Thursday, December 5, 2013

Shelf Life [kids]

Animals Nobody Loves by Seymour Simon, 48 pages.
Such a sad-sounding title for a children’s book! If it conjures up visions of homeless, sad-eyed puppies and kittens, be reassured. The “animals nobody loves” do have homes. Instead, think of some of the least endearing and most dangerous creatures on our planet – ferocious man-eating crocodiles, great white sharks, cobras, deadly black widow spiders, fire ants, piranhas and Gila monsters. Think also of pests such as cockroaches, and predatory creatures such as vultures and hyenas. These are the “animals nobody loves”.
Some of these creatures have some very surprising abilities and characteristics.  For example, did you know that a small piranha can be more deadly than a shark, or that the bite of a Gila monster is as dangerous as that of a rattlesnake?  Did you know that fire ants have a poison that can paralyze not only other insects but also squirrels, chickens and other small animals ...  that some crocodiles are as much as eight metres in length... and that a headless cockroach can live for as long as a week? Yuck!
What is the author’s purpose in creating this book (complete with many incredible close-up colour photos)? It’s to help readers better know and understand these animals, flaws and all.  Each creature has a purpose in nature and is a part of our planet’s biodiversity. Each is “programmed” to do what is necessary for it to survive, and each creature is intriguing in its own way.  And, although we may never “love” these creatures, they do deserve our respect.   

** Recommended for ages 8 to 12 years.

Beryl: A Pig’s Tale by Jane Simmons, 216 pages.
One terrible morning when the farmer chose the piglets to be taken to the slaughter house, Beryl was among them. It appeared that her day had come – in the worst possible way.
Or had it? When the truck lurched to an unscheduled stop and the back door swung open, Beryl escaped into the underbrush at the side of the road.  From there, she wandered into a forest.
Beryl had no idea what to expect now. Where did pigs make their homes if not in a barn? Where did they forage for food? If she met a wild pig, would it be friendly or a foe?
Beryl did soon meet a friendly wild pig, named Amber, and she accompanied her home. This was the beginning of Beryl’s search for new friends and a new home, one in which she would be safe, accepted and loved.
Many themes are addressed in this charming animal story: misconceptions and prejudice, kindness, acceptance and friendship.  Although there are some sad moments, the story ends happily.  In this way (and in various other ways) Beryl: A Pig’s Tale bears some similarities to the classic children’s story, Charlotte’s Web.
The lovable heroine, rich language and dry humour of this recently-reissued tale will enchant various ages of children, making it a good choice for a family read-aloud.

** Recommended for ages 6 to 11 years.  

This review appeared in The Stratford Gazette on December 4, 2013. Written by Sally Hengeveld, Librarian.

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