Monday, April 1, 2013


Have you ever found a series or an author that you are sure is brand new? And you can't wait to share your new find with other people? And then you google the author to see if you can find a little more about them? And you discover the author is not new at all, but that they are really, really famous, and have actually written a whole bunch of books? And the only reason you don't know anything about them is that they live and write in a different country?

That's exactly what happened to me this month. A publisher sent me two books in a series I thought was totally new. And then when I googled author Hilary McKay, I discovered she is very well known, and has written lots and lots of books, but they have all  been published in England. Recently two books in her Lulu series have been released in the United States. Another one will be released next fall. And I'm excited, because I love them!

Lulu is a series for beginning chapter book readers; I'm thinking of kids that like Junie B. Jones, or Clementine, or Marty McGuire. She's a spunky, animal-crazy girl with a best friend/cousin named Mellie. And, as a teacher in urban settings, with a population of 95% non Anglo students, I really love that Lulu appears to be African American. That's not part of the story,  but at the same time, it's really, really nice to be able to hand my students a book where the child on the cover looks like them.

In the first book Lulu and the Duck in the Park, Lulu's class goes on field trip. It's early spring, and there are lots of mama ducks sitting on nests full of eggs. While the class is at the park, two big dogs get loose and cause major chaos. Mama ducks are chased off their nests and eggs are broken.  When the chaos is over, Lulu finds an egg. She doesn't want the egg to get cold, so she shoves it into her sweater, and takes it back to school, even though her teacher has told the children repeatedly that she doesn't like pets, and is trying to get rid of the class hamster. And then the inevitable happens.

In the second book, Lulu and the Dog from the Sea, Lulu's family, along with Mellie and the family dog, Sam, have rented a cottage at the beach. Sam does not like the beach, "he isn't fond of the sand, he didn't like the chilly breezes and he hates getting wet in the salty water." I love McKay's portrayal of Sam, a kind of sweet little guy, who is just kind of set in his ways and really does not like a lot of change.

Both Sam and Mellie take a lot of luggage on the trip. Sam has a blanket, a brush, his dish, special shampoo, and a much loved beanbag. Mellie has received a "Build your Own Kite" kit for her birthday, and can't wait to build the kite and then fly it on the beach. She opens the kit in the car, then promptly loses some major pieces (As an mom who has tried to assemble many things- kites, models, etc. with my boys, this thread of the story had me laughing all the way through the book).

When the family arrives at the cottage, the owner is waiting for them. She needs to warn them about a stray dog that lives on the beach. The owner tells Lulu and her family, in no uncertain terms, that they should not feed the dog, nor should they allow it to access scraps from the garbage can. And of course, the first thing animal-loving Lulu wants to do is to befriend the stray dog.

I love this series. I'm excited, when I look at Hilary McKay's website, to see that there are at least four more books in the Lulu series (Lulu and the Hamster on the Roof, Lulu and the Cat in the Bag, Lulu and the Hedgehog in the Rain, Lulu and the Rabbit Next Door). I'm hoping those will be published in the United States very, very soon. And then there is another series, about a boy named Charlie, that looks like one our boy readers might love. And then there's McKay's Casson Family series, and the Paradise House series, and the Pudding Bag series, and the Dog Friday trilogy. And then some others for older readers.

Hilary McKay seems like an author American readers definitely need to know.


Ms. Yingling said...

Okay. I have to take a look even though it's probably way too young for my readers. I'm not a huge fan of McKay's other work, but this looks like it would be great for elementary libraries.

Carol said...

This is definitely a book for younger readers, I'm thinking second and third graders are going to love it!

Linda B said...

I'll definitely give these titles to the librarian & the primary teachers, Carol. How cute she is, & they seem to fit right in with the other early books. Thanks for sharing!

Michelle said...

Thanks for the author and book suggestions! I'll be checking them out!

Nanc said...

I am very interested, and I have never heard of her. I'm really in need of another spunky character and such a bonus if she looks a little bit like the majority of the kiddos I see daily. Thanks Carol. xo