Tag Archive: pets


naughty kitty

Naughty Kitty! by Adam Stower

A follow up to Silly Doggy!, this book also features Lily and now a very large cat.  From the end pages, readers will know that there is an animal loose from the zoo.  Lily though is far too taken up with bringing her new kitten home.  Her mother was sure that Kitty wouldn’t be any trouble at all.  At first that was true, but when Lily left the kitten alone in the kitchen for just a moment, she returned to find it completely trashed.  What Lily doesn’t know but the readers could see clearly was that the tiger that had escaped from the zoo was the one who made the mess.  The same thing happened when Lily left Kitty alone in the living room.  There is even a rug that is ruined with an accident of large proportions.  Happily, Lily remains completely oblivious to the tiger and in the end Kitty gets the credit rather than the blame for what the tiger has done. 

Stower’s humor is zingy and broad here.  He doesn’t hold back on the visual jokes or on Lily’s reactions to the actually sedate little cat.  Children will immediately get the humor of mistaken identity and will pay close attention to spot the tiger on the pages where Lily can’t seem to see him.  The ending is completely satisfying, particularly because Lily continues to be oblivious to what is actually happening around her and readers will be surprised by a full view of the truth as well.

The art tells much of the story here with the narrative almost entirely from Lily’s perspective.  The tiger can be spotted right before each disaster and right afterwards too.  The illustrations are energetic and filled with action and the entire book reads like a cartoon episode.

Funny and a great read aloud, this book is sure to keep attention focused and kids giggling.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Orchard Books.

i am otter

I Am Otter by Sam Garton

Based off of characters from the blog: I Am Otter: The Unheard Ramblings of a Modern Day Otter, this picture book oozes with good natured humor.  It tells the story of an otter who lives with a person that she calls Otter Keeper.  Otter Keeper had to go to work on Monday, so Otter and Teddy (her teddy bear) tried to stop him by doing things like hiding his keys and his lunch.  But Otter Keeper left for work anyway.  So Otter decided to have her own job and chose to open a toast restaurant.  But there were problems from the start.  Teddy had forgotten to take reservations, so the line was very long.  Teddy forgot to tell the customers the prices of the items.  And finally, Teddy got the orders wrong.  It all ended in a horrible mess, just as Otter Keeper returned home.  Quickly, Otter hid as much as she could of the mess, but in the process Teddy disappeared!  Can Otter find her best friend?

Garton cleverly tells two stories in this picture book.  First is the written story in Otter’s voice that explains exactly what is happening from her perspective.  That is that Teddy makes poor choices, Teddy makes messes, and Teddy forgets things.  The rest of the story, the true version, is told in the pictures where even the youngest readers will understand that it is Otter who is creating all of the ruckus and mess as well as the drama. 

Garton’s art is just as clear as his dual story.  Done in full-color, the illustrations have a quiet and homey feel to them that contrasts delightfully with the messes that Otter creates.  The illustrations are busy with small objects, showing a real home filled with toys, plants, pencils, and more.

Funny, smart and a pleasure to share aloud, this British picture book is “otterly” incredible.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Balzer + Bray.

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.

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