________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 3 . . . . September 30, 2005


The Wrong Kind of Bark. (Red Bananas).

Julia Donaldson. Illustrated by Garry Parsons.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2005.
48 pp., pbk. & cl., $7.16 (pbk.), $18.36 (RLB.).
ISBN 0-7787-1089-0 (pbk.), ISBN 0-7787-1073-4 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
Nature study-Fiction.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Barb Taylor.

** /4


“Finlay sat next to the fish tank. He liked watching the fish. They were more interesting than the teacher."


The Wrong Kind of Bark is a 48 page chapter-book in Crabtree Publishing’s “Bananas” reading series. The series is designed to “build confidence in a child’s reading abilities,” and the readability of this story is appropriate for ages 6 through 8.

     The setting is a classroom where children sit at tables and listen to the teacher. The main character, a young boy named Finlay, finds it hard to pay attention in class. The first three chapters end with the teacher’s asking the children to bring in objects for the next class. Finlay “half-hears” her and brings in an item that is a homonym for the assigned object.

     When the teacher asks the children to bring in a flower, Finlay brings in “flour.” The children are asked to put the flower in water, and Finlay dumps his water into a vase holding the other children’s flowers in water. This scenario is repeated with “nuts” (edible vs. nut and bolt) and “bark” (tree vs. dog). While initially humorous, repeating the scenario for three chapters is overkill.

     Finlay’s classmates, like his teacher, appear stereotypically in both characterization and illustration. The teacher is shown as a middle-aged frumpy woman. Sally Wong is illustrated as having heavy bangs, pigtails and round glasses. The all-too-perfect Ruth Goodchild has coordinated clothes, perfect blond hair and goes above and beyond the teacher’s expectations. The workman sitting on scaffolding outside the classroom window has a beer belly, tattoos and wears a dirty undershirt. Finlay has curly auburn hair and freckles – the mischievous boy.

     The story livens up towards the middle of the book when the dog that Finlay brings to school goes on a rampage and knocks over items in the class. The dog, reminiscent of Hairy in the popular Hairy Maclary series by Lynley Dodd, redeems himself at the end of the story by saving the classroom fish from certain catastrophe.

     While the antics of the dog are amusing and could be a good short story, the overall story runs too long and is too formulaic.


Barb Taylor, of Calgary, AB, teaches Pre-Kindergarten and writes travel articles for a variety of North American publications.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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