Monday, July 13, 2015

Nonfiction Monday: Best Friends Forever! and more true stories of animal friendships by Amy Shields

I read this for my Bookaneers book club last spring. I have a whole bunch of these nonfiction chapters, but they don't check out as often as I think they should - I think the kids don't see them back in the nonfiction or are daunted that they'll be too long when they do find them. Personally, I'm not a fan of sentimental "animal friends" stories, but parents and kids (when they find them) looooove them.

This collects the stories of four animal pairs. Roscoe and Suryia, pictured on the cover, are an orangutan and stray dog. They live on an animal sanctuary and enjoy many activities together, including swimming, something orangutans don't normally do in the wild. Koko is the famous gorilla who loved kittens and this is a bittersweet story as his first kitten was killed in a car accident. Jasmine was a rescued greyhound who became the unofficial "mother" of an animal rescue in England and bonded specially with a fawn, Bramble. Owen and Mzee is a well-known story of a baby hippo who adopted a tortoise as his mother until he was able to be reintroduced to a hippo family. I appreciated that the final chapter pointed out that, although people were upset that Owen and Mzee didn't stay together, he was better off with his natural family and Mzee was facing potential injury by staying with the hippos.

A section at the end previews another National Geographic Kids Chapters book and an index and resources for more information are also included. Each chapter is bordered with a different color and pattern, making it easy to find your place. The chapters include sidebars and pages of information about the animals in the wild and "did you know?" factoids. There are photographs every couple of pages and the text is written in a simple, easy to read format. Pronunciation guides for more vocabulary likely to be unfamiliar are included directly in the text.

This turned out to be a popular choice for book club and the kids were eager to read more of the stories. The two kids who got the books were able to read them even though one of them was not a highly accomplished reader, and at the end of the semester I gave some paperbacks away for their free book to take home and the kids were very excited.

Verdict: I recommend having at least some of this series in your library. I think I haven't done a really good job of promoting them and they'll have more circulation when kids realize that they're accessible and interesting. Recommended.

ISBN: 9781426309540; Published 2013 by National Geographic; Purchased for the library

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