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Once in a while you come across a story that is not only touching and
amazing, but true. Two books have recently been published from different
publishers about a remarkable occurrence that took place in Japan some 80
years ago. "Hachiko Waits," by Leslea Newman, reads like a chapter book with
only 90 pages. Even though some of the characters are fictional, the story
is based on true events that will simply astound you.
Professor Ueno had a young Akita puppy that he dearly loved. There seemed to
be a special bond between owner and dog. As the story progresses, Ms. Newman
speculates how the dog originally ended up walking with the professor to the
train station. When Professor Ueno walked out of his gated yard, a book
dropped from his arms causing him to not latch the gate properly. As the
professor continued on down the sidewalk towards the station, Hachi, (as he
called him), nudges his nose against the latch that hadn't locked all of the
way. When he catches up with his master, the professor tries to get him to
go back home. Hachi refuses and Professor Ueno finds he has no time to take
him back or he'll miss his train. He's unsure about what to do with his
young puppy when the Station Master offers to watch him until the professor
returns. But unfortunately, after the train left the station, the dog dashes
out of the station leaving the Station Master worried that neither he, nor
the owner, will ever see the dog again.
However, the dog somehow knew when to come back to the station. Hachi
arrived just as the 3:00 train arrived. How did he know the exact time when
his owner would return? The Station Master is relieved when he sees the dog
sitting at attention and looking upon the faces of the travelers as they
disembark from the train. As soon as he sees Professor Ueno, he runs up to
him, licks him and runs around in circles. He's so excited it makes people
dizzy watching him. The professor is surprised when the Station Master
confesses that the dog escaped from him and has been gone all day - until
just now. From then on, Professor Ueno lets his dog walk to the station with
him every day. And every day, as the train pulls out of the station, Hachi
leaves only to return at exactly 3:00 p.m. for the returning train to bring
back his owner.
The professor and Hachi routinely walked to and from the station every day
for more than a year. But tragedy befell the professor while working at his
university. He had walked to the station with his trusty dog earlier that
day, but died and of course didn't return. Hachi, however, turned up as
usual to sit at the same spot where he waited for Professor Ueno to return.
When he didn't return, it became evident that the poor dog continually
searched every passenger for that familiar face. Hachi continued to show up
at exactly 3:00 every day after this sad day, waiting for his master. He did
this until the day he died - ten years later.
The author has placed fictional characters within the story to help set the
tone and give a timeline as the story progresses, helping the story to flow.
There are wonderful pictures, by Machiyo Kodaira, sprinkled throughout the
book, making this a great read aloud or night time read. There's more
information about the story in the back as well as an informative glossary
with explanations and pronunciations about Japanese words and customs. Ms.
Newman has written not only an inspiring story about loyalty and honor, but
brings life in Japan alive for the reader. This is an inspiring read for all
ages!  (The picture book version of the same story is Hachiko: The True
Story of a Loyal Dog, by Pamela S. Turner, with illustrations by Yan
Nascimbene. This short book is a quick read on this subject. There is more
information about the story located at the back of this book as well. This
is good for ages 4 to 8.)


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Now, how about some icky bug books that teach youngsters concepts? "Icky Bug
Numbers: 1,2,3," by Jerry Pallotta and cleverly illustrated by David
Biedrzycki and Rob Bolster, will surely help boost and reinforce mathematics
concepts that your youngster needs to understand. The vibrant colors and
shapes of the bugs will only help to hold the attention of any 4 to 8 year
old! Icky Bug Colors, also by Jerry Pallotta, with the help of Mr.
Biedrzycki's illustrations, is so captivating and rich in colors, your child
can't help but obtain an understanding of what color is all about. Luckily,
this time of year, your child can't go out and catch some bugs to work the
math.