Two on an Island by Bianca Bradbury

The author does not have a personal website and there are no book trailers online. This book was published in 1965. This is a link to a page list of her books.

Summary: This is the story of a brother and sister who take their dog on a quick daytrip to a sandbar island. They do not leave a note behind for their grandmother (who is not expecting them to arrive for a visit for several days). Their boat is swept away and the siblings must cooperate to survive.

Personal Reaction: I agree with most other reviewers who shared that this was one of our favorite books as an elementary school child. Now in my 40’s, I can recall how suspenseful this survival story was for me way back when I had read the book. As soon as another reviewer mentioned the tomato juice and pineapple juice, I could instantly remember my reaction to that scene in the book. Wonderful read.

Curriculum or discussion topics: boating safety, survival tips, sibling rivalry

Connections to other books: Hatchet by Paulsen, Island series by Korman, The Box-Car Children by Warner, My Side of the Mountain by George, The Swiss Family Robinson by Wyss, Lost in the River of Grass by Rorby, Storm Runners by Smith, Red Midnight by Mikaelsen (for gr7+); Elite Forces Survival Guides by Wilson, Survive Alive series by Champion; SOS: Stories of Survival by Butts

Items to display with book: stuffed animals (German Shepherd, rat, crab); photo of sandbar island, rickety fishing shack; toy helicopter

Food items connected to story: Milk, tomato juice, oatmeal cookies, bananas


Welcome Home by Billi Tiner

Welcome Home

author’s blog includes video trailer, but it’s easier to find on YouTube

Summary: Jake has a puppyhood dream of the kindest man in the world being his owner. However, he is given away to a cruel man who beats him instead. He escapes the abuse only to be temporarily loved by a homeless woman, set upon by a gang of dogs, makes a few animal friends, and is hit by a car.

Personal Reaction: Simple story for young children who can tackle a chapter a day (167 page book) – I don’t know if I can recommend it as a bedtime story given some of the imagery. It’s going to be fine for 1st to 3rd graders, as long as they’re not oversensitive to the fact that people aren’t always nice to their pets (you can be assured it will turn out well because of the title). Another self-published book that could use editorial eyes, though as a read aloud/along it shouldn’t be an issue. For older kids, grades 4 and up, I much prefer the depth and richness of Flawed Dogs by B. Breathed. Both involve dogs talking about death, neglectful owners, and both even involve shootings.

Curriculum or discussion topics: Possible use as an elementary read for a class that’s taking a field trip to the pound or having an animal control officer or animal charity rep come to speak, or maybe taking up items/collections for a local animal group need.

Connections to other books: There are lots of good pet stories out there… Animal Ark Series series by Baglio, Runt by Bauer, One Small Dog by Hurwitz, Love That Dog (poetry) by Creech, Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog’s Tale by Myers

Items to display with book: Dog stuff – collar, squeaky toys, bowl; cast iron toy truck; stuffed dogs (and a cat)

Food items connected to story: I doubt you’d be serving dog food, but there are plenty of stews you could try to make your kids laugh and cookies you could bake into dog biscuit shapes. The dog and his homeless companion visit 3 restaurants (pizzaria, bar-b-que and bar&grill) for food, but no special dishes are mentioned.

Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

Summary: The autobiography of a horse – Sweet and simple, good treatment makes good horses. A sad story of how the life of Black Beauty changes with each successive owner.

Personal reaction: An excellent read aloud with a child, especially if you can get your hands on an illustrated version. Just felt like reading a classic again for sheer pleasure. What kills me is that the style of writing, and the concept of a good/simple life and treatment of others is just not attractive reading to many middle graders today. I wish I had my copy of Serilda’s Star by Cook to read over again too, but I’m not ready to get all the Black Stallion series books done this summer.

Black Beauty is out of copyright and downloadable for free from Project Gutenberg in several formats. The latest movie made from this novel was in 1994.

Curriculum use: would tie in well with character ed discussions or maybe with an animal husbandry unit (animal cruelty, horse study, etc.)

Items to display with book: English saddle, bit, whip, horse figurine and/or carriage; historical photos of period – especially of the painful check-rein, London cabs, etc.

Food: (since this is horse-fare, there’s not much to share with the kids at a book party unless you want them to have a carrot, apple or sugar cube!) You could have hay, oats, bran mash as part of your items on display

All Alone in the Universe by Lynne Rae Perkins

Date reviewed: 4/10/03                       Age/Grade:  Grades 3-5      IL  9-12              Author’s website

Summary: Debbie is slowly losing her best friend Maureen to another girlfriend. She knows that she can be alone, but truly doesn’t want to. As she watches the world continue, oblivious to her pain, she wonders if she will ever be truly happy until she realizes that her teacher’s advice is right on.

Personal Reaction: I liked the tone of voice used in Debbie’s descriptions of life around her and the illustrations that Debbie would use if this were a diary (but it’s not, so that can get confusing).

Points for discussion with children:  friendship, best friends

Possible classroom uses: This novel is about friendship and can be used successfully at any grade level whether having students write about their friends or analyzing what makes a good friend, etc.

Connections to other books? This book reminds me of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Rennison (though Rennison’s book is for older readers and is MUCH funnier). I also thought that this book was similar in tone to Everything on a Waffle by Horvath. The issue of best friends is so omni-present in literature today, but I think that girls who like this might like P.S. Longer Letter Later or Snail Mail, No More by Danziger/Martin.

Realia: bicycle, rose, art projects used in the story: “antique” vase, “stained glass” candleholder, cigar box jewelry box, starched string ornament

Food items connected to story: cheese sandwich, strawberries & cream

Saving Lilly by Peg Kehret

Date reviewed: 2/23/03                          Grades 3-6                IL 9-12            author’s website

Summary: Erin and David do a report about animal cruelty for their 6th grade gifted class. Their regular classroom teacher rewards the class reading challenge of 300+ books with a trip to the circus. Erin and David object on the grounds of animal cruelty and show Mrs. Dawson proof about this particular company. Mrs. Dawson refuses to listen, and Erin and David are forced to come up with a way to avoid patronizing this circus, convince their teacher to listen to reason, and not turn into the class geeks at the same time. Beyond the classroom, they find that the circus elephant is not only abused, but she is about to be sold to a hunting reserve where she will be murdered. How can they let any of this happen?

Personal Reaction: I really enjoyed this book! Not only did it deal with adolescent feelings of fitting in, but the way that Erin and David face each challenge while keeping in mind that they don’t want to disrespect their teacher is commendable. They consider the viewpoints of others and agree that education is the best way to change people’s attitudes.

Points for discussion with children:  Adolescent activism (and in this era of technology, social media’s impact on activism,, etc.)

Possible classroom uses: This is a great way to show that students can make a difference within the classroom, locally, and further! It will appeal to students’ sense that that teachers CAN be wrong, and will give a positive method for dealing with the situation.

Connections to other books? Display with Will You, Won’t You? by Haas or Hope Was Here by Bauer. Both books highlight student involvement in larger issues without detracting from compelling storylines. It’s Your World–If You Don’t Like It, Change It: Activism for Teenagers by Halpern and the Young Heroes series of biographies should be made available.

Realia: model elephant and/or circus tent, circus tickets, circus poster, fundraising signs or goal chart, information about animal cruelty, toilet paper, TV camera

Food items connected to story: Strawberry milkshake