A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a fairy tale with enchantment, magic, and the mention of witches. It's also a book with riddles, precise vocabulary, and talking animals.
What's the story?
When Til's dog Bess disappears mysteriously and he begins his search, he's joined by Finder, a strange little man whose magical connection with the animal world helps solve the case. Also involved in unraveling the mystery are two old ladies, their brindled cat, a heron, a mole, and one of Bess's toys named Mudman.
Is it any good?
This is an entertaining story with the quaint crispness one might expect in a story of Peter Rabbit, or one of the English mysteries of a time past. The language is fresh and sprinkled with a vocabulary that enhances the telling, and reading it aloud is a must. The words sound as if they are falling from the lips of a loving English grandmother, which truly they were.
The story of how and why the story was written is almost as good as the story itself. Dedicating it to her grandsons, Philippa Pearce (who could well have been Miss Grammer, one of the old ladies) wrote the mystery. Helen Craig, the boys' other grandmother, illustrated it. She most likely is Miss Mousy, the second old lady who also paints and sketches. And, after Miss Grammer says to Miss Mousy in the final chapter, "It would make such a good story," they embark together on the telling of the tale, even settling on the same first line as the one used in the book. Clever, and fun, their collaboration has created a world of magical enchantment that feels like grandma's house.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the odd little man. What is a "finder"? Do you think there really could be such a person? How does he talk to the animals? How did Mudman help with the communication? As the story evolves, families can try to solve the mystery of the dog's disappearance as the finder and the boy uncover clues. They will especially enjoy trying to work out the riddle passed on by the brindled cat.
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