Hey! Get Off our Train by John Burningham.
This is a witty story with a deep message. A little boy is hustled to bed by his mother and as he leaves his train set and falls asleep he finds himself, with his faithful pyjama case dog, manning the toy train and setting out on a world trip. Along the way they will encounter an elephant, a seal, a tiger and a number of other endangered animals that all want to climb aboard, pleading the dangers they are facing as their need to board the train.
“Please let me come with you on your train. Someone is coming to cut off my tusks, and soon there will be none of us left.”
With a poetic and humerous style and with dusky, grey and pastel shades, Burningham gives this call to help these animals. The end leaves one questioning is it dream or reality. I think a great springboard for discussion with 4-7 year olds about what is being done, and what we can do, to help these species.
Bill and Pete by Tomie de Paola.
Another author illustrator with a giggly, funny story and a serious message. I don’t think I have read a single one of Tomie’s books that I haven’t enjoyed. William Everett (what an awesome name!), the Nile crocodile, is big enough to choose his own toothbrush and Pete, the toothbrush (bird), soon becomes his best friend. After some wonderfully, witty kindergarten scenes, crisis hits when a suitcase vendor from Cairo abducts William (Bill). I’ll let you imagine who saves the day. The colours are bright, the illustrations simple and the crocodile grins will have you beaming. If you haven’t read this one, I highly recommend it, as it always has kids laughing. There is a great sequel too, if you are borrowing this from the library.
Owen and Mzee The Language of Friendship told by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff and Dr Paula kahumbu with photographs by Peter Greste.
This is a sequel to the NY Times #1 bestseller the True Story of Owen and Mzee.
In the heart of Kenya in 2004 a frightened young hippo, separated from his mother by the devastating Tsunami in Southeast Asia, adopted an ancient 130-year-old Aldabra Tortoise as his “mother”. This old tortoise, that had always been a loner, accepted the baby hippo as his own child. This book takes the reader through the inseparable pair’s first year together. During this beautiful and unexpected friendship they seem to develop their own “language” of soft sounds and gestures, to the complete lack of comprehension of zoologists and zoo keepers. The sounds are typical to neither species. Such a bond between a reptile and a mammal was pretty much unheard of in wildlife circles and it is hard to believe the relationship they have developed. At times Owen, the hippo, can be observed licking Mzee’s face or Mzee resting his head on Owen’s stomach. Eventually a third companion is introduced and the young tortoise, Toto, seems to get on well with the famous twosome. When Owen is fully-grown he could weigh up to 7000 pounds and it is unknown if he could harm his friends unintentionally. The book ends with some more details about Kenya and the Haller Park, where these orphans and others are cared for. The photos will have all adults and children “ahing”, I think. The latest information I could find suggests that early attempts to introduce Owen to an orphaned, female hippo, Cleo, are moving along just fine and there are hopes of babies in the future. Isn’t reading about such friendship a great way to start the day?