Making Nice with the Animals: True Stories of a Goat Lady and an Elephant Trainer
The Goat Lady (Paperback), by Jane Bregoli. This is such a unique, charming book. Told from the perspective of a young neighbor, the true story focuses on an eccentric, elderly woman known for her yard full of goats in Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Once they befriend her, the children learn (and share) the story of how the woman, named Noelie, came to be "the Goat lady." Their mother, an artist, eventually produces a series of portraits of Noelie, and a museum exhibition helps her to gain the acceptance and assistance of her community. Lessons I think this book can help reinforce:
appreciation of the elderly
not judging people based on first impressions
strength of community/kindness of others
charity (The "Goat Lady" provided some of her goats to Heifer international).
Overall, a fun, quirky book. I really liked it. I think it would make a fantastic gift for a child within the recommended age range (9-12, although I think a bit younger would also be fine) paired with a Heifer International gift. A gift of a "share of a goat" from Heiffer International costs $10.
"Mom finished enough paintings of Noelie and her goats to fill the walls of the town hall for an art show. On opening night of the show, lots of people came: the "Meals on Wheels" drivers who brought Noelie's lunch on weekdays; the young man who helped her feed the goats between his school bus runs; the church lady who helped her with grocery shopping; the men who delivered hay and dried corn; the nurse who changed her bandage on her sore leg; the nurse's husband, who liked to talk in French with Noelie; and a young woman who had been able to drink only goat's milk when she was a child."
Bookworm's interest at 22 months: "Mehhhhhhh." He's too young for this book, but he does like making his goat sound.
Source: Review copy from Publisher.
Travels With Tarra (Hardcover), by Carol Buckley. Travels with Tarra tells the amazing (true) story of Carol Buckley's life as caretaker to an elephant named Tarra. The beginning of the book had me a bit hesitant, because it starts off on the depressing side. Tarra makes her way from Burma and arrives in the U.S. "cold and hungry," "confused and frightened." Cared for by the owner of a tire dealership hoping to drum up publicity by keeping her on display, Tara's life isn't very enjoyable. Teased by kids, running into walls, screaming, sleeping alone in a trailer... not so happy. But, lucky for Tarra, the author spotted Tarra walking down the street with her owner one day, and befriended the animal. She began to care for Tarra more and more, eventually buying her from the tire owner. She cared for her lovingly, and they experienced years of adventures, and apparently quite a bit of fame. Tarra became known as "the world's only roller-skating elephant." She skated with the Rockettes, appeared at the Academy Awards, and made a guest appearance in the movie Annie with Carol Burnette on her back! According to the author, Tarra quite liked all of the attention and had fun performing. I wasn't sure how I felt about the idea of touting Tarra around to television commercials and talk shows. But the book won me over in the end. After Tarra failed to fit in with a few different zoos and suffered a personal blow, the author created an Elephant Sanctuary -- 800 acres, with no visitors. Just a safe haven for elephants that have been retired from zoos and circuses. A wonderful ending. You can learn more about the elephant sanctuary here, including downloadable curricula for grades K-3 and 4-8 (nice!). The book is full of black and white photography of Tarra's life; I really liked this effect in the book. Overall, this is a really sweet tale, and some of the passages were particularly delightful. See below.
"I gave her one bottle after another until she was full. Then, with her tiny trunk she reached out for Bob's hand and pulled it in her mouth, thumb first. She dropped her head back and draped her limp trunk back over her face. Her long eyelashes fluttered slowly, her eyes closed, and she let out a heavy sigh. I heard what sounded like sucking...Soon she let his hand drop from her mouth and then like a falling leaf gently dancing down from the sky, she folded ever so slowly to the floor and fell into a deep sleep."
[After the loss of her calf] "Scott and I set up cots and slept in Tarra's barn to keep her company and to grieve together. She stood close and found it reassuring to be able to reach out and touch us throughout the night. But even during this sad time Tarra kept her sense of humor. In the middle of the night she would quietly place small piles of hay on top of us while we slept. When we woke up she would be towering over us, squeaking her delight that we were awake."
Bookworm's interest at 22 months: As expected at this age, we just looked through the photographs together. Suggested age range is grades 3-5.
Parent's Peeve: Not a peeve, but just beware before you start reading aloud to young children that Tarra does experience a stillborn death in the book.