NEVER judge a book by its cover.
Sure, it's obvious.
And yet we all do.
I recently picked out a few books for my daughter from the Albury Library in a hurry as the end of the NSW Premier's Reading Challenge was looming large.
Fly, Kite, Fly by John Winch, Bird to Bird by Claire Saxby, Leaf by Sandra Dieckmann and No Return: Captain Scott's Raceto the Pole by Peter Gouldthorpe.
Finally, Harry and Hopper by Margaret Wild, which had a sweet boy and dog on the cover; Freya Blackwood's illustrations are typically stunning too.
Anyhow, we're a dog family.
Puppy tales never fail!
When Hopper came to live with Harry and Dad, he was as jumpy as a grasshopper. So that's what Harry called him, Hopper.
Joyful-joy. Just as I thought.
As Hopper grew older, he helped Harry with his homework, and Harry helped him run away from his weekly bath.
Perfect! Sunday night, done right.
But one afternoon when Harry comes home from school, there is no Hopper waiting by the gate. No glad yelping. No loving lick of the tongue.
I hesitate to turn the page. Will my daughter notice if I quietly move on to the next book? I already know she will. As Dad wipes his eyes: 'I'm very sorry, Harry. There was an accident. Hopper is dead.' I have not felt this sad since I first discovered Black Dog by Pamela Allen.
I hesitate to turn the page. Will my daughter notice if I quietly move on to the next book? I already know she will.
As Dad wipes his eyes: "I'm very sorry, Harry. There was an accident. Hopper is dead."
Yikes! I have not felt this sad since I first discovered Black Dog by Pamela Allen, the achingly beautiful children's book about appreciating what's right in front of you.
"Wait, what, when!" says my youngest.
"Hopper is dead!
"We're only up to Page 7-8-9. Also Mum, are you crying?!!
"Remember that other dog book that made you cry, non-stop?"
MORE MATERIAL GIRL:
Wild's story tenderly demonstrates the shock of loss and grief and the full power of love.
Harry experiences all of the stages of grief - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance - in a way made very relatable for young readers.
Therein lies the power of stories to raise and ponder issues we will inevitably all face at one time or another.
This year's 13th annual Write Around the Murray (WAM) festival explores the "humanising power of story".
From today until Sunday, WAM author talks and panel discussions will examine the stories we tell about ourselves and others, and how stories shape our ideas.
Weaving between past and present, personal and cultural, WAM will explore changing social landscapes, generational experience, freedom and oppression at home and afar, and the creative expression that offers a bridge to understanding ourselves, others and the increasingly complex world in which we live.
Workshops for children include Storytime with Alison Lester, Noni the Puppet, Stuff Happens with Oliver P and Finding Your Voice (12-16-year-olds).
This year there will be a focus on short stories with prizes in four age categories.
For Lester fans, the author will reflect on the highlights of her 40-year career including the stories behind her classic Australian children's books, Magic Beach, Are We There Yet? and Imagine.
The River of Stories Student Awards will be announced in the Albury Library on Saturday from noon to 1pm.
Other Write Around the Murray festival guests will include Jane Caro, Arnold Zable, Toni Jordan, Ben Doherty, Steven Herrick, Alice Pung, Oliver Phommavanh, Amal Awad, Jacqueline Kent, Christian White, Jeanine Leane and Melanie Mununggurr-Williams.
Finally, for anyone who is thinking of borrowing No Return: Captain Scott's Raceto the Pole by Peter Gouldthorpe from the Albury Library for their young animal-loving offspring, you may want to reconsider.
It doesn't end well for the ponies.
WAM festival details: writearoundthemurray.org.au