We love books about animals. These are funny, good reads for boys or for girls – they are silly and off-the-wall, and fun books, which should enthrall all the readers, as well as the adults.
We picked up Ballet of the Elephants by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Robert Andrew Parker, simply because of the cover. Who can resist ballerinas dancing in front of an elephant in a tutu? What we really loved about this book was that this is a true story! The book tells about a ballet dreamed up by John Ringling North, choreographed by George Ballanchine, to music composed by Igor Stravinsky. We learn about John Ringling North growing up in the circus business, and his dreams; as well as the backgrounds of Ballanchine and Stravinsky – but all as a part of the story, not in a way that distracts from the excitement of the ballet/elephants/circus. The illustrations of the dancers with the ballet-dancing elephants are amazing – and the end pages include photographs of the real elephant ballet. This book was very, very cool.
Moving from the inspiring and cool to the absurd and cool is Young MacDonald by David Milgrim. This story is about Old MacDonald’s son, who uses his cloning machine to make crazy animals -
Young MacDonald Had a farm,
And on that farm he made …
A Hig! Ee-i-ee-i-o.
With an Oink-Neigh here
and an Oink-Neigh there,
etc. It’s hysterical to watch Young MacDonald create Deese, Shickens, Mucks, a Cowl, but then he accidentally makes a Bog (boy/dog) – with an “oops-arf”! When Young MacDonald’s parents come back to the farm with pizza for dinner, he manages to make things right, so everyone can enjoy their meal! It’s a sweet, silly, quick, and fun read. The adults will get a kick out of the changes to the animals, and the kids find it funny to sing silly noises to the traditional Old MacDonald song.
Another farmer with cows is the main character in Manny’s Cows: The Niagara Falls Tale, by Suzy Becker (she of greeting card fame). This is a fun story about a boy who is upset because he can’t take a summer vacation – he has to take care of his 500 cows. He thinks about it, and thinks about it, and thinks some more, until he figures out what to do – he decides to take the cows with him on vacation! They pack, get on the bus, and head for Niagra falls. The cows are hysterical characters, upsetting Manny with constant sing-alongs on the bus ride, and requesting food breaks and bathroom breaks. The cows all go on tours of Niagra falls, and ring up a huge bill at the gift shop, and then they have to figure out how to help Manny pay for his vacation, which has turned into a nightmare. They’re quite inventive, and we all hope that Suzy Becker comes out with a sequel! As a bonus, there are cow facts sprinkled throughout the book – so you can count it as entertaining and educational!
Deputy Harvey and the Ant Cow Caper by Brad Sneed is another book that counts as fun and educational. Deputy Harvey is an Ant who is trying to solve the mystery of the missing Ant Cows. The book explains at the end that “Ant Cows” are actually aphids, and real ants drink the juice made by aphids, called honeydew. Real ants will truly round up a herd of aphids to “milk” it for the honeydew! But back to the book … Deputy Harvey’s town is having problems – half the Ant Cow herd is missing! His Sheriff is grouchy, requiring honeydew coffee before he will go out to interview a witness. Witness Clem says the cows vanished, and he just thinks they had spots, leading the deputy and sheriff think of Ladybugs. The entire town becomes upset about the idea of running out of honeydew. When someone comes to town selling Diamond A honeydew at a golden price, most folks buy it so they will have some, but Deputy Harvey is convinced there is something rotten, and figures it is odd that none of the Diamond A cows are being stolen. Deputy Harvey dresses up as an Ant Cow to solve the crime, and returns to the diner for some honeydew cakes a hero! You have to read it to find out how he captures the crooks, though – I can’t do it justice here. This is a great book for boys and girls who like mysteries but prefer them to be more gentle. It’s also great for bug-lovers and kids who like to learn about animals through stories instead of straight facts. It’s another fun book for the adult reader, too.
If you like a little learning amid a lot of fun, another book to check out is Dinosaurumpus!, by Tony Mitton, illustrated by Guy Parker-Reese. Parker-Reese also illustrated Giraffes Can’t Dance, which has a similar feel. In Dinosaurumpus!, the dinosaurs start to donk, bomp, shake, shudder, and other noises. Each dinosaur is named and described – “Here’s Triceratops jumping up and down doing dinosaur hops. He wears three horns on his big, bony head, and thunders around with a Bomp! Bomp! tread.” The rhythm of the words and the noises used grab the audience’s attention, and the illustrations are colorful and amusing. All the dinosaurs gather to dance together, when they hear the “Roooaaarrr…!” of Tyrannosaurus crashing into the middle of the dance! Thankfully, he wants to “join the romp”, and everyone is encouraged to romp together near the sludgy old swamp. This book has a similar feel to some of the Sandra Boynton books (I’m especially thinking of Barnyard Dance!
, but Dinosaurumpus! has an older-kid feel, with the names of different dinosaurs, and a longer storyline. This is a book that is especially recommended to the kids who adore dinosaurs, but kids who love dancing, music, rhythm, or even brightly colored pictures would love this book, too.
All five of these books receive a thumbs up from the three girls who live here – 3, 6, and 8 years old. Several of their friends have also enjoyed them, and the boys especially liked Dinosaurumpus!. As the main adult reader in the house, I was happy to read these more than once, and they are currently overdue at the library because we’ve enjoyed them so much!