Thursday, April 24, 2014

Banjo and Ruby Red by Libby Gleeson illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Banjo is a chook dog and he takes his job very seriously.  I love the way Freya Blackwood, in Banjo and Ruby Red, captures his exuberance as he rounds up the recalcitrant chickens each evening.  "Except Ruby Red.  She sits on top of the woodheap and stares."

Her defiance seems to be a challenge for Banjo.  He perseveres, however, and eventually "Logs tumble. Sticks fly.  Ruby Red rises. Up, up, up, and then down into the chook shed, onto her perch."

One day Ruby Red goes missing.  Banjo goes for a long search through all the nooks and crannies of the farm and he finally locates her under the woolshed but she is hurt.  The reader might imagine she has been attacked by a fox or perhaps it is heat exhaustion.  It is at this point this lovely story takes a huge emotional leap.  Banjo gently "takes her in his mouth and carries her to his kennel."  This illustration reminded me of Fox by Margaret Wild (Fox is for a much older audience).

Look at the time change between the opening and closing end papers - dawn and dusk. For city kids it will be good to talk about words like woodheap, roost, chook shed, lambing shed and woolshed.  This book has been selected for our CBCA awards for 2014 and I think the youngest children will enjoy the warm heroism of Banjo and the onomatopoeic features of the text.  The feathers on the first page could be used for an art activity.

Here is the author web site and a page from the illustrator.

Other books about chickens (we have over 60) which are favourites in our school library include :
Albert and Lila by Ratik Schami
Bear and Chook by the sea by Lisa Shanahan
Bob by Tracey Campbell
John Joe and the big hen by Martin Waddell
Kip by Christina Booth
Louise, the adventures of a chicken by Kate DiCamillo
Peggy by Anna Walker
Queenie the Bantam by Bob Graham
Something wonderful by Jenny Nimmo
Wendy by Gus Gordon

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