Tag: pets

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson

Beatrix Potter and the Unfortunate Tale of a Borrowed Guinea Pig by Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by Charlotte Voake (InfoSoup)

Published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Potter’s birth, this picture book tells the true story of an event in Potter’s childhood. Beatrix loved animals from a very young age. In fact, she and her brother had quite a collection of animals over the years from a family of snails to rabbits trained to walk on a leash. Beatrix also loved to draw and paint her animals. One day, she wanted to paint a guinea pig so she borrowed one from a neighbor. The guinea was a magnificent specimen named Queen Elizabeth. Beatrix promised to return Queen Elizabeth the next morning “unharmed.” Unfortunately though, she would not be able to keep that promise!

Hopkinson adopts a wonderfully wry tone throughout this picture book where readers know that something horrible is going to befall Queen Elizabeth. There is lovely foreshadowing from the title but also from the demise of other creatures in Beatrix’s care, including the family of snails who simply dried out and lizards eaten by birds. The pacing here is delicately balanced, allowing plenty of time for the dread to creep in as Beatrix takes the guinea pig home.

Voake’s illustrations are done in pen and watercolor, showing the world of Victorian England as well as the myriad pets owned by the Potter family. Voake includes parts of Potter’s own diaries in the illustrations, showing her detailed look at her pets and also illuminating how some of them died.

This picture book offers a humorous look at young Beatrix Potter who would become known for her images of animals living through what many children do when they care for others pets or even their own. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Schwartz & Wade.

My Dog’s a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari

My Dogs a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari

My Dog’s a Chicken by Susan McElroy Montanari and Anne Wilsdorf (InfoSoup)

Lula Mae really wants a puppy, but her mother tells her that times are hard and she will just have to make do. So Lula Mae takes a look around and decides that maybe a chicken could be a good dog. She finds the most likely chicken, one that is confident, and grabs it. She names the “dog” Pookie and puts a hair ribbon on its head. Her mother insists that whatever Lula Mae calls it, she’s not to bring it into the house. Soon Pookie is starting to act like a dog. She shepherds the other chickens around. She acts like a guard dog when Cousin Tater threatens Lula Mae and the baby with a garter snake. Pookie even manages to perform a search and rescue when Baby Berry goes missing.

This fanciful picture book is brimming with down home warmth. The book’s premise is wonderfully quirky, the substitution of a chicken for a dog. Readers will expect it to go very badly, but this book takes a more positive spin. Even as Pookie starts to act like a dog, she is still clearly a chicken reacting the way a chicken would in that situation. The humans interpret it differently, adding to the fun of the entire story.

Wilsdorf’s illustrations are done in watercolor and ink. They are filled with bright colors and show a vibrant rural lifestyle filled with chickens, woodpiles, and crops. Some of the illustrations show the paths of people (and chickens) running around and convey the panic of trying to find Baby Berry. Sharp-eyed children will spot him by following Pookie’s path.

Funny and entirely individual, this picture book is about making do and following your own heart. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.

Review: Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

Finding Winnie by Lindsay Mattick

Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear by Lindsay Mattick, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (InfoSoup)

Told by the great-granddaughter of Captain Harry Colebourn, this is the true story of the real bear who inspired Winnie-the Pooh. The book takes the format of a mother telling a bedtime story to her young son. It is the story of his great-great-grandfather, after whom he was named. Harry was a veterinarian sent from his home in Winnipeg to care for the soldier’s horses in World War I. On the train in Canada, he saw a little bear cub at a station and purchased the bear, even though he was headed into war. Winnie soon charmed all of the soldiers and got her own post to climb in the tent city. Winnie stayed with Harry when they were posted in England, but he had to make a difficult decision and put her in The London Zoo when he was headed to the war zone. It was at The London Zoo that a little boy named Christopher Robin Milne met Winnie and inspired his father to write the beloved stories of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Lindsay Mattick has shared the story of her great-grandfather in different formats through the years, including a radio documentary and an exhibition. In this very personal story, she shows real pride in the great heart that her grandfather showed by seeing something special in a small bear cub. It is clear that it is his dedication and care for Winnie that helped her become the loving and approachable bear that could inspire a series of stories. Mattick’s writing contains just the right amount of detail to keep children fascinated.

Blackall is an incredible illustrator and here she shows a beautiful touch for recreating historical scenes. From the expanse of Canada to the big city of London, she offers just enough visual detail to anchor the scenes in those distinct places. She also shows again and again the bond between Harry and Winnie, from sleeping together to sharing food. The historical photos at the end of the book add to the story, letting readers see the real Winnie.

A wonderful read, this book is an inspiring look at what small choices in our lives can lead to if we only follow our hearts. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Buddy and Earl by Maureen Fergus

Groundwood Logos Spine

Buddy and Earl by Maureen Fergus, illustrated by Carey Sookocheff (InfoSoup)

When Meredith comes home with a mysterious box, Buddy just can’t quite manage to stay on his bed. Soon he is exploring the box and discovers a strange creature named Earl inside, who claims to be a giraffe, though Buddy is sure that he isn’t and Earl’s not a sea urchin either. When Earl tries to guess what Buddy is, he never guesses that Buddy is a dog. Earl announces that he is a pirate, and Buddy finds himself called a pirate too. The two of them start to play together, sailing the couch into a storm. They are interrupted by Mom, who scolds Buddy for being on the couch and for playing with Earl. But when her back is turned, Buddy is right there near the box again, announcing that he knows exactly what Earl is: a friend.

This little picture book has a lot of depth to it. The simple story is given details thanks to the conversational tone of the text that is focused on allowing children to understand how this unlikely friendship develops. The two animals explore one another but are also figuring out one another’s personalities, something that proves much more interesting to them both rather than labeling their species. Playing pretend together seals the friendship, but then it is made even stronger when Earl tries to take the blame for Buddy being on the couch.

The illustrations nicely break the text into manageable chunks. The illustrations are simple, done in thick black lines and washes of subtle color. They have a pleasing roughness to the edges that offers a modern feel.

Friendship in a nutshell, this picture book offers an adventure for new friends. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko

Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko

A Dog Wearing Shoes by Sangmi Ko

Released September 29, 2015.

Mini and her mother almost hit a dog on their way home from Mini’s grandparents’ home. Mini’s mother hops out of the car and discovers that the dog is wearing bright yellow shoes. It doesn’t have a collar and there is no owner in sight, so they take the dog home with them. There, the dog starts to howl until they head out to the park together after purchasing a leash and collar. They get the attention of all of the dog owners at the park and the dog shows all of her tricks to everyone. Mini is very proud to be her owner. But when she tries to have the dog fetch a stick, the dog runs away. Now Mini knows that if she can find the dog again, she also has to find their original owner.

This book has such a marvelous sense of humor right from the beginning. If you only read the text, it is very simple and straight forward. Combined with the illustrations, it creates a rich humor that allows the text to be the straight man up againt the wild antics of the pictures. The book embraces the emotions of finding a stray animal, realizing that it probably has owners who are missing it, and then getting your own pet who actually suits you even better. The emotions are honest on the page, creating real heart in a book that could have been simply a lighter funny read.

I received an online version of this book for review and all I needed to see was the first few images to realize that this was a special book. From the boredom on Mini’s face as she rides home in the car to the dizzying range of emotions she shows throughout the day, the book is zingy and zany. It’s done entirely in black and white except for the pops of yellow for the dog’s shoes and the red of the leash and collar. All of the art is filled with personality and wit.

A wonderful read-aloud, this glowing picture book is a special find. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Schwartz & Wade and Edelweiss.

Review: Sonya’s Chickens by Phoebe Wahl

Sonyas Chickens by Phoebe Wahl

Sonya’s Chickens by Phoebe Wahl (InfoSoup)

Sonya was given three tiny chicks by her father. It was her job to take good care of them. At first, the chicks liked in the house in a cardboard box while Sonya’s parents fixed up the coop in the yard. Soon they grew into pullets and were living outside. They followed Sonya everywhere she went. She took good care of them, giving them food and water and cleaning out their coop. They grew into three large happy hens and started laying eggs. Then one night, Sonya was woken by squawking in the chicken coop. She headed outside and one of her chickens was no longer there, only two hens were up in the rafters hiding. Sonya’s father explained that a fox had gotten the hen and told her about why he would have taken her. Sonya and her family had a funeral for the hen and worked to repair the coop so that a fox could not get in again. Then the circle started once more when one of the eggs began to hatch.

Wahl embraces honesty about the death of pets and grief in this picture book. Beautifully told, the loss of the chicken may surprise some readers. It is handled with care and truth, the father in the story explaining that the fox has to hunt for his family in order to feed his kits. Sonya is allowed time to express her feelings, supported by her family. The ending of the book has a new chick joining Sonya’s flock and her willing to continue on despite the loss. It’s a lesson in resilience.

The illustrations in this picture book are impressive. Done with watercolor, collage and colored pencil, they are vibrant and richly colored. The images show a mixed-race family in a rural setting, something that isn’t seen enough in picture books. They have a great textural feel and also depict a fully-realized home and family with most of the pictures taking up an entire page with their rich colors.

An honest look at grief and loss of a pet, this picture book is a winner. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: My Dog Is the Best by Laurie Ann Thompson

My Dog Is the Best by Laurie Ann Thompson

My Dog Is the Best by Laurie Ann Thompson, illustrated by Paul Schmid (InfoSoup)

A little boy adores his dog, despite the fact that the boy is full of energy and his dog…well, he’s not. When the boy offers the dog a ball, the dog dozes off. The boy then demonstrates the tricks his dog can do, like playing dead. His dog can also roll over, while sleeping. And even turn into a ball, still asleep. The plays tug of war, by lying on the boy’s blanket and not moving. And even chase, well, not really. The dog can do so many things, like listen to stories, provide a base for playing with toys and even blow bubbles when the bubble wand is put in front of his dozing face. In the end, the little boy gets sleepy and after a big hug falls asleep next to the dog. The dog wakes up and is ready to play now.

I loved this book with the patient sleeping dog who allows himself to be clambered over, played with, and piled on while he is sleeping. There is no sense ever that the dog is anything other than a very happy and willing partner to all of this. The boy is eager but also gentle, his imagination creating worlds where the dog is an active participant in his merry games. The ending is completely adorable with the boy asleep and the dog awake.

Schmid’s illustrations are just right for this book. Done in simple lines on pastel backgrounds, the illustrations show the lovely interplay between little boy and dog. The round dog makes a perfect foil for the active little boy, one a whirl of motion and the other almost motionless.

A book that celebrates having a pet as a small child and the incredible connection one develops. Appropriate for ages 2-4.

Reviewed from copy received from Farrar, Straus and Giroux.