Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lulu and the dog from the sea; Lulu and the cat in the bag by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

 I bought the Lulu books as soon as they came out, several years ago. Hilary McKay, diversity that's not focused on said diversity, and animals - what's not to love? I never actually got around to reading them, since they are almost always checked out or I'm recommending someone to check them out so I was pleased when two were nominated for Cybils and I could justify taking them home.

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.

In Lulu's third story, her Nan is watching Mellie and Lulu while their parents are gone for a week. Nan doesn't like animals at all and definitely thinks Lulu has too many! When Lulu finds a stray cat, Nan is absolutely horrified; but this isn't just any cat, it turns out to be a cat that's perfect for a gardener, just like Gran.

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
ISBN: 9780807548202

Cat in the bag
ISBN: 9780807548042

Published 2013 by Albert Whitman; Borrowed from the library

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