Tag Archive: pets


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.

how to train a train

How to Train a Train by Jason Carter Eaton, illustrated by John Rocco

Did you know that trains make great pets?  Well this is the book all about how to best keep a train as a pet and have it well trained too.  First, you have to decide what sort of train you want: freight, monorail or steam.  Then you need to catch one.  There are lots of ways to do this, but the best way is to catch their attention with smoke signals and then bribe them with coal.  You then have to name your train and try to set it at ease.  Spend time together and get to know one another.  Eventually if you have built enough trust, your train will let you ride him.  But it takes time to ride off into the sunset together.

Eaton sets the perfect tone in his writing.  The framework of a how-to book adds a level of structure that Eaton plays with throughout.  Reading along the way, Eaton invites you into his world of sentient trains where each reader is offered the opportunity to consider what type of train they would want as a pet and how they would care for it.  It’s a delightful world and one that lingers after shutting the cover.

Rocco’s illustrations are a large part of building that delight.  He has created trains that read as purely machine and yet have faces that smile directly at you.  He also maintains the scale of the trains, allowing them to be huge puppy-like beasts that have a great wildness as well.

This cheery book will delight train fans but also reaches far beyond them with its humor and world building.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

lulu and the cat in the bag

Lulu and the Cat in the Bag by Hilary McKay

This third Lulu book continues the story of Lulu’s love affair with any type of animal.  In this story, a cat is dropped off on Lulu’s doorstep in a bag.  Lulu opens the bag over her aunt’s objections.  Her aunt is watching her while her parents are on vacation and is not fond of animals at all.  When the bag is opened, the cat goes running off and disappears.  Though Lulu searches for it, she is unable to find it.  When she returns to her room later, the cat is there on her bed, having climbed in through her open window.  Steadily, the big orange cat starts to become part of the family, even changing Lulu’s aunts thoughts on cats in general.  It dominates the two dogs, scares the bird and even gathers flowers from the garden to scatter about the house.  Then the cat simply disappears, they search for it with Lulu’s aunt’s help, but no one can find it.  Until Lulu makes a surprising discovery!

I’ve enjoyed all of the Lulu books so far and this just adds to the delight that is this series.  Lulu is a wonderful protagonist.  It is a pleasure to see a child character so into animals who does her chores and takes good care of her animals with no complaining.  Lulu is also quite a scamp, so the book are filled with a natural childhood zest and Lulu’s own special take on things.  This is another great treat of a book from McKay.

A series to rival Clementine, get this into the hands of those readers and they will find a new feisty young heroine to love.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from digital galley received from

lulu and the dog from the sea

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea by Hilary McKay

Released on March 1, 2013.

This second book in the Lulu series continues the story of Lulu, a seven-year-old girl who loves all kinds of animals.  In this story, Lulu goes on vacation by the seaside with her parents, her dog,  and her cousin, Mellie, who is also seven.  At the seaside, they stay at a small cottage and Lulu quickly finds out about a stray dog who has been living off of garbage along the beach.  Lulu sets out to make friends with the dog, but no one else is enthusiastic.  Mellie just wants to build her kite, Lulu’s mother just wants to read the stack of books she brought along, and her dad wants to work on his running.  But Lulu knows that this stray is actually a very special dog, she just has to convince the rest of them.

McKay has a knack for creating characters and experiences that read as vibrantly true and honest.  In her books, there are lost kite bits, sand tracked into the house, trashed garbage cans, and too many shopping trips for forgotten items.  At the same time, there is also the love of a dog, a family that truly spends time with one another, and the success of plans coming together in the end, perhaps not exactly as planned.  As with her previous books, I have always wanted to live in a McKay novel in the midst of the loving mess.

I must also mention that this is an early reader series featuring a modern family of color.  Nothing is made of this fact in the stories.  It is just there, not a plot point, just a fact.  It’s handled with a matter-of-fact nature that I wish we saw more of in books for children.

A great addition to this growing series, the second Lulu book is sure to please fans of the first and bring new fans to the series too.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from digital copy received from Albert Whitman & Company.

pet named sneaker

A Pet Named Sneaker by Joan Heilbroner, illustrated by Pascal Lemaitre

Sneaker was a snake who lived in a pet store and wanted to be taken home.  But no one seemed interested in a snake until one day Pete came into the store and noticed how special Sneaker was and decided to take him home.  The two invented games together, forming handcuffs and a hat out of Sneakers’ flexible body.  Then one day Pete had to go to school.  Sneaker didn’t want to be left behind, so he slithered into Pete’s backpack.  Once they got to school, Sneaker proved to be a great snake ambassador, quickly proving that snakes are not only no slimy but are quite smart.  Sneaker continued to show how amazing he was by saving a drowning toddler at the pool and getting it so that animals were welcome to swim there too.  Funny and briskly paced, this book will have great appeal for beginning readers.

Told in very simple and friendly language, this book has a strong storyline for a beginning reader.  Sneaker and Pete have several adventures in the course of the book, moving quickly from a tale of new friendship to one of real action, which is sure to please new readers.   The art by Lemaitre gives the book a vintage feel, hearkening back to Seuss and Eastman in its simple lines and bold colors.  There is also that little zing to the eyes, that feeling that the reader is in on the joke that is conveyed through the illustrations. 

This is a book with great humor, a touch of vintage feel, and one cool cold-blooded hero.  Appropriate for beginning readers aged 3-5. 

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

this moose belongs to me

This Moose Belongs to Me by Oliver Jeffers

Wilfred’s moose arrived a while ago and Wilfred just knew that the moose was meant to be his.  He called the moose, Marcel.  Wilfred had some serious rules if Marcel was going to be his pet, but Marcel didn’t seem interested in following them.  Some though, Marcel was very good at.  He did not make noise while Wilfred was listening to his music.  He provided Wilfred shelter from the rain and he knocked high things down so that Wilfred could reach them.  Then there were the rules that Marcel didn’t follow.  He didn’t stay near home and soon Wilfred had learned to carry string along with them so they could find their way back home after long jaunts.  It was on one of those long walks that Wilfred discovered that there was someone else who thought that THEY owned the moose! 

Jeffers once again captures a concept with solidity and grace.  He manages to take the idea of owning an animal and get readers to ask themselves about what ownership really means.  The character of Wilfred has to do some adapting of his own, quickly changing his own rules and beliefs to be more moderate and open-ended.  It also helped to share food.

The art here combines grand backdrops of mountains and plains with one small round-headed boy and a moose, dragging bright blue string behind.  It’s a wonderful juxtaposition that will have readers understanding immediately that this moose is certainly not a pet that belongs to anyone.

Another delight from Jeffers, this book is about wilderness, the wild, and owning a pet.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

charleys first night

Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Pure bliss, that’s what this book is.  This is the story of Henry who brings Charley, a new puppy, home.  When they get home, Henry makes sure to show Charley all around his new home, even showing him where his mother hides the birthday presents.  Henry’s parents inform him that he’s the one in charge of walking Charley and feeding Charley.  Henry is thrilled and can’t wait to do those things forever.  Then there’s the discussion of where Charley is going to sleep.  Henry knows that Charley wants to sleep in his room, but his parents want Charley to sleep in the kitchen.  Henry worries about Charley alone in the kitchen, but goes about setting up a pillow, a bear to keep him company, and a ticking clock for a heartbeat sound.  Henry stays with Charley until he falls asleep, but Charley doesn’t stay asleep for long.

Hest’s writing here is so dazzling.  She captures perfectly the swooning adoration of a child with a new puppy.  She shows the instant connection, the small memorable moments together, and the communication and understanding that flows.  Henry loves Charley with a purity that is piercing and Hest’s text makes it all the more real and true.  She uses quiet repetition and brings the reader into the intimacy of this new relationship, allowing them to notice the small things that Henry is seeing and feeling.

Oxenbury’s illustrations are classic and lovely.  They lift the story up, making it feel all the more timeless.  There is a beautiful warmth to her art that works particularly well for this subject.  The small images of Charley eating, romping and even making a mess will be sure to charm.

Two master picture book creators have come together to give readers a radiant book about the first love of child and puppy.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

ready for pumpkins

Ready for Pumpkins by Kate Duke

Hercules, or Herky for short, learned a lot being the classroom guinea pig in Miss MacGuffey’s first grade.  He learned to paint, he learned about Halloween, but best of all, he learned that he could plant a garden from seeds.  And Herky had seeds from the Halloween pumpkin that he had saved in his cage.  So when he was taken for the summer out to the country, he knew he just had to plant his own garden.  He met Daisy, a rabbit, who helped him find a sunny place to plant the seeds.  Herky dug up the dirt, planted the seeds, and watered them.  But then he had to be patient as they grew, and that was the hardest part!  The plants grew, flowers appeared, and finally pumpkins.  But Herky had to return to school before they turned orange!  Will he ever know how his pumpkins turned out?

This is a charming mix of classroom pet story and gardening.  Duke makes Herky quite a character.  He’s impatient to the point of digging up the seeds to see what is happening, angry when the birds and beetles attack his garden, and yet he is also hard working enough to make a garden in the first place.  The writing is simple and reads aloud easily, making this a good book to share with a fall class.

Duke’s art is full of simple lines and bright colors.  As the garden grows, she shows the wild beauty of the pumpkin vines, their many flowers and the slow process of pumpkins growing to maturity.  Daisy and Herky are engagingly drawn little creatures whose growing friendship mirrors that of the garden.

A great pick for pumpkin season or as an addition to spring growing books too.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House.

old robert

Old Robert and the Sea-Silly Cats by Barbara Joosse, illustrated by Jan Jutte

Old Robert sailed his ship at sea during the day and docked it at night because it was so dark.  At night, he prepared his dinner of toast in buttered milk and ran through his list of things that were all in their proper place, including clean socks, a clock, one dish and one spoon, and the moon.  He was all alone until one night when a dancing cat asked to come aboard.  Old Robert hesitated because there wasn’t much room aboard, but in the end he agreed.  So he made dinner of toast in buttered milk for both of them and when he went to bed, he noticed the moon was bigger.  Now his list included the cat in its hammock as he went to sleep.  On subsequent days, another two talking cats joined him on board, for dinner, and on his list.  And the moon got bigger still.  Finally, a cat that didn’t talk at all arrived and Old Robert let it on board too.  There was no room for a hammock, for Old Robert let it sleep on his chest.  Finally, the moon was full and Old Robert sailed off into the moonlit night with all of the cats. 

I expected quite a different book when I saw the cover.  I thought it was going to be silly, zany, and rather wild.  Instead, this book has a beautiful quietness to it, a thoughtfulness, and makes for a perfect bedtime read.  Joosse incorporates repetition so well here that it becomes a lullaby.  His listing of his belongings doesn’t change much, except for the size of the moon and the number of cats.  It speaks to the simplicity of his life, but also to how lonely he is.  This is shown rather than told, giving the book a lovely little ache that heads right for the heart.

Jutte’s illustrations too have a mix of silly and quiet.  They have a vintage feel, of old comic books that will make readers feel right at home.  They have great color with explosions of pinks, blues and yellows that pop and glow. 

A great read aloud, this would make a great bedtime pick but it is also a good one to turn into reader’s theater for children.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Philomel Books

bambino and mr twain

Bambino and Mr. Twain by P. I. Maltbie, illustrated by Daniel Miyares

In 1904, after losing his beloved wife, Mark Twain shut his door on the public life he had led.  Instead, he stayed indoors spending much of his time alone except for his daughter’s cat, Bambino.  The two of them grew closer as they played billiards together, shared ice cream for his birthday, and stayed together in a bed crowded with books and papers.  One day, after spotting a squirrel outside the window, Bambino leapt out and disappeared.  Twain put an ad in the paper and many people came with cats and kittens just to meet the famous author.  But none of the cats were Bambino.  Three days later, Bambino appeared on the doorstep as if nothing had happened.  Mark Twain took inspiration from his small companion, and started being part of public life again. 

This book explores the powerful relationship between people and animals.  It is also an exploration of grief and could be used with children in elementary school to discuss death and grief.  Maltbie includes many small touches about Twain, including those white suits, details about his wife, and traditions of their family.  Those little points create a much more human story, even though we are talking about one of the most famous authors ever. 

The black cat and the figure of Twain in his trademark white suit make for a great pairing visually as well.  Miyares’ illustrations are filled with great textures and colors, with the palette changing as the mood of Twain lifts.  The shadows are stronger when the grief is at its worst, but lightens and even brightens as the book continues. 

A personal look at a great figure of American literature, this book about Twain offers the depth of grief and the joy of connection with a pet.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from copy received from Charlesbridge.

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