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Author: Hughes, Alison
Illustrator: Del Rizzo, Suzanne
Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Year Published: 2015
ISBN: 978-1554553327
Grades: Grade 1, Grade 2, Grade 3, Kindergarten

Gerbil unCurled

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Edmonton author Hughes pairs with  Canadian illustrator Del Rizzo in this delightful tale of struggling to abide by rules that don’t quite make sense. Little Gerbil listens to Grandpa Gerbil recite the five Gerbil Mottos, and, like all gerbils, tries to live by them. Unfortunately, Motto number 5: Curl Up Nose To Toes is impossible for her. When she sleeps, she needs to stretch out and (gasp) sleep on top of the bedding, rather than down below. The other gerbils despair of little Gerbil ever getting it right, and finally, Little Gerbil starts pretending. She curls up with the other gerbils, but as soon as they are asleep, she stretches out, only to wake before the others and curl back up again before they rise for the day. Soon, however, the secret is too much for her, and Little Gerbil squeaks up at the weekly Gerbil meeting, noting that, while she is having trouble with Motto number 5, others seem to be having their own troubles with a few of the other Mottos. This leads to a discussion of the Mottos themselves, and the tribe of Gerbils decides to take the Mottos into their own hands. Hughes never falls into preaching, keeping the storyline focused on Little Gerbil and her feelings of being out of sync with her family, while deftly inferring the other gerbils’ troubles. The ending shows how rules can be amended to ensure everyone’s success. Del Rizzo’s plasticine illustrations are lively and engaging, appearing to leap off the page. Back matter gives snippets of information about gerbils and instructions on how to make your own gerbil from plasticine. A good book to read before creating class rules, or to talk about differentiations for learners and what is ‘fair’.

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