By Clare Oliver
Published by Franklin Watts, 1999
Themes: Animals that help us, dogs for blind, dogs for deaf, epilepsy, CP, horse therapy, dolphins, monkeys.
Age: 5 and up
Opening/Synopsis: “Have you ever wondered why there is often a fish tank in the dentist’s waiting room?”
An inspirational nonfiction book that looks at the many different ways animals can assist children and adults with specific needs in their daily lives. It looks at which animals are better for different tasks. While we all know labradors and retrievers are often the best dogs to help the blind, usually mongrels, often from rescue homes, are chosen to be dogs for the deaf. Did you know the first dogs trained to help the blind were in Germany after WW1, to help soldiers blinded by gas during the war? Most monkey helpers are bred in centers where they are trained for the job, but they still spend their first five years living as part of a volunteer family. Regular anecdotes are given, such as Dan, a young boy with cerebral palsy, who loves to ride: “I love it when I am on a horse. When I sit in the saddle and the horse starts to move, I feel free!” Nikki, born with brain damage, did not speak for the first 8 years of his life, until he started swimming with the dolphins in the Human Dolphin Therapy Centre in Miami. Here he spoke his first word, “in” – because he wanted to be allowed back into the water to swim with his friends, the dolphins.
Why I like this book: We rely on animals in so many ways, and are often unaware it. Many children recognize animals make great pets, but know little about their work in the police force, in therapy, and other caring activities. It looks at the familiar and less familiar animal activities. Children will enjoy discovering that rabbits make great old peoples’ homes visitors, or that fish help people relax. They will love the beautiful photos of the lab pups being trained to work with the blind, or the therapeutic dolphins in Florida. The personal anecdotes are warming. Max, a hearing dog for the deaf, was given an award for hearing next door’s fire alarm go off and alerting his owner, who contacted the fire brigade! This is a great addition to any teaching unit on animals and their historical symbiotic relationship with humans.
Activities: I suggest trying to find locally a training centre for one of these animals and going on a visit. Children could take a different animal cited and write a story. Families could consider fostering a puppy for the deaf/blind?
Kids Corner has some activities about caring for animals.
Paws to learn has a great teacher’s guide about dog care for preschoolers.
While not relevant for kids, I just this morning read of a great new initiative of pairing refuge cats with prison inmates. I think this could prove a wonderful project myself.
To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s Perfect Picture Books. Or click on the Perfect Picture Book Fridays badge in the right sidebar.