Tag Archive: pets


im my own dog

I’m My Own Dog by David Ezra Stein

This dog takes care of himself.  He tells himself to roll over, he throws a stick for himself and then goes to get it, he scratches his own itches.  Except for the one in the middle of his back, he can’t quite reach it.  So when a human follows him home and knows right where to scratch, the dog adopts him.  He teaches the human how to hold a leash, how to play the stick game, and how to follow commands.  Yes, he has to clean up after the human, but in the end the two of them become the best of friends.

A clever twist on people getting a dog, in this book it is the dog that gets the person.  Stein plays up the humor with his short text that is done entirely from the point of view of this very independent canine.  The book is a quick read with a zippy pace that adds to the pleasure.  Stein’s illustrations are bright and loose.  The watercolor gives a flowing feel to the images and offer gorgeous colors on the page as they mix.

One dynamite dog book, this one will get kids giggling but ends with the honest truth of finding a new best friend.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

matildas cat

Matilda’s Cat by Emily Gravett

Matilda thinks her cat loves to do a lot of things.  But really, it’s Matilda who loves playing with wool, climbing in boxes, and riding bikes.  All of those things scare her cat.  It’s Matilda who loves tea parties, hats, and swords.  She loves drawing pictures, climbing trees and reading bedtime stories.  And she does it all dressed in her cat costume.  At the end of the book, Matilda has crossed off all of the things she likes because her cat doesn’t like them and made a huge list of everything her cat does NOT like.  But there is one thing her cat does like after all, Matilda!

Gravett excels at creating quirky and marvelous picture books for children.  Here she captures the reaction of a cat perfectly on the page, his ears back and his eyes wide with worry.  The text is at first a list of everything that the cat should like, but then the lists clearly turn to what the little girl enjoys instead.  Through it all, the cat’s concern is the same but it is still inquisitive enough to stay around Matilda and all of her activity. 

The simple text lets the illustrations tell the real story and the real reaction of the cat.  It was a great choice to have Matilda look very much like her cat, so the two show different reactions to the activities.  The illustrations pop against the large amount of white space, making this a book that could happily be shared with a group, since it read aloud well.

A great pick for reading at story time or units about pets or cats, this picture book is another winner from Gravett.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon and Schuster.

sparky

Sparky! by Jenny Offill, illustrated by Chris Appelhans

A little girl wanted a pet but her mother would only let her have a pet that doesn’t need to be walked, bathed or fed.  So the girl went to the library and the school librarian pointed her towards sloths.  Her sloth arrived in the mail and she named him Sparky.  She immediately took him to his tree where he went promptly to sleep.  He didn’t wake up for two days.  She tried playing games with him but they didn’t really work since the girl won every single time.  The only game that Sparky could win was Statue.  He was really good at it.  That weekend, Mary Potts came over to see the sloth, but she didn’t approve.  She said her parrot could say twenty words and her cat could walk on its hind legs.  The girl said that Sparky could do tricks too, and now she would have to prove it.  But what in the world can Sparky actually do?

Told in the first person by the little girl, this book celebrates a pet may not be able to do traditional tricks like other more active animals, but definitely can hold its own as a companion.  Offill has created a wonderful story filled with gently funny moments like trying to play hide-and-seek with a sloth that doesn’t move.  As the girl trains the sloth to do tricks, I was happy to see that Sparky remained steadfastly a sloth and didn’t change into something else at all. 

Appelhans’ illustrations also have a great quietness to them.  Done in watercolor and pencil, they are subtly colored, with the backgrounds and characters primarily in browns.  Then there are occasional pops of red too.  My favorite picture is the sloth arriving via mail with his arms, legs and head popping out of the box and the up arrow facing straight down as if he should be carried on his head. 

This is a book that is slow, steady and heartfelt, just like Sparky himself.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Random House Children’s Books.

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.

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