The Children's Book Compass

Archive for March 2011

Meet the Dogs of Bedlam Farm by Jon Katz.  (2011). Pages not numbered.   Holt. Ages 4-11. Nonfiction.

Who can resist a dog story?  And, this is one of the best because these are real dogs.  Photographs and text chronicle the lives of four dogs on a farm in Upstate New York.  The dogs are Rose, Izzy, Frieda, and Lenore.  The first three each have jobs to do.  Rose herds sheep, Izzy visits sick people and Frieda guards the farm.  As each of the three dogs’ history and work are described in detail, a question repeats – “What is Lenore’s job?”  We begin to guess as we see the way Lenore befriends the others.  At the end the text reads,

“Lenore is different.

She doesn’t guide the sheep, like Rose does.

She doesn’t visit people who are sick, like Izzy does.

She doesn’t guard the farm, like Frieda does.

She licks the others dogs, touches noses, and wags her tail.

Lenore makes dogs play and people smile.

She makes sure everyone is happy.

Thanks to Lenore, the dogs are a family.

Her job is loving and accepting and having patience.

And that may be the greatest work of all.”

What a satisfying ending.  The large size, color photographs feature close ups and portraits of the dogs at work and play.  Their personalities are captured by the camera.  The dogs are shown working throughout the year in snow, in fall and summer.  Two of the dogs were rescued and brought to the farm, gentled by Lenore.  Read this one aloud to an appreciative audience.  To learn more about the dogs visit Katz’s website: http://www.bedlamfarm.com/bedlam_dogs.asp

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Slog’s Dad by David Almond.  Illus. Dave McKean.  (2011) 58 pages.  Candlewick Press.  Grades 4-8.  Novel.

The team of Almond and McKean has created a memorable short novel that resonates long after the last page is read.  The illustrations begin the story with the first few pages showing the heavens and then successively focusing on a tiny green dot that becomes the earth then closer views as if coming in from outer space.  England comes into focus, then a city, an urban park and next a figure sitting on a park bench with the final illustrations showing close up views of the  man on the bench.  Then the text begins.  The narrator, Davie, tells how his friend, Slog, and he have been playing all day.  As the boys go to buy a sandwich, Slog notices the figure on the park bench across the square.  He believes it is his dad come back from the dead.  Davie then tells the backstory of Slog’s dad, his work as a binman forever singing hymns as collected the town’s trash.  “…everybody liked Slog’s dad, Joe Mickley, a daft and canny soul.”  Then Joe becomes ill and Slog looks for comfort from Davie especially when Joe’s legs have to be amputated and he dies.  Slog cries out to Davie – “I’m bigger than me dad, Davie.  I’m bigger than me bliddy dad!”  Slog’s encounter with the man in the park convinces him that his dad is back as he promised in the spring.  Davie is not too sure even when he tests the man with questions about his life.  The reader is left uncertain.  However, the power of this story is that it leaves the reader with questions.  How do we deal with our grief?  What comforts us when we lose someone we love?  What do we believe about life after death?  McKean’s illustrations alternate with the text on separate pages and add drama to the story.  Use the document camera to show the illustrations if you read this book aloud in your classroom.  The British vocabulary enriches the story and should spark discussion about the differences in the way English is spoken in different parts of the world.


Pointing the Direction to New Books for Children and Teens

Marilyn Carpenter, PhD.

Contact Marilyn

e-mail: MarilynCaz@aol.com
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