Cannonball Read V: The House of a Million Pets by Ann Hodgman
I work at a child care center for school age students. Pennsylvania has a program in which the state will grant a child care organization money if said organization meets the state's requirements and fills out a butt load of paperwork. I am not a Tea Partier nor am I a Republican but even to me, this program is a complete waste of money. That, however, is neither here not there. The relevant part is that one (of what feels like 700) requirements is that the children read, or are read to, daily. We have the children only for a few hours before school and after school. This post will get out of hand if I try to go any further into detail, so please just trust me when I say sometimes it is hard to fit all the state's requirements into one 6 hr period. Teachers, you know what I'm talking about.
Anyway, I went through all that nonsense to explain that we try to read to the entire group as a whole in order to save time. It is not always easy finding a book that will hold the interest of both a 5-year-old and a 13-year-old. We have tried separating them to read books targeted to their age and interests. When that fits into our schedule, great! Yay! But, again you'll have to trust me, it just isn't always possible.
The House of a Million Pets did a feasible job of satisfying all age groups. The story is an account of all the pets Ann Hodgman has had since she became an adult, and no one could tell her 'no' anymore. She's had the usual kinds of pets (cats, dogs, fish, hamsters), but she's had some unusual ones as well (sugar gliders, hedgehogs, prairie dogs, a snapping turtle). She's attempted to nurse wild animals back to health, and she's taken in pets that other owners have abandoned.
The kids really enjoyed any mention of animal poop and the cockatiel that kept throwing up. They loved hearing me read the noise the ducklings made and got a kick out of repeating it until they annoyed each other. They were a bit fascinated that one family could have so many animals. One child even commented, "she sounds like a hoarder." We all agreed that Hodgman's family was not very creative when it came to pet names. They called a snapping turtle, "Snappingy" and a hedgehog, "Hedgie." Boring!
I appreciated the easy way Hodgman mentioned the pros and cons of certain pets. She did get slightly preachy at times, but I was not too put off by it. The only soapbox I thought was weird was the one where she lamented the fact that people always want to hold animals. What kind of person has a pet and then never wants to hold it? Hodgman did have a nice balance between humorous, informative, and sad anecdotes. There was a wonderful, straightforward section on what it is like to put an animal to sleep. I thought that was very well written in a way that would not scare the kids.
For those who care about these kinds of things, there were a few casual mentions of church, Sunday School, and God without indicating the good-ness or bad-ness of those institutions. Reproductive issues were addressed along the lines of 'we had a male and a female animal, and a few months later there were babies!' One cat suffered an attack by another animal, and the results were pretty gruesome. There were no pictures of that, but some might be squeamish with the description.
I would recommend skipping over this one if you have kids younger than seven. It might be great for older children if they are about to get a pet, but I think kids older than twelve will be uninterested unless they really like animals.
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