Friday, April 5, 2013

Book Review: Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, written by Hilary McKay, illustrated by Priscilla Lamont

     [Lulu and Mellie's] bedroom window faced the sand dunes. They pushed it open and the sea wind blew in, and there they were, nearly among the blue-green grasses and gray, orange-berried bushes. Almost next to the little gold paths down which a dog from the sea might swoop like a storm.
     "It's the most perfect place ever," said Lulu.

Seven-year-old Lulu loves her cousin and best friend, Mellie, and her mom and dad. She also loves animals, and has many pets: two guinea pigs, four rabbits, one parrot, one hamster, lots of goldfish, and "a rather old dog named Sam." And as long as she sticks to the rule about pets in her house (The more the merrier! As long as Lulu cleans up after them!), adding more is not out of the question.

One day, Lulu, her parents, Mellie, and Sam pile into the family car for a trip to a little cottage by the sea. When they get there, they hear about a stray dog who's been roaming about. The residents of the little town nearby think the dog from the sea is a menace, and they're determined to catch him. But Lulu thinks he just needs a friend, and she's determined to help him. But can she get to the dog from the sea before the dogcatcher does?

For Teachers and Librarians:
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea is fun to read. It will give your young readers lots of things to think about, and talk about, and wonder about. And it will give you lots of ways to use it in your classroom. For starters, you may want to check out this page from the publisher: A Teacher's Guide for the Lulu Chapter Book Series aligned to the Common Core State Standards.

And here are some other ideas:
  • Animal care - The dog believes something bad will happen if he's caught by the dogcatcher, while the narration in the book points out that there are actually good things that will happen to him if the dogcatcher can find him. Have a discussion with your students: What are those good things? And what are the bad things the dog might be afraid will happen? And how can a dogcatcher portray to the public his good intentions for animals he catches, to change the perception many, including the dog from the sea, have about dogcatchers? Have your students create positive publicity posters for the dogcatcher containing the ideas they come up with.
  • Caring for a beach environment - There is a rule against removing the rocks and stones from the beach, but no mention of why. Wouldn't it be nice if there were pamphlets at the beach explaining that? Have your students research why this might be so, and present their findings in illustrated "Public Information" pamphlets for that beach.
  • How about a little bit of political science? The town residents see the dog from the sea as a nuisance to the town, but Lulu sees him as helping their little community. Discuss the reasons why each side feels as it does, then set up a fun mock debate, with students assigned to one of two teams: either the townspeople's views or Lulu's views. After they've prepared, let them present their arguments to another class who has also read the book, polling that class on their views on the dog from the sea's behavior both before and after the debate, to let your class see how effective or not effective their arguments were.
  • Problem-Solving - After discussion and modeling, have your students create decision trees (perhaps with little illustrations accompanying each node) for some of the problems the characters faced in this book. Some examples: when Mellie got hurt, and Lulu was faced with deciding which of a few options was the best way to get help; when Lulu first learns about the dog from the sea and decides he needs help, but she doesn't know how to go about doing that; or when Mellie keeps having setbacks trying to get her new kite up and running, and Lulu and her parents try to help Mellie overcome each one.
Other ideas? Feel free to leave them in the comments below.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea has a lot to like. At its most basic, it's a sweet story about a girl and her determination to help a stray dog. But there is a lot more to this story. Your kiddos will see compassion portrayed in this story, and caring, and friendship, and responsibility. There's a "don't judge a book by its cover" theme going on, as well. And there's a bit of a cautionary tale tucked in at one point, about how quickly things can unravel when you choose to do something you know you really probably shouldn't do. But above all, this is a story your kiddos will enjoy reading, and it's a story you will feel good about putting into their hands. 

For the Kids:
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea is a book about Lulu, a girl who loves animals, and her family, who loves Lulu, and a stray dog who's looking for a friend - even if he doesn't realize it yet. And Lulu is determined to be that friend - even though everyone in the town says that the dog from the sea is nothing but trouble. But can she earn his trust and become his friend before the dogcatcher catches up to him?

And something good thing to know: Lulu and the Dog from the Sea is the second book of a series. So if you like this book, you can read even more about Lulu's adventures in the other books in the series! 

Wrapping Up:
Lulu and the Dog from the Sea is a sweet story, with a lot to like, a lot to ponder, and a lot to talk about. Find it and read it. You'll be glad you did.

Title: Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
Author: Hilary McKay
Illustrator: Priscilla Lamont
Pages: 112
Reading Level: Ages 7-10
Publisher and Date: Albert Whitman & Company, 2013
Edition: First US Edition
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $13.99
ISBN-10: 0807548200
ISBN-13: 978-0-8075-4820-2