Tag Archive: dogs


gaston

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrations by Christian Robinson

Gaston lives with his mother and his three siblings, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La.  They are all poodles, but Gaston is something else.  He worked hard to be the best poodle puppy he could be, not slobbering, barking correctly and walking gracefully.  When the poodle family went to the park, they met a bulldog family there that had its own unusual family member who looked like a poodle.  There had clearly been a mix up!  So Gaston switches places with Antoinette.  Now the families look just the way they should, but neither Antoinette or Gaston seem to feel right in their “correct” families.  What is a dog to do?

Right from the first pages, readers will know that there is something unusual about Gaston and how he fits into his family.  It all becomes clear once the other dog family appears in the story and readers may think that fixing the mix up is the resolution of the story.  Happily, it isn’t and the book becomes more about where you feel you fit in rather than where the world might place you.  Gaston is a great mix of energetic bulldog puppy and also a prim poodle attitude.  Antoinette is the reverse, a delicate poodle who plays like a bulldog. 

Robinson’s illustrations are done in acrylic paint that gives texture to the images.  The bold illustrations have bursts of color throughout and are done in a large format that will work well when shared with a group.  All of the dogs have charm, though readers will immediate fall for the bright spunk of Gaston in particular. 

A book about adoption and families that doesn’t hit too hard with the message of inclusiveness and diversity.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

tuesday tucks me in

Tuesday Tucks Me In: The Loyal Bond between a Solider and His Service Dog by Luis Carlos Montalván

A child-friendly version of this author’s adult book about his service dog, this picture book version is told from the dog’s point of view.  Focusing on a single day together, the book shows how Tuesday takes care of Luis and helps him cope with his PTSD symptoms as they arise.  Tuesday also helps Luis remember to take his medication.  The two visit a veterans hospital together and then relax a bit at the dog park where Tuesday gets to play just like any other dog.  Throughout their day together in the city, Tuesday is there to reassure Luis when walking, when it gets too crowded, and when he gets overwhelmed.  But this is a special day and Luis has a surprise for Tuesday! 

This book tells such an important story, not only about a service dog but about the recovery of a veteran surviving PTSD.  The text is simple and straight forward, following the pair throughout their day.  What shines from the page are the pictures, the obvious love the two have for one another, the joy they find together, and the support that goes both directions.  Tuesday is wonderful in images, just the kind of gentle dog that everyone wants to love. 

Children who need service dog help will see themselves on the page.  The book expands the idea of what service dogs are for, offering a broader look at the power of these dogs to aid and calm. 

A very strong nonfiction picture book, this would make a good addition to dog story times and units on soldiers.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

norman speak

Norman, Speak! by Caroline Adderson, illustrated by Qin Leng

A boy and his family adopt a dog from the animal shelter.  The boy has a hard time choosing a dog and finally decides to take Norman, because he’s been there the longest.  Norman was a stray and doesn’t really have a tail, more of a stump, but he can wag it along with his entire backside.  Once they got home, they discovered that Norman did not follow basic dog commands at all.  He just tilted his head sideways and didn’t do anything.  The family realized that Norman was just not smart, but at least he was funny and friendly.  Then one day in the park, a man was playing with his dog and Norman started to follow the commands!  But the boy couldn’t understand a word of what the man was saying, he was speaking in Chinese.  Norman spoke Chinese!  Now it was up to the family to figure out how to communicate with their Chinese-speaking dog.

Adderson’s gently humorous text leads readers to simply believe that this is the story of a rather slow dog being adopted into a family.  The twist of the language appears abruptly, changing the course of the book and the reader’s opinion of Norman in an instant.  It works tremendously well thanks to the set up in the text before that.  Perhaps the best part of the book is the family’s attempt to learn Chinese so they can speak to their dog.  I love that the solution is changing themselves instead of changing Norman.

Leng’s illustrations have the same quiet humor as the text.  They feel like glimpses of real life moments, unstaged and candid.  Done in simple lines and quiet colors, they support the story and help tell it.

A celebration of diversity and differences in doggie form, this picture book is just as clever as Norman.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

number one sam

Number One Sam by Greg Pizzoli

Sam wins every race, so he’s not worried at all at the big race.  His best friend Maggie is racing too, but Sam know that he is the best.  He quickly leaves everyone behind, except for Maggie who stays right with him and then wins the race!  Sam is devastated.  He didn’t sleep at all before the next race and is so distracted that he’s late starting the race!  Even starting after everyone else though, he quickly takes the lead.  But then, he sees a flock of chicks on the roadway and though he can get around them safely, he worries about the other racers not seeing them in time.  So Sam stops and saves the chicks who ride along with him to finish the race.  Sam finishes last, but as he approaches the finish line he can hear people cheering – for him!

Winner of the Theodor Seuss Geisel Award for his first book The Watermelon Seed, Pizzoli has a knack for using simple language for big ideas.  His books are straight forward and have a classic feel about them, perfect for the smallest children.  At the same time, his books are not predictable.  I thought this book might deal with jealousy as its primary focus, but it changed in the middle of the book to be more about good decision making and being a good friend.  I appreciate that he was able to pivot a simple story like this into something with depth.  That takes real skill.

Just like his writing, Pizzoli’s art is simple.  He uses strong lines and bright colors to really create a feel that is distinctly his own.  This book fairly glows with yellow on the page, sunny and bright as the racers speed on the page.  Other pages with different emotions have different colors, something that really works to convey a change in feeling directly.

Another winner from Pizzoli, this book will appeal to children interested in cars and racing immediately but is also a great book about making good choices.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

most magnificent thing

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

A little girl and her best friend, her dog, loved to do all sorts of things together.  Most of all, she loved to build and he loved to unmake things.  Then one day the girl had a great idea she was going to make “the most magnificent thing.”  First she figured out what it would look like, how it would work, and then came the easy part, making it!  She hired her dog as her assistant and they set out to find parts.  She built the thing, but when she and her dog stepped back, it wasn’t magnificent at all!  So she tried again, and again, and again.  Finally, after trying many times, she hurt her finger and she was very angry about all of the time, and the failures, and was ready to give up.  Luckily though, her assistant was there to give her encouragement to give it one more try, after a long walk.

Spires, the author of Binky the Space Cat, has created an ingenious little book.  Through clever storytelling she has written about the process of trial and error, the process of following through on a design and testing it, the creative process itself.  This is a young heroine with so much resilience and determination!  Her failures make her all the more brilliant and successful in the end.  And perhaps my favorite little twist is that people in her neighborhood find their own uses for her failed attempts. 

The art has the same wonderful modern quirkiness as her Binky books.  Though this is not a graphic novel format, she does use panes in her illustrations, making the iterations of her designs all the more fun to explore.  Done with minimal colors except for bursts of red, the illustrations are perfect for a design process.

Get this into the hands of math teachers who will appreciate a very readable book about trial and error.  It is also the perfect book for little girls to be inspired to use tools and create their own designs.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Kids Can Press.

run dog

Run, Dog! by Cecile Boyer

One red ball and one yellow dog create lots of merry chaos in this picture book.  The dog chases the red ball from one scenario to the next, interacting with the people in the scene until finally one of them grabs the ball and throws it off the page.  The pages are filled with action thanks to a tiered page system where you turn on section of the page at a time and the scene changes along with it.  As the sections are turned, the ball bounces in different ways and the dog reacts making the people in the scene react too!

Near wordless, this book just has single words as the ball is thrown to the next page.  The illustrations are bright and pop off the page.  They are as simple as the words but are also very cleverly done.  The structure of the book creates a very dynamic feel and invites small hands to turn the pages to see what happens next.  There is a sense as one reads the book that the reader is the one setting the pace and creating the changes that unfold.

Very engaging, dynamic and great fun, this book is ideal for toddlers who are willing to be careful with the pages.  Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Chronicle Books.

extraordinary jane

Extraordinary Jane by Hannah E. Harrison

Jane lived in an extraordinary world at the circus, but she was just an ordinary dog.  Her mother could do tricks on the back of horses.  Her father could lift an elephant.  Her brothers got shot out of cannons and her sisters performed on the high wire.  But Jane didn’t do any of that.  She tried to find her own special talent, but nothing seemed to work.  She even managed to cause some disasters along the way.  Jane was just ordinary, but in her own quiet way she was very special too.

Harrison has created a quiet heroine in her picture book.  This book will speak to dog lovers but also to children who feel that they don’t live up to their older siblings.  It is a story that celebrates kindness, supportiveness and just being yourself whether that is loud or quiet, flashy or subtle.  The setting of a circus was an inspired choice, offering the most contrast between a regular dog and the daredevil family she has.

Harrison’s art is wonderfully detailed.  She offers spreads of the entire circus and its three rings filled with action.  The dogs fur is shown in individual hairs, the wrinkles on the elephants are striking, and the perspectives are engagingly diverse.

For all of the quiet stars out there, this amazing dog will be inspiring for them to just be themselves.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial.

monday wednesday and every other weekend

Monday, Wednesday, and Every Other Weekend by Karen Stanton

Henry and his dog, Pomegranate, live in two different houses.  On Mondays, Wednesdays and every other weekend, he lives with his mother on Flower Street.  On Tuesdays, Thursdays and every other weekend, he lives with his father two blocks away on Woolsey Avenue.  The two houses are very different.  They smell different, look different, sound different and even taste different.  Pomegranate though is never truly happy at either house.  He wants to be somewhere else.  Then one day, Pomegranate gets out and runs away.  Henry and his father head to Flower Street to see if he is with Henry’s mother, but no Pomegranate.  Then Henry realizes where Pomegranate must be and heads straight to the house where his family used to live all together.  Now a little girl lives there and she has Pomegranate with her! 

This book has such a strong heart.  Stanton clearly shows the differences between the two homes that Henry lives in.  The different neighborhoods, the different foods, the different sounds.  Both homes are beautiful, both are filled with love for Henry.  Stanton’s clever use of Pomegranate as the expression of the emotions involved in a divorce is well done.  She manages to allow Henry to be well adjusted and happy while still dealing with the complex emotions that divorce elicits.

The art is charming and wonderfully loud.  Done in collage mixed with painting, the colors shine on the page.  She makes sure to show the elements that make up life in each house, showing again the differences but also the similarities in the homes.

A memorable book on divorce for children, even children who have not experienced divorce themselves will enjoy this engaging title.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Feiwel & Friends.

dream dog

Dream Dog by Lou Berger, illustrated by David Catrow

Harry wants a dog, but his father works at a pepper factory and sneezes all the time, so he won’t let Harry have a dog.  Instead they get Harry a chameleon who turns colors, but Harry doesn’t love the chameleon.  Luckily a friend of his does, so he gives her the chameleon.  Harry decides that he will try to imagine up a dog with his X-35 Infra-Rocket Imagination Helmet.  Suddenly there is a dog in his room.  Harry names the dog Waffle and the two of them do everything together.  No one else can see Waffle, but that doesn’t bother Harry in the least.  After all, no one could really see the chameleon either.  Then Harry’s father is let go from the pepper factory and goes into ping-pong balls instead.  He brings home a real dog for Harry, but what about Waffle?

Berger was the head writer of Sesame Street for over a decade and my does his expertise shine here.  His tone is playful and filled with joy.  He creates humor out of what could have been a sad story.  The ending is heartfelt and beautiful, dancing the perfect balance of loss and cheer.  This book reads aloud wonderfully, actually begging to be shared.

Catrow’s illustrations are much calmer than many of his previous books.  They still have a great energy to them but they also have a distinct sweetness that mellows them as well as a focus of a tale that is all about love of a dog. 

Even in the crowded shelves of dog books, this is something special.  It is a picture book that speaks to the power of imagination and dreams.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade Books.

time for bed fred

Time for Bed, Fred by Yasmeen Ismail

It’s time for Fred to go to bed, but this dog is not ready!  Instead of heading to bed, Fred dashes outside and tries to hide in the flower bed.  Then he hides in a tree until he falls out of it.  Fred then runs and lands in a huge mud puddle.  So then it’s bath time for Fred.  But just when he’s finally clean, he dashes outside once more!  Back inside, he hides in all sorts of places, even after he gets read a bedtime story.  Finally, Fred is moved to the right bed and falls asleep at last.

Fred is a dog that every toddler will relate to.  From his busyness as he dashes from place to place to his unwillingness to head to bed to the final collapse in exhaustion at the end of the day, Fred reacts exactly the way a young child does.  Ismail keeps the book moving quickly with her dialogue-only text that captures the reaction of the owner as Fred refuses to head to bed.  This makes the book great fun to read aloud as well.

Ismail’s art is reminiscent of Chris Raschka with her loose lines and free-flowing forms.  It is filled with action and movement as Fred runs through the garden on the loose.  The illustrations have a great ease and freedom to them that works particularly well with the storyline. 

An energetic and playful bedtime read, let’s hope your little puppies settled down at the end too!  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from library copy.

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