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Published: Saturday, 10/26/2002

Animal books will entertain children

This is one in a series of monthly reviews of books for young people written by four area teachers of children's literature. Today's are by Barbara St. John, a retired Bowling Green State University professor of children's literature.

The bond between animals and humans has often been explored in children's books. These new books focus on unusual relationships; only one of these animals is a pet in the traditional sense. There is much we can learn from animals. Exploring relationships and unconditional love become important aspects of these books.

DUCK ON A BIKE. Written and illustrated by David Shannon. Blue Sky Press/Scholastic. Ages 3-7. $15.95.

Duck really wants to ride a bike. When he finds the boy's bike in the yard, he climbs on and rides around the barnyard, showing off his skills to the other animals. The cow and the sheep, the dog and the cat, the horse, the hen, and even a mouse envy the duck's adventure.

Then a gang of kids arrives on bikes and all the animals try them out. No one was the wiser! Brightly colored illustrations enhance the fun. Great read-aloud.

GOOSE'S STORY. Written by Cari Best. Illustrated by Holly Meade. Farrar Straus and Giroux. Ages 3-8. $16.

When the Canada geese arrive at her pond, the girl realizes that one goose is different - she has only one foot. While the other geese eat, build nests, and raise their young, this goose remains alone. She does learn to swim, and when the geese fly south for the winter, she disappears. The girl wonders about her all winter.

Spring arrives, and the goose returns with a mate. Soon they are the proud parents of seven goslings. Meade's paper collage seems perfect for the text.

LUCKY BOY. Written and illustrated by Susan Boase. Houghton Mifflin. Ages 5-9. $15.

A dog named Boy lives with the Gustin family in their backyard and usually has food and water, but the Gustins are too busy to give Boy attention. One day, Boy tunnels into Mr. Miller's yard. Mr. Miller is a widower who is delighted with the dog's company. He gives him a bath, feeds him, and loves him. Boy becomes Lucky Boy, a very happy dog.

SEA-CAT AND DRAGON KING. Written by Angela Carter. Illustrated by Eva Tacheva. Bloomsbury. Ages 5-10. $12.95.

Did you know that cats live at the bottom of the ocean? One of these cats is Sea-Cat, who lives with his mother in a house of driftwood.

Sea-Cat frequently catches cold because he is always wet, so his mother makes him a beautiful, very elegant catsuit.

Sea-Cat soon becomes the talk of the ocean. When Dragon King hears of this, he is filled with envy; after all, he is lord of the ocean. In this charming fantasy, Sea-Cat's mother solves Dragon King's problems. Never doubt the power of love.

ADOPTED BY AN OWL. Written by Robbyn Smith van Frankenhuyzen. Illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen. Sleeping Bear Press. Ages 8-12. $17.95.

As a very young owlet, Jackson is stolen from his nest. The boy who takes him soon learns how difficult it is to care for a wild creature, so Jackson comes to live on the van Frankenhuyzens' farm. There he is nursed back to health and eventually set free. But Jackson had grown to love these people, so after a few days of freedom he returns to the farm, where he spends the rest of his life. Beautiful paintings of Jackson for this true story.



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