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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Good Old Book

Readers listened with rapt attention today as I read about the types of work search and rescue dogs perform, specifically Saint Bernards. I told them about Buster, the Saint Bernard of my childhood, and that was a perfect introduction to Don Freeman's 1963 book Ski Pup. Set in the Swiss Alps, where Saint Bernards were first bred to rescue skiers lost in avalanches, it is the story of Hugo, a dog whose job it was to keep track of children from a ski school. Trained by Herr Kasser, Hugo always obeys commands...until young Tino Pedotti strays from the school group, puts his goggles and hat on Hugo, and causes a stir. The children watched with wide eyes as the ski school leader and children looked for Tino, whom they thought was lost, and laughed when it was Hugo they uncovered from a snowdrift. All was well and hearts were warm when Tino (found in Hugo's doghouse) drank the hot chocolate from Hugo's thermos bottle.

The ensuing discussion about out-of-print books generated lots of questions from the children. Why would a good book not be available anymore? Did I really get the library copy from someone who didn't want it? How could people charge so much money for an out-of-print book? How do publishers decide which books to keep in print?

Ski Pup, one of my childhood favorites, became one of theirs.

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