Tag: pets

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.

Review: A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep

dragons guide to the care and feeding of humans

A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans by Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder

The dragon Miss Drake has recently lost her beloved human pet, Fluffy. She is rather surprised and even irritated then when her pet’s great-niece, Winnie, shows up with a key to her lair. Winnie and her mother were given the home above Miss Drake’s and Fluffy, or Great-Aunt Amelia as she was known to Winnie left directions on how to find Miss Drake. Soon the pair are off having adventures together, though Miss Drake has plans to make Winnie far more docile and polite. After flying to a shop up in the clouds, Winnie gets a sketchbook that has a tingle of magic about it. She sets to a project of drawing each of the pretty magical creatures she has seen on their trip. But soon her drawings have come to life and left the pages of the book. Now it is up to Winnie and Miss Drake to work together to catch all of the creatures, even the one that threatens the entire city of San Francisco and the magical world.

Each chapter in this book features tips on how to best train your human pet. The entire book is filled with humor and whimsy and drenched in magic. The book is pure adventure of the fantasy sort. The world makes sense, a hidden world of magic right alongside our own, specifically in San Francisco. There are spells to keep normal people from seeing the magical ones and this book has that wonderful touch of Harry Potter where the magic is right in front of us. The writing here is playful and jolly, setting the tone of a grand adventure with plenty of danger, problems to solve, and one new best friend to discover.

Miss Drake is a grand character. Having a book with the dragon as the narrator adds to the fun of the story and also offers a unique perspective. It would have been a far different book told by Winnie, since the humor of Miss Drake is not always apparent on the surface. Winnie too is a great protagonist. She doesn’t shy away from Miss Drake even when she is rude or shows her huge teeth. She stand up to her and it looks like at the end she is going to be a very different sort of pet than Miss Drake has ever had before.

Magic and humor come together in this warm and wonderful fantasy that looks to be the first in a new series. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Crown Books for Young Readers.

Review: A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton

tale of two beasts

A Tale of Two Beasts by Fiona Roberton

Released March 1, 2015

First we hear the story from one point of view, then the other.  A little girl tells of walking in the woods and seeing a little beast in the forest.  He was stuck in the tree and very sad, so she rescued him and took him home with her.  There she bathed him, dressed him in a hat and sweater, gave him nuts to eat and built him a house out of a cardboard box.  She even walked him in a leash to give him exercise.  But in the end, he escaped out of the window.  Alone in her bed, she couldn’t sleep and then the beast returned to get his hat so they headed off into the woods together.  But she couldn’t stop wondering about why he came back.  The second half of the book is told from the little animal’s point of view and it’s a very different perspective.  But in the end, the two of them found a connection despite their different ways of seeing what happened.

Roberton could have kept this book solely about perspectives and had it be full-on humor, but instead she manages to imbue the book with a real heart.  The connection between the two “beasts” is slow to come, with the final moment of real understanding being so freeing for both of them as they in turn realize that the other one is not quite as bad as they had thought.  Using similar language for both stories in that moment really shows their connection, particularly because otherwise their perspectives had been so very different.

Roberton uses her art to frame the story, showing the same exact story not only verbally from different perspectives but also vividly in the images as different from one another.  One moment that stands out is the cardboard box home that she builds the creature, which he detests.  The illustrations show her pleasure at it and then in turn his trapped feeling of being in the box with nothing to do.  And don’t miss their final dash together into the woods and then their clothing hanging on tree branches side-by-side.  Freedom!

Cleverly crafted and told, this picture book explores points of view and how connections are possible even with different beasts.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from online copy from Kane Miller.