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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Ragweed's Farm Dog Handbook (Learn from the best!) Written and illustrated by Anne Vittur Kennedy. Candlewick Press, Random House. 2015. $21.00 ages 4 and up

"Next, you need to know about pigs. Pigs lie in the mud all day and get bigger and BIGGER. That's their job. That's not your job. Don't lie in the mud. Mud is lovely. It smells like worms and toes and earwax, so you will really, really want to lie in the mud. But don't lie in the mud. If you DO lie in the mud ... "

I shared this clever book in a number of classrooms in the past few weeks. As expected, the kids thought it was funny and most enjoyable. I do, too.

Ragweed has a lot of experience with farm work, and he wants to share it to make certain his handbook students know how best to become proficient at the assigned job. He begins at break of day, letting readers know that the rooster has a job to do. It's an important job and it is up to them to leave him to it. It could, however, happen that waking the farmer is something they might do and there would be a consequence if it were too early ... the farmer might throw a biscuit just to be sure they go away.

Ragweed is willing to share sage advice, without need for compensation from the reader. But, the farmer's biscuits!!! He knows all of the best ways to appease the farmer into passing them out like candy. He is a dog who knows which side his bread is buttered on, and takes every opportunity to make himself the happy recipient of all treats available to him. It seems the farm dog's true job is to see how many biscuits he can down in a day.

Ragweed's voice is conversational and free-wheeling. He wants his audience to glean from his advice all that they will need to know to be as successful as he is. He is consistently eager to please the farmer, the provider of all biscuits. Ms. Kennedy matches his energy in colorful, happy artwork that brilliantly ups the humor and pleasure of being with him as he teaches his lessons. His long snout, expressive eyes and endearing ways become more appealing with each turn of the page. By the time you finish reading, your listeners will be begging you to go back and start all over again.

I don't think you will mind in the least - and you have the added benefit of knowing just exactly what to do should you ever consider being a farm dog as your chosen career. If laughter is the best medicine, this handbook has it in spades. Psst! - don't forget the biscuits!

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