In the second Lulu story, Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, Lulu and her family (including her cousin Mellie and her old dog Sam) are going to the beach for a week! Everyone in the family has a different plan; Lulu's dad is going to train to run a marathon, her mom is going to read, Mellie is going to make a perfect kite, and Lulu quickly decides, as soon as they arrive, that she's going to make friends with the mysterious stray dog that's hanging around the cottage. Although things don't go exactly as planned, everyone gets what they want, more or less, and Lulu is delighted to add another pet to her collection at home.
These stories are utterly delightful. There's a slight air of unreality about them - Lulu is just a little too perfectly behaved, but that's part of the appeal. It's refreshing to read a story about a little girl who isn't having dramatic break-ups with her friends, conflicts with her teachers, or arguments with her siblings on every other page. These are exactly what they appear to be - sweet, funny stories about a little girl who loves animals. Dog from the sea is a little more cliched I felt, with the stray dog, Lassie-type theme, but it's still sweet. Cat in the bag was hilarious - I laughed all through Charlie's deadpan delivery of his antics and Nan was a perfectly peppery character.
Priscilla Lamont's illustrations are perfectly suited for a beginning chapter book. Simple black and white sketches, they bring out the characters and events in the book with small motifs and a few half-page spreads.
Verdict: If you don't already have Lulu in your library, go out and add her! Hilary McKay's writing is sweet and strong with enough animals and humor to keep kids reading and a well-written story that parents will enjoy helping struggling readers or even reading aloud to younger listeners. Lulu belongs in every library; highly recommended.
Dog from the sea
Cat in the bag
Published 2013 by Albert Whitman; Borrowed from the library