Title: Children Make Terrible Pets
Author: Peter Brown
Publisher: Hatchett, Little and Brown Company
Themes: Pets, Letting Go
Age Range: 1st through 5th Grade
Lucy Bear find a little boy in the woods. She takes him home and asks her mother if she can keep him. Her mother warns her that "Children make terrible pets!", but Lucy is determined. When the boy runs away, Lucy is heartbroken-until she finds him in his "natural habitat", back with his own family. She decides that the boy is better off in his own environment.
This charming picture book has the look of an old fashioned children's book-but with a very post-modern feel. Lucy Bear has the same traits as any human child-curiosity, stubbornness, the desire to have a small living thing of her very own. When I have used this book with students, they find the story very funny, and the older ones get the "joke"-that humans often take animals out of their own natural environments for our own purposes. Younger students don't usually make that connection, but they do recognize that the things that the boy does that make him a terrible pet are all of the things that human children are supposed to do.
I've mostly used this book in conjunction with opinion writing in an elementary setting. After we read the book, and chart the evidence from the author that shows that the boy was a terrible pet for Lucy, I have them think of an animal that would make a terrible pet. They then write an opinion piece describing the animals and listing the reasons that it would make a terrible pet. The one time that I didn't specify that they should choose and animal, many of the students said that their little brother or sister would make a terrible pet. Totally adorable, but not was I was looking for!
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