Our rating: ****

Flip is a happy little colt who enjoys life on a Kentucky farm. He can run, buck, and play, but he can never manage to jump the brook in the pasture. One day, Flip falls asleep and dreams he has wings. Jumping the brook should be easy now!

A very short, easy read with a humorous story and wonderful illustrations. It is simple enough for children just beginning to read and is enjoyable for more advanced readers as well. Since the early 1940’s, Flip has pleased many horse-loving youngsters and it is sure to gather even more fans.

The Little Cow and the Turtle

Our rating: ****½

The little cow is very curious and is always ready to investigate new things around the farm. She makes friends with picnicking children, a group of hoboes, and a man changing a tire. One day, the little cow discovers a snapping turtle that is moving to a new pond. The cow follows the turtle on its journey across a road, several fields, and the dangerous railroad track.

There really isn’t much to say about The Little Cow and the Turtle. It is a wonderful, simple story with no swashbuckling action and no tough decisions—just a curious little cow and a grumpy old turtle. This beautifully written, memorable tale has become one of my new favorites.

Sea Pup

Our rating: ***½

Clint Barlow goes on a sailing expedition one day and finds an orphaned harbor seal. Unwilling to just leave the animal and interested in all things having to do with the ocean, Clint takes the seal home and gains permission to keep it until it makes trouble. The seal, Buster, becomes a good friend to Clint, but soon becomes a nuisance when he steals milk from cows, “helps” fishermen with their catches, and scares a family who have never seen a seal, much less a tame one. Clint also finds that Buster is always in danger because almost everybody in the area considers seals as pests to be shot on sight. The Barlows try sending Buster to Alaska, only to have the seal return. Clint is torn between keeping his friend forever and finding a place where Buster will be safe from harm.

Sea Pup presents a fairly good take on the “adopt an orphaned wild animal” theme. There are times when Clint seems to act young for his age and, with his interest in science, there are some references to the evolutionary origin of seals. Thankfully, these do not dominate the story. The ending could have used some work, but on the whole the story is an enjoyable light read.

The Runaway Dog Team

Our rating: ****½

More than anything, 16-year-old Peter Riggett wants to be considered a man, so he finds it an affront to his pride when his father won’t let him a buy a very good sled dog that was offered at a ridiculously cheap price. Mr. Riggett had good reason to be suspicious of the seller’s honesty, but he fails to tell Peter his reasons. Peter, frustrated by what he sees as unfair treatment by his father, runs away from home. Too proud, and secretly too ashamed, to go back home, Peter joins a group of men, finding out later that the men are rum-runners. Peter is finally thrown out of the group when he stands up to the leader, who is the man who tried to sell Peter the dog earlier. Feeling that he must redeem himself for his past actions, Peter joins two police officers and another man named Pewee Ledoux in the hopes of catching the gang he has just escaped.

There is much more to this book than can be put into a summary. It would make a good read-aloud, though some characters talk in broken English mixed with the occasional French that could be difficult to read out loud. The Runaway Dog Team is written in an late 1920s style, so there are a few places where the author gets a little wordy. Other than that, this is a great story of a self-centered boy learning to dump his pride and finding what it really means to grow to manhood.

Rasmus and the Vagabond

Our rating: ****

Rasmus is tired of living at the orphanage. Everybody who comes to adopt an orphan always picks a girl with curly hair. Nobody wants a boy with straight hair. One day, Rasmus decides to take matters into his own hands and sets out to find a family who wants him. The very next morning, Rasmus meets up with a tramp named Oscar who seems very friendly. Oscar says that he will help Rasmus find a home, but the two new friends run into trouble when Oscar is suspected for a crime he did not commit.

Probably the biggest thing I didn’t like about this book was Oscar’s disrespect for policemen because he is tired of them assuming that “tramp” equals “badguy.” That’s all well and good, but Oscar doesn’t even try to be nice to the policemen, which would help to clear the “tramps are bad” mindset. Another interesting item to note is that, unlike other books by Lindgren, Rasmus and the Vagabond is not a humorous story. The ending is somewhat predictable, but this is still a good quick read for days when you don’t have time for a long story.