Butler Yeats.

When You Are Old

When you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;
How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;
And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.

Five Feisty Females – The Arts

Artwork by Sarah S. Brannen, 2017

It’s Nonfiction Wednesday! It’s been a little while since I’ve participated in this linkup, so I’m thrilled to be back! Each week, Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy invites teachers, librarians, readers and book lovers to celebrate the incredible world of children’s nonfiction. There are so many incredible informational texts available, so be sure to check out the other participants in this week’s linkup to discover more amazing books!

In honour of Women’s History Month, I’m taking a look at five fantastic picture book biographies celebrating feisty female pioneers in the arts. Though they pursued very different careers, these incredible women owned their respective fields, expressed themselves with passion and creativity, and left indelible marks on the world.

Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

Anna Pavlova rose from a childhood marred with poverty to achieve international fame and acclaim as a dancer of unparalleled elegance and grace. Her achievements were hard-earned, and Pavlova dedicated herself fully to her art. Though her life was tragically cut short, Pavlova will always be remembered not only as an exceptional dancer, but as a passionate, hardworking, brave and generous woman who inspired generations of young women to dance.

 Different Like Coco

Coco Chanel. Her name is synonymous with glamour and style, but her rags-to-riches life story is even more fascinating. Once a desperately poor, skinny orphan, Coco used her creativity, imagination, skills and  personal grit to challenge social norms around women’s fashion, and in so doing turned herself into a fashion icon whose signature style would captivate women for generations.

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat : Ella Fitzgerald

Ella Fitzgerald, one of jazz’s most celebrated and beloved vocalists, used her incredible voice to escape the grinding, desperate poverty of her orphaned childhood. Hardworking, talented and determined, Ella used music to not only achieve a better life, but to connect and share her passionate spirit with listeners around the world, and across generations.

My Name is Georgia

Georgia O’keeffe lived life her own way. From her earliest years she dressed as she wanted, she lived where she wanted, and she painted what she wanted, and by following her own unconventional heart she would one day become of America’s most distinct and beloved artists.

A Dance like Starlight: One Ballerina’s Dream

In the 1950s, poor black girls from Harlem didn’t grow up to become prima ballerinas. But Janet Collins was a little girl with big dreams, and the determination to see her dreams come true. Hardworking, committed and passionate, Collins battled through poverty and racism to become the first African American prima ballerina, becoming an inspiration for countless young women with big dreams.

Share these brilliant, beautiful stories of fabulous, feisty females with the young dreamers in your life, whatever their gender – all children can benefit from stories of determination, perseverance, passion and self-belief. Happy Women’s History Month!

Stationary Book Tag

Oh, stationary. Who doesn’t remember the thrill of carefully picking out fresh, crisp notebooks and pens at the beginning of each new school year? I strongly disliked school, but boy, did I love school supplies. As an adult I was able to rediscover some of that childhood joy when I discovered the wonder that is Muji while in Japan, and I became so obsessed with their stationary that I begged my partner to bring me back some supplies when he went to New York on business. Because New York gets Muji, while we do not. The East Coast / West Coast rivalry is real, at least when it comes to retail outlets.

Muji pens make a fine point.

Though once again not actually tagged by anyone (ahem), I spotted this tag over at Nut Free Nerd, and being a fellow lover of both the written word and writing implements I was inspired to give it a go myself.

  • Thank the creator: Sam @ RiverMooseReads, I am much obliged!
  • Answer the questions.
  • Add pictures! (If you want to)
  • Tag (about) 5 people. Ahem. I will politely decline this step, for I am rebellious, and also not much of a book blogger type. 

PENCILS: FAVOURITE CHILDREN’S BOOK.

Oh, how to pick a single book? One series I loved with a passion in my youth was C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. While I enjoyed the entire series, my absolute favourite entry was The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Action, adventure, a dragon and a pirate mouse! It also introduced me to the word “odious”, which is so deliciously descriptive.

PENS: A BASIC STAPLE FOR ANY READER.

A library card! Honestly, it’s free (even in Calgary!) and it gives you access to thousands of print books, audio books, ebooks, movies and more! It really is an absolute staple for any reader.

NOTEBOOKS: BOOKS YOU OWN MULTIPLE COPIES OF.

I…What? I don’t understand. Why would you own multiple copies of the same book? I don’t own more than one copy of any book.

MARKERS: BOOKS WITH BEAUTIFUL COVERS.

I read a lot of picture books, and let me tell you, there are so many incredibly beautiful covers. Here are just a few of my current favourites!

GLUE: TWO CHARACTERS THAT WORK TOGETHER EVEN IF THEY AREN’T TOGETHER.

Mugin and Jin, the odd couple-like mismatched pair of ronin in the anime Samurai ChamplooA truly fantastic pairing in a truly fantastic, and highly, highly recommended, anime series.

SCISSORS: WHAT BOOK WOULD YOU LIKE TO DESTROY.

Destroy a book?!

 

ART KIT: WHAT COMPLETED SERIES YOU OWN.

Funnily enough, the only series I own in its entirety is a manga series I purchased eons ago, when I was still in high school! Marmalade Boy isn’t a particularly great series (I’ve always been more drawn to shonen than shojo manga), but it’s a short one, and I remembering scoring the entire set from a local comic book store for a steal.

 

I hope you enjoyed this little stationary-themed diversion, and if you decide to try your hand at it, let me know! I’d love to read your answers!

Review: James Herriot’s Dog Stories

Like many children, I grew up absolutely obsessed with animals. I would happily have filled my room with a menagerie of furry, four-legged friends, but my terrible allergies and small urban living arrangements put an end to my Dr. Dolittle dreams.

One of my favourite means of filling the animal-shaped void in my life was through books, and few were as well-loved as the semi-autobiographical animal stories of James Herriot. Oh how I loved to explore the Yorkshire Dales with Herriot as he visited charmingly ornery farmers and sweet old cat ladies, treating sick cows, injured dogs and persnickety cats. Herriot’s short stories were filled with colourful characters and infused with real love, and were as likely to inspire laughter as they were tears.

Being part of a family of book-loving readers, most gift-giving occasions include the giving and receiving of books. My family exchanged Christmas presents before my partner and I left for Japan, and my parents gifted me a copy of James Herriot’s Dog Stories. 

“James Herriot’s Dog Stories is a very special curated collection of stories about dogs great and small, in which Herriot tells us about his own dogs and all the wonderful people and animals we have come to love so much.”

What a wonderful book. Herriot truly loved and deeply respected both the animals and humans he worked with, which shines through in each of the fifty stories in the collection. Herriot isn’t afraid to gently poke fun at some of the eccentric characters he interacts with, but he’s even happier to poke fun at himself, and shares both his failures and successes with equal honesty. Like any vet (or medical professional), for every miracle, there is a heartbreaking loss, and Herriot shares both with respect, warmth and love.

While there are plenty of hilarious and heartwarming stories, some of my favourites from the collection are in fact the heartbreakers, the tearjerking tales that are sure to melt even the hardest of hearts. In one story, for example, Herriot treats the elderly dogs of an elderly, invalid woman. The woman, who is nearing the end of her life, admits to Herriot that she’s worried that when she dies she won’t be reunited with her beloved companions, as she has been told that animals have no souls. Herriot’s response echoes what many of us animals lovers firmly believe:

” ‘Well I don’t believe it.’ I patted the hand which still grasped me. ‘If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. You have nothing to worry about there'”

When the patient pushes Herriot to explain his own religious beliefs, he responds simply,

” ‘Miss Stubbs, I’m afraid I’m a bit foggy about all this,’ I said. ‘But I’m absolutely certain of one thing. Wherever you are going, they are going too.'”

The scene, which could easily become maudlin or emotionally manipulative, is handled with such respect, warmth and genuine care that it is instead deeply moving. The woman eventually passes away, and her beloved animals find a loving home with an owner who will cherish them until they too eventually pass on and are reunited with their mistress. It’s a simple story, beautifully told and quietly powerful.

Another deeply moving story features a young boy from a troubled family, who longs for stability and love but expresses his anger and hopelessness through acts of petty crime and vandalism. The boy is written off by the rest of the community as a bad kid, and a hopeless case. When the boy discovers an abandoned puppy, though, an entirely new aspect of his character is revealed, until a terrible tragedy strikes them both.

“As I closed the lid he screwed his knuckles into his eyes and his body shook. I put my arm across his shoulders, and as he leaned against me for a moment and sobbed I wondered if he had ever been able to cry like this – like a little boy with someone to comfort him.”

Though the story is ostensibly about a little puppy, it is even more about a little boy who is just as abandoned, and who is sadly allowed to fall between society’s cracks – “Nobody knew where he went and most people forgot about him.” Though the tale ends sadly, there is also the faintest glimmer of hope in the idea that no one is without merit, and that few people are naturally “bad eggs”, but are all too often let down by the world around them, and by the very people who are supposed to love and care for them. Having someone to love and who loves you, even if it’s an animal, can sometimes make all the difference.

While this collection of dog stories is perfectly suited to dog lovers, even those of us who are just mildly fond of dogs will find much here to appreciate and enjoy. The characters, the setting, the dialogue are all simply wonderful, and each short story provides a perfect momentary escape from the everyday. Highly, highly recommended.