by Patricia MacLachlan, published 2011
“So four dogs and a cat named Lula replaced my father…My friend Max thought it was very exciting. Not that my father was gone, but that Mama had brought home four dogs and a cat.”
As a new fan of Patricia MacLachlan (Sarah, Plain and Tall series), I admit that I’m more tolerant of quirks in her children’s books. I loved this one, and, I do have to admit that the premise – a dad leaving home to find his creative spirit- could push some big buttons. As could her happy-ever-after ending. That being said, I love her writing, and I love the way her children’s books address the complex world of children who have to deal with complex adults.
The magic in this children’s book is the degree to which we can really relate to animals when our hearts are young and open, and they with us. The story is a simple fairy tale, in some ways, and is best read that way, rather than a real-life dilemma. I find that the simplicity of MacLachlan’s children’s books challenge us to become simple ourselves, drop all our analyzing, and just be caught up in loving arms. This is not an easy recipe for success with today’s children, who are much more savvy, more prone to rolling their eyes. However, I stick with my own prejudice – let’s expose children to magic, and see how it subtly can affect them, despite all that surrounds their complicated 21st century lives. I recommend the book for 8 to 9, because of the issue of the father leaving home temporarily. But I’m conservative – others may find it fine for younger kids.