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The Day the Animals Came: A Story of Saint Francis Day

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Ria hates New York. She misses her friends, and the warm Puerto Rican sun; most of all she misses the animals she left behind. Then, one day, Ria's neighbor Mrs. Blum takes her on a surprise trip: to a big cathedral-it's the festival of St. Francis Day, when everyone brings their pets to be blessed! At first, Ria is disappointed. She doesn't have a pet of her own for blessing. But a mishap with a mischievous duck leads to Ria being asked to join the magnificent Procession of Animals, right into the church! With ...

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Overview

Ria hates New York. She misses her friends, and the warm Puerto Rican sun; most of all she misses the animals she left behind. Then, one day, Ria's neighbor Mrs. Blum takes her on a surprise trip: to a big cathedral-it's the festival of St. Francis Day, when everyone brings their pets to be blessed! At first, Ria is disappointed. She doesn't have a pet of her own for blessing. But a mishap with a mischievous duck leads to Ria being asked to join the magnificent Procession of Animals, right into the church! With Groucho the duck in her arms as she dances with elephants and turtles, snakes and dogs, Ria begins to realize that she's not so far from home after all.

This story of a special New York tradition has universal appeal for animal lovers of all ages, everywhere.

Illustrated by Loren Long.

A young girl who misses her former home and her animal friends left behind in the West Indies makes new friends at the blessing of the animals at a cathedral in New York City on the Feast of St. Francis.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
One of the most awe-inspiring, crowd-pleasing events in New York City may well be the Blessing of the Animals at the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, which corresponds to the Feast Day of St. Francis in October; unfortunately, the occasion receives somewhat tepid treatment here. Weller's (Riptide) tidy plot centers on an immigrant child, Ria, who is brought to the service by her neighbor Mrs. B (two Yiddish expressions early on point to Mrs. B's own background), where the girl marvels at the astonishing mix of people and pets (and later at the farm animals, camel and elephant that are led in procession into the cathedral). When a friendly official at the cathedral sees Ria's homesickness for the pets she left behind, she assigns Ria the task of carrying in a duck to be blessed; as the bishop blesses the duck and the other animals, Ria sees that "if all creatures were her family, then maybe all the world was home." The neatness of the story line blunts its impact, and readers are unlikely to assimilate Ria's lesson themselves. Long's (I Dream of Trains) stylized paintings reflect knowledge of the cathedral and the ceremony, but his distortions of scale and elongated forms distance the audience from the emotions of the celebrants, including Ria. Endnotes add information about St. Francis and the cathedral. Ages 5-9. (Sept.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Ria longs for the freedom and animals of her island home. Settled in New York, her parents work, while she is cared for by her neighbor Mrs. Blum. On St. Francis Day, Mrs. Blum takes her cat and Ria to the blessing of the animals at the cathedral. Since Ria is the only one without an animal, she is upset. She chases and captures a runaway dog, but it is immediately claimed by a boy. Now Ria is lost and climbs up on a bronze wolf to find Mrs. Blum. An official speaks to her. Fortunately Mrs. Blum appears. The official, Mary, takes her outside to see the large animals: llamas, horses, cows, and an elephant. Ria opens its cage and a duck escapes. After Ria catches it, Mary gives her a robe for the special ceremony. Although the duck is a handful, Ria succeeds in holding it for the procession and receives the blessing. She begins to realize that if all creatures are family, that all the world is home. The brownish tone of the illustrations produces a sense of gloom. The warmth of Mrs. Blum, who refers to Ria as "bubeleh," is not portrayed. Fold-out pages add to the enjoyment of the procession of animals. At the end an author's note describes the blessing of animals in the cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. 2003, Philomel Books/Penguin Young Readers Group, Ages 5 to 9.
— Carlee Hallman
School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-This story is based on Weller's and others' reminiscences of an annual October event at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Life in the crowded city makes Ria long for the Caribbean island that she and her parents recently left to seek "a better life." Knowing that the child misses the animals she left behind, Mrs. Blum, the neighbor who cares for Ria while her parents work, takes her to a large cathedral on the Feast of St. Francis for the blessing of the animals. Awed by the number and variety of tame and exotic creatures and people of all nationalities, Ria still feels left out until she befriends a white duck and is invited to carry it in the procession. The resulting sense of belonging leads her to feel that "-maybe all the world was home." While the story may be a bit too deep to reach its intended audience, Long's acrylic paintings on canvas in subdued hues are quite appropriate to the setting. Upward and downward perspectives of many scenes and careful use of shadow reveal the massive size of the building and add depth to the art. An author's note tells about both the feast day and the cathedral.-Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Best approached with Kleenex in hand, this tale of a young immigrant reaching a new understanding of her place in the world will find its place in plenty of hearts. Amid the "dusty pigeons" and sky-blocking buildings of New York, Ria dreams of her tropical former home. One October day a neighbor drags her off to the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, where crowds of people are gathering with their pets for the annual Blessing of the Animals. After enticing an escaped duck out of a nearby pond, Ria is invited to carry it in the ensuing procession-just behind the camel, the elephant, and a like array of wildlife. Swept up in the music, the singing, the moment, Ria comes to realize that if she's related to these creatures, then perhaps all the world is her home, too. Day captures the joy and the solemnity of the occasion with formally posed, chiaroscuro scenes of the towering Cathedral, and a culminating double gatefold view of red-robed celebrants leading animals both common and exotic down its nave. The setting, the ceremony, and Ria's epiphany combine to create an experience that will leave few readers unmoved. (afterword) (Picture book. 7-9)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780399236303
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/18/2003
  • Pages: 40
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 11.75 (h) x 0.40 (d)

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