Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Pets, Wild Animals, Friends, and Family: Hilary McKay's Lulu Series

I read Lulu and the Duck in the Park by Hilary McKay along with Second Daughter. Then I checked the rest of the books out of the library and read through them quickly to see if the whole series was worthwhile and oh, it is!

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea tells of the seaside vacation Lulu and Mellie take with Lulu's parents and her dog. I love how Lulu's parents respond to Mellie's frustrating kite kit. In the end, of course, they adopt and tame the kind but wild young dog.

Lulu and the Cat in the Bag shows Lulu and Mellie's grandmother responding to all of Lulu's pets but happily taking in one of her own when the perfect one lands on their doorstep.

Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door is my favorite of the Lulu books. A new boy next door has a rabbit but is unable to enjoy or properly care for him. Rather than rabbit-napping the bunny or torturing the boy, Lulu and Mellie discover a fantastic way to foster friendships all around.

Lulu and the Hedgehog in the Rain begins with a lovely description of a furious downpour Lulu cannot resist. Of course a half-drowned hedgehog is swept right before her and immediately scooped up and deposited on her grandmother's sofa. Lulu must learn to let her wild hedgehog wander, recruiting all her neighbors to help keep him safe. One of my favorite parts of this book tells of her racing to her neighbor's house with a library book all about hedgehogs to teach how to properly care for them.

Lulu and the Hamster in the Night tells of Lulu's newest rescue, a hamster abandoned by a classmate. In what I think is a first for the series, Lulu tells a lie in order to smuggle her hamster to her grandmother's house overnight. She faces quite a bit of anxiety and chagrin for her decision and, in the end, she tries to confess to her parents. Her grandmother graciously forgives her.

The books are full of little jokes to delight new readers. Sam, for example, is Lulu's old dog who can't stand dogs.
Sam didn't know, and would never have guessed, that he was a dog himself.
Lulu's grandmother declares her granddaughters beautiful and then demands they clean themselves up.
"I thought you said we were beautiful," objected Mellie.
"Beautiful? Yes!" said Nan. "Respectable? No!"
Lulu's mother happily agrees to bake a carrot cake for the bunny birthday party the girls plan, as long as they do all the measuring, mixing, pouring into the cake pan, cleaning up, and reminding her to put it in the oven and take it out again.

I love how in every book, Lulu and Mellie or their friends receive encouragement and support from the mothers and fathers and grandmothers and teachers. Most of the time, they are able to be independent, walking home from school and planning parties, but at just the right times, a trusted grown-up helps implement a solution, usually one devised by the children. That's the kind of parent I want to be - here when they need me, but back a few paces so they can see what they can do.

If Second Daughter doesn't read these books on her own, they'll be on the list from which she can choose for the books we read together during her continuing reading lessons next year. These books would be enjoyable for a grown-up buddy-reading as well. (It only took a few books for me to tire of the Boxcar Children series and decide those would be relegated to independent reading only.)

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