Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Four Puppies

Doesn't that golden spine take you back?

Since my move, I haven't been able to unpack my classroom library, so there are 30 or so boxes of books stacked in my bedroom and the guest room.  I root around in them when I need one for a lesson at school or want to write a post for this blog.  What should be a five minute job usually ends up being a 30, 45, or 60 minute job as I get lost in remembering not only the characters and plots of the stories, but when I first read each one and how I felt about it.

When I came across this gem, it took me WAY back to my own childhood.  I loved this story almost as much as I loved sitting with my dad while he read to me.

Four adorable puppies learn about the seasons from the "friendly red squirrel in the hickory tree." As each season arrives, the puppies cry and lament all of the seasonal elements they had been enjoying - racing across the grass and chasing butterflies in the summer, scuffing in the fallen leaves in the autumn, sliding down snow banks in the winter - until the squirrel points out all of the wonderful qualities of the incoming season.  I think that reading this book gave me my first understanding of the cyclical nature of the seasons - "It's like a wheel turning round and round."

One of my favorite things about the squirrel's soliloquy at the beginning of each season is his use of the phrase silly-billies.  "'You silly-billies - there's nothing to cry about,' said the friendly red squirrel in the hickory tree."  My parents and grandparents used the term silly-billy often when I was a child and it makes me smile whenever I hear it.

Author Anne Heathers uses repetition to create a feeling of familiarity with the reader, allowing a young reader to gain confidence in his/her ability to predict, but she puts just enough of a twist on it each season so as not to become tedious.  She hits the highlights of each season through the eyes of puppies growing into dogs, emphasizing their own growth in comparison to the porch steps and what is being served for dinner.

The illustrations, by Liliam Obligado, an author in her own right, are absolutely charming.  Everything is friendly and bright and life-like.  She also illustrates one of my son Michael's childhood favorites, The Golden Egg Book.

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