Tag Archives: Judith Viorst

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney

Author: Judith ViorstThe Tenth Good Thing About Barney

Illustrator: Erik Blegvad

My rating: 3.5 of 5

Barney, the boy’s cat, just died, and the boy is very sad. His mom suggested that he think up ten good things about Barney to say at the funeral. It might make him feel better. So he thinks and thinks–and comes up with nine really nice things he remembers about his cat. But he just can’t think of the tenth one. He talks to his mom, his neighbor, and his dad about it. Finally, while talking with his dad about the cycle of life and the beauty of new life coming from seeds planted in the ground, the boy realizes just what his tenth good thing is.

Judith Viorst is an children’s book author that I admire greatly (think amazing stories like Lulu and the Brontosaurus and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day). I don’t think I could claim that The Tenth Good Thing About Barney is my favorite of her books, but it was a good story. This book is somewhere between a picture book (with some great old-school black and white pictures) and an easy-reader, but I think it’s one that would be best read aloud and talked about afterward. I mean, it’s dealing with some really difficult topics–the loss of a special pet, dealing with grief, understanding how death is a part of life. It’s not all somber and dark though, either; the boy learns that his pet will help the flowers grow even more beautifully. I guess what I’m saying is that The Tenth Good Thing About Barney is a good book to talk about but it’s also one that might seem a bit traumatic for sensitive children. Parental discretion is recommended.


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Lulu Walks the Dogs

Author: Judith Viorst

Illustrator: Lane Smith

Following her adventures with the Brontosaurus (see Lulu and the Brontosaurus), Lulu is, well, a less obnoxious child, at least. But she still wants what she wants when she wants it, so when her parents tell her absolutely no, they can’t afford what she wants and she’ll have to work to get it herself, Lulu finds herself in a bit of a quandary. Still, she’s nothing if not stubborn and determined. A little advertising and asking around gets her a job walking three of the neighbors dogs. Now if only she had the slightest idea how to manage dogs. And if only the one person willing to teach her weren’t the neighborhood’s worst do-gooder ever!

I found Lulu Walks the Dogs to be quite entertaining. It’s really more of an easy reader/early- to mid-elementary level, but it’s a fun story for any age. I can relate to Lulu in her distaste for Fleischman the goody-two-shoes who only wants to help–I’m the sort who can never get through Little Lord Fauntleroy because I want to puke! But in spite of having a bratty main character, Viorst brings out ideas like working together and being polite even when you don’t feel like it–or even like the person you’re trying to be polite to. It also brings up the idea of entrepreneurship, which you don’t see much of at this reading level–I have mixed feelings about this, as I think commercialism and mercenary ideas are too prevalent in society anyhow, but I do think it’s important for kids to learn to work for things they want. It’s a good discussion book in that regard. Plus it’s just plain fun, between the author’s tongue-in-cheek style and Lulu’s distresses with the dogs. The art’s fun and fitting too–Lane Smith is fantastic! Lulu Walks the Dogs is an entertaining and unusual story that’s definitely on my recommended list.

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Lulu and the Brontosaurus

lulu and the brontosaurusAuthor: Judith Viorst

Illustrator: Lane Smith

My rating: 5 of 5

Lulu, vol. 1

Lulu is a brat, there’s no way around it–a brat who gets whatever she wants. But when she decides she wants a pet brontosaurus for her birthday, her world gets shaken up a bit. After the shock of hearing “no” for once, Lulu decides to set out to find a pet brontosaurus for herself. What will she do when the brontosaurus decides he wants a little girl for a pet?

This is an adorable, creative chapter book. The story is cute and original. Throughout, Viorst makes excellent use of repetition and themes with variations. The ending(s) are also a fun twist. Smith’s illustrations complement the story marvelously, and the fun layouts and font combinations add just the right touch. Lulu and the Brontosaurus is a satisfying read that I would recommend, particularly to beginning readers.


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