Saturday, November 22, 2008

Cybils Book Reviews - Two Heartwarming Tales of Survival

Two of the books on our list of nonfiction picture book nominees are stories of survival in the wake of Katrina. The fact that they both depict animals wins them big points in the kid appeal department.

Molly the Pony: A True Story, written by Pam Kaster, is the story of a small pony of the Americas (a cross between a Shetland and an Appaloosa) that opens with Molly being left alone in her barn to ride out hurricane Katrina. The pony survived on hay and puddles of water while she waited for someone to come for her. Two weeks after Katrina, she was found in her barn, the door having been blocked by a tree. Workers had to cut a hole in the side of the barn to get her out. Molly was taken to Ms. Kaye's farm until her owners could come and get her. Three months later, Molly became a permanent resident on Ms. Kaye's farm.

This, however, is only the beginning of the story. One day while Molly was napping in the pasture, a large Pit Bull ran into the pasture and bit her. Molly fell and kicked the dog, but it would not go away. The mauling left Molly with a badly damaged front leg.
At first the veterinarians thought they could not do anything to help Molly. Then they watched her closely for a few days. They were happy to see that she rested her healthy front leg by shifting her weight onto her back legs.

"Molly is a smart pony with a great attitude," said one veterinarian. "I think she could learn to walk with a prosthetic limb.* She knows how to take care of herself."

The veterinarians decided it would be best for Molly to go to the animal hospital at nearby Louisiana State University for the special surgery. They amputated* the injured leg below the knee and attached a stiff white cast. Molly stayed at the animal hospital for four days. Then Ms. Kay took her home.
The rest of the text follows Molly through her recovery and new role as an ambassador to children in hospitals and the elderly in retirement homes. Molly not brings smiles to the faces of all she meets, but she also leaves them behind, for the rubber hoof on the end of her prosthetic limb bears a smiley face.

The book uses photos of Molly to help tell the story. Challenging vocabulary words are printed in bold and marked with an asterisk. At the bottom of the page, readers find the words defined. An author's note at the end provides a bit more information about Molly, as well as resources to learn more about her story.

Just as Molly was left behind as families evacuated New Orleans before Katrina hit, so too were a dog and cat, both without tails, and both named Bobbi. Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival, written Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery and illustrated by Jean Cassels, tells how these two friends survived the storm and the harrowing months that followed. It also tells of the national effort made to find them a permanent home.

When Katrina hit, Bobbi was tethered to a porch with a length of chain. Bob Cat stayed by her side. There they rode out the storm and waited for help. Even though many were rescued, no one came for the Two Bobbies. Bobbi finally broke loose, and with Bob Cat at her side, the two tried to make their way around the city. The amount of damage caused by the hurricane made it impossible for them to find a home. For months the two wandered the city, often chased by packs of hungry and homeless dogs. After a time, Bobbi's ribs began to show, and Bob Cat's markings began to fade.

Four months later, the Two Bobbies found their way to a construction site. A worker's dog rushed over to greet them. The worker, named Rich, saw how thin they were and began to feed them. However, after a week of caring for the two friends, his boss came to the job site and told him the strays had to go. Rich took the two to a temporary shelter run by the Best Friends Animal Society. When the Two Bobbies were placed in separate rooms, Bobbi howled all night long, and Bob Cat paced back and forth. It wasn't until the were placed in the same cage that they were happy.

It was at this point that workers in the shelter realized that Bob Cat was blind. All those months wandering homeless in the city, Bobbi had been keeping Bob Cat safe. The volunteers at the shelter began to look for their family, but they were never found. When it was time for the shelter to close its doors, the Two Bobbies still had no home. Desperate to find them a family, the volunteers arranged for the two friends to appeared on CNN.
The very next day, the Best Friends volunteers left New Orleans. One of them drove Bobbi and Bob Cat to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah, where they would stay until a new family could be found. They were on their way west when the news came in.

Hundreds of people wanted to adopt them!
Yes, the story has a happy ending, and I dare you to keep a dry eye when you read it. I've read this a number of times with my son and every time he asks, "Mom, are you crying again?" ("Why yes son, your mother's a sap.") I wish I could find some word other than heartwarming, but it's absolutely the best one to describe this incredible tale. You'll not only feel good reading it, but also buying it, as the authors are donating a portion of their proceeds to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Book: Molly the Pony: A True Story
Pam Kaster
Publisher: Louisiana State University Press
Date Published:
36 pages
Source of Book: Interlibrary loan (Thank you Sweet Briar College!)

Book: Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurrican Katrina, Friendship, and Survival
Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery
Jean Cassels
Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Date Published:
32 pages
Source of Book: Copy received from publisher for Cybils consideration.


  1. Thanks, Tricia. I'm starting to build a wishlist for Flying Horse Farms, the charity my niece is involved with, and that first book looks like a perfect fit for their library.

  2. Hi, Tricia, Kirby and I want to thank you for your kind review of Two Bobbies. You tickled me with the line about your son asking you, "Are you crying again?" I still find it difficult to read the book aloud and not keep my lip from quivering!

    During the holidays, children might enjoy the coloring page provided by the illustrator, Jean Cassels. It can be downloaded from the Bobbies' web site:

    We're so glad you and your son are enjoying Two Bobbies!

    Mary Nethery

  3. OK, I'm crying just reading your review. - sniff -

  4. I have been wanting to read Two Bobbies since Bill told me about it. Your post clinched the deal -- consider it on my TBR pile!

  5. I have looked through Two Bobbies and will read it,even though I know that I am going to cry. Thnadks for the review.