Have you ever heard of someone being afraid of reviewing a children's book?
I am sincerely terrified of not being able to convey how unique and perfect this book is.
How beautifully written.
How incredibly illustrated.
I'm panic-stricken that I will not be able to tell you how gentle, humane and compassionate are the stories and how superbly illustrated they are.
How utterly entertaining.
How absolutely tender.
There is one thing that I must not tell you - namely, this is the third straight day that I am writing this review - and I'm still at the very beginning.
And that is a simply measure of how much Read Aloud Dad loves this book.
Once Upon A Time...
It was suppertime, some six months ago when James Herriot`s Treasury for Children arrived in our house.
No, wait - just checked it out in my "orders history" - it was 17 Sep 2010.
Nine months ago, when my twins were 3 years and 2 months old.
I was afraid this book would be way over their head.
My wife was SURE it was way over their head.
So I walked down the steps with the treasury under my arm, as cool as possible.
My kids were sitting around their little round and green plastic table - my daughter on her favorite blue chair and my son on his favorite pink one - and as soon as they saw the cover of my book, they knew something was up.
OK, admittedly, they are always open to a new book.
But when I opened the first page to start reading Moses the Kitten - the first of the eight picture book stories contained in the treasury - my kids dropped everything else that they were doing.
There was a silence in the room - (that I fondly remember to this day).
You could almost hear their jaws drop.
We read the first story from beginning to end without a pause, even though I don't think they understood half of the words.
As I was reading, I thought - that's it, this book goes back on the shelf for another year.
Yet, as soon as we finished reading Moses The Kitten, my little pumpkins wanted the story again and again that very same evening!
Now - that we have read all the stories in the treasury - be assured that all of Herriot's animal yarns are equally captivating and exciting.
What is more, Moses the Kitten (the first story) is a bit more verbose than the others and could give you a wrong impression of the entire treasury's language complexity.
So feel to start the treasury with any story and come back to Moses later.
Eight Gems in a Crown
Aside this treasury, have you read any other books by James Herriot?
If the answer is yes, then let me asure you this treasury does not stray away from his spell-binding story-telling style - yet they are adapted and lavishly illustrated for children.
If the answer is no, you will be heartened to know that these story are not only entrancing, but the illustrations are also so powerful that you can include very young listeners in the read-aloud sessions and they will not be bored.
Herriot is a country vet who depicts the most colorful events from his practice in language that will keep you and your listener riveted to your seats.
This is not simply a book about animal life in the English countryside.
This is a book about the people, relationships, local customs and real life and death situations.
The heroes of the book are animals ... can you find more genuine heroes anywhere?
When they hurt - they hurt. When they are sick - they cannot hide it.
There are no hypochondriac cows, neurotic kittens or valetudinarian puppies in this treasury.
This is a book about raw, live emotions. This is a book about real life.
You may be wondering about the author?
In fact there is no "real" James Herriot. It is simply the pen name of James Alfred Wight, an English veterinary surgeon and writer.
Wight - or Herriot- is best world famous for partly autobiographical stories, that have been published in several volumes.
Herriot's "adult" stories - not the treasury we are reviewing here - are great stories for "adults", but which you will also be able to share with your kids as fantastic read-aloud material as your kids grow older.
His most famous omnibus editions (I hope to add them to our home library one day) are: All Creatures Great and Small, All Things Bright and Beautiful and All Things Wise and Wonderful.
The eight stories that can be found in the James Herriot`s Treasury for Children are stories that Herriot wrote specifically for children based on his experiences as a farm animal vet.
They were published as separate picture books and then later joined together in this treasury.
The illustrations by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett are so similar in style and quality that it will never cross your mind that this treasury was ever a handful of separate stories.
The eight stories included in this volume are:
1. Moses the Kitten
Oh Moses, Moses, why do my twins love you so much? A story of a small almost-frozen kitten that appears mysteriously in front of a farm in winter-time and how it is saved from an almost certain death with the help of a surrogate pig mama
2. Only One Woof
Two sheepdog puppies - Gyp and Sweep - are inseparable. "There's one odd thing about Gyp, Mr Wilkin said. "He's never barked at all". One day, Gyp lets out a bark... and never again.
3. The Christmas Day Kitten
Dog-lover Mrs Pickering and her basset-hounds receive surprise visits from a little tabby cat named Debbie. After her short visits, Debbie always leaves. One Christmas, Debbie returns very sick with a tiny kitten.
4. Bonny's Big Day
Farmer John Skipton retires his two old carthorses and gives them a life of joy and freedom, out of pure love for the animals. The vet convinces the farmer decides to enter the Family Pet show at the local Darrowby Show with one of the horses and ... guess who wins!
5. Blossom Comes Home
Old Blossom, no longer gives sufficient milk and Farmer Dakin decides to sell her away. Yet, the cow doesn't share a desire to abandon its barn and it returns running back to the farm. Will Farmer Dakin keep her now or give her away again?
6. The Market Square Dog
A frightened dog begs for food at the market square. Three months later, the dog is found hurt after a hit-and-run. After recovering in the police kennels, no one comes to claim it. Will the market square dog find a new owner?
7. Oscar, Cat-About-Town
A little girl brings in an abandoned cat and veterinarian Herriot decides to keep him. After several weeks, the new cat named Oscar is gone. An investigation reveals that Oscar is a fun-loving cat who adores social events in the town. One day, Oscar's real owner comes calling in...
8. Smudge, the Little Lost Lamb
Smudge was a curious little lamb. He simply had to find out what was on the other side of the fence. One day, Smudge finds a hole big enough to creep out of the field, but after a walk outside, he cannot return back to his mom. Smudge barely survives the cold and is reunited with his sheep family.
Leap of Faith
Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.Martin Luther King, Jr.
James Herriot`s Treasury for Children, for kids it is mostly a book about learning, laughter and hope.
As kids mature, they will enjoy different aspects of the same tales.
At their very core, the stories are tales about humanity and compassion.
You could still miss out on James Herriot`s Treasury for Children just because Read Aloud Dad may not be eloquent enough.
So if I have not convinced you yet, take a leap of faith.
Read Aloud Dad assures you that this book will be as fresh when you read it for the 100th time - as it was the first time that you opened it.
James Herriot`s Treasury for Children is available from bookstores in the US:
The Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)
and other countries:
The Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)
and other countries:
Or check out an audio edition below: