Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea
written by Hilary McKay
2013 (Albert Whitman)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

Seven year old Lulu and her best friend Mellie go on a beach vacation with Lulu's parents and discover a new friend. When the entourage arrives at the cottage by the sea, the prickly cottage owner warns them about a dog in the area that Lulu had noticed on the drive to the beach. The owner calls the dog "a thief" and "a menace." To animal lover Lulu, this is a direct challenge. It becomes her mission on the trip to befriend the dog. Each character in the book has a goal in mind for this seaside vacation, but it is Lulu's that is the focus of this book. While the family is trying to help Mellie with her kite, Lulu is also working on befriending the dog. She uses encouraging words that he is not used to hearing. Lulu also entices the dog with treats. Eventually, he comes around and becomes part of the vacationing family. Suspense is provided when the cottage owner comes back and summons the dog catchers to finish the job that they had started when they captured the "Dog from the Sea's" mother and his two siblings. Will Lulu and Mellie be able to save their newly found friend from being captured?

I really like Hillary McKay's writing in the first two Lulu books. She takes the time to describe things so that the reader is better connected to the story. It is not just a path down the sand dune, but a "leg-aching sort of path." The Dog from the Sea has two flapping ears "like brown paper bags." This is the kind of narrative writing that can serve as a mentor text for young writers. McKay's knowledge of how seven year olds behave is quite valuable as well. The actions and reactions of Lulu and Mellie ring true to this second grade teacher. There is also a wonderful lesson to be learned from Lulu and the Dog from the Sea. She encourages this dog and remains positive even when he is not on his best behavior. That positive reinforcement is a good model for children (and their teacher!). In my first year of teaching second grade, I have found that a series of books featuring a strong lead character or characters are among the best resources that I have. My students have been enthralled by the adventures of Freddie Ramos and Lulu and Mellie are in the same category. I look forward to more books featuring Lulu and her animal adventures.

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