Friday, March 30, 2018

A boy called Bat by Elana K Arnold illustrated by Charles Santoso

"Do you know what I see when I look into your eyes?" "Brown and black," Bat said. "With white all around."
"Yes," said Mom. "I do see that. But I also see your sweetness. And your thoughtful nature. And your busy, busy mind."

Can you see the animal on the front cover of this book A boy called Bat?  It is a baby skunk. Here in Australia we do not have skunks and so for me this interesting creature joins others we find in US and UK titles such as badgers, raccoons and hedgehogs.  I would like to think US and UK children would be equally fascinated by our koala, kangaroo, echidna, and platypus.

Bat (Bixby Alexander Tam) sees the world in a different way from others. He needs order and routine. He does not like loud sounds and "there was also the way he sometime flapped his hands, when he was nervous or excited or thinking about something interesting."

Animals are Bat's favorite thing and luckily for Bat his mum is a vet. Bat loves going to her clinic and spending time with the cats and dogs but today mum has bought a baby skunk home. The mother has died and this is the only surviving kit. Bat immediately falls in love with this tiny baby which his sister names Thor. The problem is Thor can only stay with the family for one month until he is old enough to be taken by the rescue center prior to his release back into the wild. Bat needs to convince his mum to let Thor stay with him for much longer.  Could Thor become his pet?  Can Bat become his caretaker?

Bat has a set of animal encyclopedias and he begins to read about skunks. One of the key questions is Do Skunks make good pets?  The answer in his book is from Dr Jerry Dragoo who works for the aptly named Institute for the Betterment of Skunks and Skunk Reputations.  At school the next day his kind teacher Mr Grayson notices Bat is very distracted. At recess he offers to help Bat write an email to Dr Dragoo.  Eventually an email arrives with an answer which is not quite as definitive as Bat would like.

Take a look here for some photos and facts about skunks. Here is an interview with Elana K Arnold. Here is a set of teaching notes with ideas for further reading.

This is an easy to read short chapter book with a gentle message about difference and perseverance. Older children might follow this book with Loser by Jerry Spinelli and Goldfish Boy. The 'voice' of Bat reminded me of Waylon which is a book for a younger audience.

Comfortably familiar and quietly groundbreaking, this introduction to Bat should charm readers, who will likely look forward to more opportunities to explore life from Bat’s particular point of view.  Kirkus

Here is the cover of the second book which has just been published.

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