First Lady of the Seeing Eye

Morris Frank & Blake Clark
First Lady of the Seeing Eye

Buddy, ‘first lady of the seeing eye’ tells much more than just the history of the introduction of guide dogs to the United States. The author, Morris Frank, tells how he becomes blind at a young age as a result of an accident. The difference with his life before the accident is huge. The loss of his eyesight robs him of his independence and quite often people treat him rather with pity than with respect.

One day his father reads him an article about guide dogs in Europe. At once Morris knows that such a dog is what he needs to regain at least part of his life from the time before he went blind. And at the same time he thinks how great this would be for other blind people and that he wants to make that possible for them too. Thus he makes a virtue of need.

The long and difficult journey to Europe, with all its obstacles, is worth it, as far as he is concerned. With the help of others and through his great efforts and his first dog Buddy, Morris succeeds in realizing his plan. This includes step-by-step access for dogs to hotels, restaurants, and all types of public transport.

The part of the book that touched me most was the part that describes the special role that a guide dog plays in the life of a blind person, the love with which the animals do their work and the loving bond that develops between owner and dog. Especially these things we do not realize when we see a blind man walking down the street with a dog.

I really enjoyed reading this beautiful book full of touching moments.


The Case of the Animals against Man

Brethren of Purity
The Case of the Animals against Man


‘The case of the animals against man’ is not just one of the many books on animal welfare. In the West animal welfare came to the fore only in the nineteenth century and since then interest in the subject has kept increasing.

The fable was written in the tenth century (Christian era) by the Brethren of Purity, a group of liberal Islamic philosophers. So it may well contain concepts that you are not familiar with and which are worth investigating. I would recommend you do not skip them hastily in order to continue the story, it is certainly worth the effort and will contribute to your understanding of the discussion between animals and humans.

The story begins with the colonization by humans of an island  where, until men set foot ashore there, the animals lived their own lives without human intervenience. With the arrival of men life takes an unfortunate turn for the animals and they decide to ask the King of the Jinns to judge whether the dominance of humans over the animals is justifiable.

Representatives of the different species of the animals (e.g. ungulates, birds of prey, insects) express their complaints to the King and present arguments that demonstrate the injustice of the cruel way humans treat the animals as a matter of course. Here the authors show a remarkable knowledge of the life sciences and, what is even more important,  empathy towards the animals by the way they give them a voice.

The arguments of the humans that are presented by representatives of various peoples and religions, quite obviously prove to be insufficient, but although the humans often feel a sense of discomfort, they will not give up.

One of the Djinns always puts his finger on the sore spot by adding what people have ‘forgotten’ to tell, whereas the animals speak with gratitude about the gifts they received from the Creator and they do not need correction.

I will not tell what the decision of the King of the Jinns is. However, do bear in mind that we have to do with a fable and that the answer should be regarded as an allegory.

The book left me with thougts on relationships in general where a lack of balance between giving and taking always proves to be harmful for both sides on the long run. It is sad to see how little progress we made in changing the relationship between humans and animals for the better, considering the fable was written over eleven centuries ago. We have had enough time to put an end to these degrading conditions.

S. K.



George Eliot


Middlemarch was written by a woman, who used a man’s name because she did not want her work to be judged according to the prejudices against women that were usual during her lifetime.

The story is set in the nineteenth century, during the reign of King William IV. It is a time full of changes and resistance and aversion to all that novelty. Examples are the Reform Bill and the construction of the railway network.

Important characters of the novel are the pious Dorothea Brooke, the young and ambitious doctor Tertius Lydgate, Rosamond Vincy and Will Ladyslaw. Some are idealistic and do not stick to conventions as these prevent them from realizing their ideals. Others, on the contrary, do what is expected by society and would not want to live their lives another way.  And then there is the eternal gossip in which the conventions of that time are clearly expressed, in particular relatives’ concern and even manipulation as to future marriages of their female relatives. Some young women are ever so happy as to make such a good marriage in the material sense of the word, whereas others find their lives unfulfilled and seek possibilities to contribute to better living for the less fortunate.

Every now and then we read the thoughts that accompany the words a character speaks. Thus, an often quite remarkable difference between thinking and saying comes to light, that puts the behaviour of the characters in a different perspective.  All in all it will be difficult to distance oneself from the goings of the characters and you may frequently find yourself torn between hope and fear as to what they do, or just do not do.

The story itself covers a span of two years. The last chapter ‘Finale’ reveals how the main characters will fare for the rest of their lives, so that you are not left in the dark about that.

If your edition contains a general introduction, it may be worth the effort of reading it, as it sheds light on both the author and the time during which the story takes place. However, we should realize that manners, mores and habits that were socially accepted in the nineteenth century, are still maintained in the present time. What has changed is their appearance, not the essence.

Every chapter starts with a fragment of prose or poetry that invites to further reading, because one wants to know why just this text was chosen as an introduction.

The novel was and is still published in various languages (e.g. German and French) by different publishers.


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Seven Blind Mice

Ed Young
Seven Blind Mice


This story opens our eyes to see the whole and to recognize connections.

Very understandable and clear for children, adolescents and adults (or for every age group), it shows that you sometimes have to distance yourself in order to see the whole picture and that you can easily lose sight of the meaning when examining something in a dissecting, piecemeal manner.



One day by their pond, seven mice discover something strange and large.

“It’s a pillar,” says the red mouse.

“It’s a snake,” says the green mouse.

“No,” says the yellow mouse, “it’s a spear.”

A picture book for children ages 5 and up, “about the search for truth,” as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung wrote.

The author and illustrator, who was born in China and works in the USA, dedicated his book to the person “who, during these years of searching, opened my eyes to the joy of knowledge and wisdom.”


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Now One Foot, Now the Other

Tomie de Paola
Now One Foot, Now the Other


Grandpa Bob and grandson Bobby – it’s great how they help each other. First, grandpa is there to help the little one. And years later, after Bob has a stroke, Bobby is there for him.


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An Elephant in the Garden

Michael Morpurgo
An Elephant in the Garden


In the last months of the Second World War, Dresden was reduced to rubble by the Royal Air Force bomber units, with thousands left dead.

Peter, a twenty-one-year-old Canadian radio operator, is the sole surviver after his plane was shot down and he is now hiding in the barn of an abandoned farmyard. There he meets a family who has been bombed out: sixteen-year-old Elisabeth, her nine-year-old brother Karl and their resolute mother, who, as a zoo keeper, was able to save the female elephant named Marlene from the zoo and is taking her with.

The mother sees Peter as an evil enemy and a murderer, her son sees him as a possible friend and Elisabeth falls in love with a man for the first time – a man who, however, is supposed to be the enemy.

The Canadian, who understands and speaks German because of his German-speaking mother, has a compass with him and wants to use it to go to an area where the Americans are on the advance. The family of three also wants to head west to flee from the advancing Soviet army.

Thus, the four have to rely on each other and set out on the week-long walk. The ways in which the elephant helps them again and again are depicted very vividly and realistically.

The book is a story about love, war, youth and animals, all rolled into one.

Ages 12 and up



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