Animal Acres
by Colby Becknell Hardison

"This was getting to be a fun place to live."

This short children's book tells the story of Sammy Skunk and his new friend, Rocky Racoon. Sammy enjoys living on a farm where he is well-fed and where he gets to play. One night he is awakened by a noise and sees a strange creature eating out of his bowl. Instead of getting mad, Sammy asks him to stay, and they enjoy dinner together. He is fascinated by Rocky's stripes which seem to go the wrong way. However, even though they have their differences, Sammy likes his new friend, and they find ways to have fun playing on the farm. Rocky relates the stories about living away from the farm, and Sammy enjoys these tales. Sammy wonders about the other friends Rocky might have and decides to ask him later about this as they go to sleep to rest for a new day.

Written for early toddlers, Hardison's book only has seventeen lines of dialogue, but the story tells a wonderful tale of friendships between animals (and, therefore, humans) that are different. It shows that outer beauty is not important and that the inner beauty of a friend is what matters. It is a story of acceptance and fun and the beauty of life on the farm. The artwork is excellent and helps the child to follow along with the storyline. This is the perfect book for a parent, grandparent, or other loved one to cuddle up with a small child in order to read to and teach them, for it is never too early to educate a child about compassion and friendship.

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