Of course, Flora’s mother sees the budding friendship between her daughter and this mangy-looking rodent (Ulysses did, after all, lose half his fur to the vacuum cleaner before he was rescued) as just more evidence of her daughter’s strangeness. And she decides to put an end to this nonsense with a shovel, a sack, and a hole in the ground. Flora has other ideas, and she has a gang of allies (including her father) who are determined to help her. And they do. And I had such fun discovering how.
My copy of Margaret Wild’s brilliant Fox is dogeared from use as a mentor text in my classroom, and now her book The Dream of the Thylacine will soon keep it company.
What is a Thylacine, you may ask, and this is how the Australian Museum would answer:
The Thylacine (Thylacinus cynocephalus: dog-headed pouched-dog) is a large carnivorous marsupial now believed to be extinct. It was the only member of the family Thylacinidae to survive into modern times. It is also known as the Tasmanian Tiger or Tasmanian Wolf.
Here is the last known Thylacine, in captivity:
Wild’s story is really (I think) a haunting poem about yearning and dreaming for freedom. Her extraordinary prose is accompanied by Ron Brooks’ incredible paintings, some gorgeous and some terrifying. This is just a powerful, powerful book.
I also happened upon Anne Rockwell’s Hey, Charleston: The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band:
Here’s the jacket copy:
“What happened when a former slave took beat-up old instruments and gave them to a bunch of orphans? Thousands of futures got a little brighter and a great American art form was born.
In 1891, Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins opened his orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina. He soon had hundreds of children and needed a way to support them. Jenkins asked townspeople to donate old band instruments—some of which had last played in the hands of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War. He found teachers to show the kids how to play. Soon the orphanage had a band. And what a band it was.
The Jenkins Orphanage Band caused a sensation on the streets of Charleston. People called the band’s style of music “”rag””—a rhythm inspired by the African-American people who lived on the South Carolina and Georgia coast. The children performed as far away as Paris and London, and they earned enough money to support the orphanage that still exists today. They also helped launch the music we now know as jazz.
Rockwell tells this story with exuberance and sensitivity, and Colin Bootman’s luminous paintings do much to take us back to a time and place when so much was changing – in the South, in the world, and in music. This was a slice of history that I knew nothing about, and I was so surprised and moved to learn that the Jenkins Institute for Children still exists in Charleston, and still carries on the work of helping and protecting children of all races and ethnic origins.
Here is footage of the Jenkins Orphanage Band from the 1930’s … amazing!