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Friends to the animals

The following chapter books feature kids — and kids at heart — whose animal-loving ways lead to beautiful interspecies friendships.

dowell_sam-the-man-the-chicken-planIn Frances O’Roark Dowell’s Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan, seven-year-old Sam Graham is too young to have a real job. But when neighbor Mrs. Kerner tries to hire Sam’s too-busy older sister to take care of her chickens, Sam’s in business. Once he’s made a little money chicken-sitting, he decides to get a chicken of his own, Helga. Amy June Bates’s black-and-white illustrations, some humorous, some gentle, accompany each chapter. The short sentences and amusing situations make this a perfect read-aloud or first read-alone for young readers, whether they have a chicken or not. (Atheneum/Dlouhy, 5–8 years)

mills_cody-harmon-king-of-petsCody Harmon, King of Pets, the fifth entry in Claudia Mills’s Franklin School Friends chapter book series, focuses on third grader Cody, who loves animals as passionately as he hates school. Cody’s troubles — with homework, with best friend Tobit, and with a scheme to get all his animals into Franklin School’s first-ever pet show — are presented sympathetically by Mills, who portrays elementary-school friendship drama with a skillful hand. As usual, Rob Shepperson’s lighthearted illustrations help young readers envision the story, one that will please both newcomers to and longtime fans of this accessible and satisfying series. (Farrar/Ferguson, 5–8 years)

kerr_mister cleghorn's sealIn Mister Cleghorn’s Seal by Judith Kerr, the titular recently retired newsagent impulsively adopts Charlie, an orphaned seal pup. What follows is an adventure involving a tin bathtub, a train, lots of slippery fish, and difficult zoo politics before Charlie finds a happy home. The structure is classically comic, from order through chaos to a new order, and it even ends with a wedding. Kerr’s latest story is thoroughly and sweetly old-fashioned — in its reassuring narrative voice, in its olden-days setting, and in its soft-edged pencil illustrations. (Harper, 6–9 years)

cecil_lucyRandy Cecil’s Lucy features another old-fashioned setting: the fictional metropolis of Bloomville, where store-clerk-by-day Sam moonlights as a (stage fright–suffering) juggler, and where his daughter, Eleanor, lavishes attention on the neighborhood dogs, including a stray named Lucy. When Lucy catches moments of respite, she dreams of her happy-home former life. The story builds in four acts, with slight intentional repetition but with new events and information thrown in, much like additional juggling balls being tossed into the air. Cecil’s oval-shaped, duotone oil illustrations accompany as well as enhance plot. (Candlewick, 6–9 years)

From the September 2016 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katrina Hedeen About Katrina Hedeen

Katrina Hedeen is managing editor of The Horn Book Guide.

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