Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Parents' Choice Awards : Books : Picture Books
The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers

The Terrible Hodag and the Animal Catchers

Spring 2006 Picture Books
Ages: 4 - 8 yrs.
Author: Caroline Arnold
Illustrator: John Sandford
ISBN: 1-59078-166-X
Hardcover Price: $15.95
According to Midwestern lumberjack folklore, the Hodag is a fearsome spike-tailed beast who easily overcomes its human prey. But you'd never guess that from the benign (albeit enormous) creature befriended by the lumberjacks in Caroline Arnold's new story. Myths and legends are always subject to variations depending on the teller, the region and the time, so it's natural that Arnold should tweak the traditional Hodag lore and add a legend of her own. In this version, zookeepers are eager to get their hands on one of these mysterious creatures, with “the head of an ox, feet of a bear, back of a dinosaur, and tail of an alligator.” But Olee Swensen and his fellow lumberjacks know the kind-hearted Hodag belongs at peace in the forest, and they work together to foil the animal catchers and save their friend. While Arnold certainly changes the nature of the Hodag/human relationship, the essence of a good old-fashioned folktale in the oral tradition remains intact. The story is complemented by John Sandford's intricately shaded black-and-white illustrations, which also add a timeless quality.The book makes a good choice for classroom and library use, or for any child interested in mythical wildlife. The black, white, and gray cross hatching and scratchboard illustrations are a miracle of skill and full of humor.
Zarina Mullan Plath   ©2006 Parents' Choice
Zarina Mullan Plath has undergraduate degrees in both biology and English. Her interests include cookbooks/culinary history, South Asian literature (especially in regards to South Asians in America), and, of course, children's literature. Her poetry is included in the anthology Sweeping Beauty (U. of Iowa Press, 2005). Zarina lives in Central Illinois with her husband, two children, and assorted pets.

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