Sunday, December 13, 2009
Written by: Sandra Day O'Connor
Illustrated by: Tom Pohrt
Recommended Ages: 4-8
Animal lovers and non-animal lovers alike will enjoy this tale of the quest for the perfect pet. Young Sandra (yes, this is written by Sandra Day O'Connor, the first female Supreme Court Justice) lives on a ranch with her mother and father. It can get fairly lonely on the ranch and she begs her parents for a pet. The book chronicles Sandra as she comes across animals in the desert that need her help, and asks the question if wild animals make good pets?
Her first encounter is with a desert tortoise she names Hercules. There are nice facts about the animals sprinkled throughout the story, which kids will appreciate. In the case of the desert tortoise, we learn that they can live to be one hundred years old and that they dig deep tunnels in the winter and hibernate. Sandra also learns that they are beginning to disappear and ultimately makes the decision to return him to the desert.
The story continues with Sandra befriending a cottontail rabbit (who always seems afraid and never comfortable as a pet), a young coyote caught in a trap (she nurses him back to health and sets him free) and a baby bobcat (who ends up scratching her over some raw meat). Each time Sandra is hopeful that she has found the perfect pet, and each time she realizes that the animal would be better off in the wild.
The story ends with a friend of the family's bringing over a stray dog named Susie. Of course, Susie proves to be the perfect pet and friend for Sandra. Susie likes to be with Sandra and follows her wherever she goes. It's a delightful ending to a story about the universal longing for a pet.
The watercolor pictures do an admirable job of creating the desert setting. I grew up in Arizona and they whisked me right back to my childhood where desert tortoises were spotted occasionally, jackrabbits all the time and coyote's howling lulled me to sleep. Another really interesting feature (probably more for adults than kids) are the endpapers of the book. Here you see real photographs from O'Connor's childhood on the ranch, including one with her pet javelina. Finding Susie is a nice snapshot into the early life of a fascinating American woman.