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Every day Larabee gets up early and helps his owner, Mr. Bowman, who is a mail carrier, to deliver the mail. An earnest dog if ever there was one, he not only rides along in the mail truck and accompanies Mr. Bowman on all his foot routes, but he also helps to haul the mail bag, which is not always so easy for such a little pup.

Larabee loves his work though; he loves seeing the looks on the faces of the people he and Mr. Bowman deliver to; and he loves imagining what might be in their envelopes and packages. His only grievance is that never, never is there any mail for him. And even though the patient Mr. Bowman explains that “dogs don’t get mail,” it doesn’t keep Larabee from wondering if maybe…just maybe… an envelope with his name on it might magically appear one day…which is, of course, exactly what happens.

Larabee (ISBN: 978-1561453009; Peachtree) is a lovely story. Set in a culturally diverse community, Larabee and Mr. Bowman seem to know everyone, and with the exception of one customer who only likes cats, they are welcomed everywhere they go. The pictures are lively and whimsical and full of vivid colors, and the balance between text and illustration feels just right.

What is even more impressive here though is the grace and clarity with which the author, Kevin Luthardt (who actually worked as a mailman in his college days) illuminates the tension between being glad for the good fortune of others and being jealous of it. Since that tension is part of the human condition, LARABEE presents a great opportunity for children and the adults who read to and with them to communicate their thoughts on it. LARABEE is the kind of book you’ll want to return to again and again.

LARABEE is reviewed by Joan Schweighardt, the author of GUDRUN’S TAPESTRY and other novels. Over the years Joan has counted among her closest friends Zelma, Cleo, and Speedy-Clark (all felines) and Heidi, Barnaby, Dirty Ben, Auggie Doggie and Smart Sartre (all canines). Currently Joan counts herself lucky to share her life and home with Nikki, a Belgian Shepherd who survived a near-death experience more than a year ago. Having been nursed back to life with drops of water from a turkey-baster and thereafter minuscule pieces of prime rib, Nikki is now the most spoiled 14-year-old dog on the planet.


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