Saturday, March 21, 2015

James Herriot's Treasury for Children

by James Herriot
illustrated by Ruth Brown and Peter Barrett
260 pages / 1992 and 2014

Author James Herriot is best known for a series of semi-autobiographical books he wrote about his veterinary practice in the Northern England country of Yorkshire during the 1930s through the 1950s. Early on it was a bit of a "fish out of water" sort of story, with the young inexperienced vet arriving in very rural setting and trying to make use of the latest techniques and practice with farmers who have been using the same time-tested methods for decades and even generations - sometimes the old ways were best, but sometimes they weren't, so the young James had to learn patience and humility and a bit of salesmanship. Some of the farmers and townsfolk were sullen or quiet, others outgoing and neighborly, but all of them strangely charming. 

Sadly, the books also included frequent abuses of God's name, but it was wonderful to discover that the eight children's stories that Herriot wrote didn't have this problem. They too, are semi-autobiographical, and just as charming. All eight  are collected in this treasury, each one beautifully illustrated with full page pictures. I read this to my three year-old, who isn't much for longer stories like this (10+ minutes each), but the pictures kept her attention. And my five-year-old really enjoyed the story. While there are some quirky human characters, the animals are the stars, as is evidenced by the titles:
A page from Moses the Kitten
  • Moses the Kitten
  • Only One Woof
  • The Christmas Day Kitten
  • Bonny's Big Day 
  • Blossom comes Home
  • The Market Square Dog
  • Oscar, Cat-About-Town
  • Smudge, the Little Lost Lamb
A couple of cautions: at one point in Moses the Kitten Herriot says, "What the devil...?", and in The Christmas Day Kitten, the momma cat dies soon after giving birth, which might be a bit traumatic for the very young. Oh, and if you are a tough macho dad who has never shed a tear in front of your kids, well, they'll see another side of you when you come to very beautiful ending of Bonny's Big Day.

I'd recommend these for three (so long as they can sit still) all the way up - I can't imagine any adults that wouldn't like these too. 

You can buy a copy at by clicking here.

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