Mind and Me / Barney the Horse

Mind and Me
Sunita Chawdhary
Knights Of

This funny story is about much more than just losing your pet rabbit, which is what Maya, the girl narrator of this book does. 

When she wakes one morning she discovers her beloved Pooey is missing from his house beside her bed. Mysteriously it appears that the rabbit must have opened the door herself.

It’s also about lies and their consequences; determination, lots of poos (rabbit ones for the most part), identical twin cousins – the daughters of Maya’s favourite aunt who has a ‘way of sprinkling happiness over everyone’ – a warm, loving family and Mind. Mind is Maya’s own mind that acts as a kind of prompt, voice in the head alter ego. Into all this, author Sunita Chawdhary weaves occasional snippets of information about Indian customs and life in India, (Maya’s mother is from India), a few pearls of yoga wisdom, lots of humorous black and white illustrations and more.

Most of the book relates what happens when Maya, aided (sort of) and abetted by cousins Tanya and Anya search for Pooey, though it’s only Maya who knows what they’re actually looking for.

There’s plenty to delight younger solo readers in this, Sunita’s debut chapter book; this adult reviewer loved it too.

Barney the Horse
Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees
Harper Collins Children’s Books

This book contains three short stories set in turn at Nethercott farm, Treginnis and Wick Court which constitute the Farms for City Children Organisation set up by the author and his wife to give city children, (who come to stay along with their teachers), experience of such things as feeding sheep, milking cows, looking after horses and generally interacting with other animals and the natural world.

The first, Missing! is a little boy’s account of what happened when he and his classmates went to feed the sheep and discovered that one of the lambs wasn’t there. The farmer declares that the one who finds the errant lamb will be awarded the ‘farmer of the day’ badge. This results in the narrator straying a bit too far, just like the object of his search, in what turns out to be a very dramatic rescue.

In Bird Boy, story two, Matt is staying away from home for the first time. Despite enjoying the stories by the fire in the evenings, the berry picking, eating the beans he’s helped to gather, and the interactions with the animals, the boy feels homesick. It’s the wealth of birdlife though, that makes all the difference for Matt. He especially likes to observe the swallows that have nested in one of the barns and are rearing their young. 

What he doesn’t anticipate is that he will play an important role in the early life of one of the little chicks.

The third story is a retrospective one told by an adult narrator and contains an empowering message.. Go For It was the motto of the narrator’s Grandma and it was this catchphrase and her gran’s birthday gift that were responsible for the story teller going to stay at Wick Court with her primary school friends. She tells how her interactions with the horses there, especially Barney, completely changed the course of her life.

For younger readers, these gentle tales, accompanied by Guy Parker-Rees’ plentiful, spirited black and white illustrations, convey the lasting effects a stay on a child-friendly farm can have.

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