Tag: pets

A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young

a-unicorn-named-sparkle-by-amy-young

A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young (InfoSoup)

When Lucy sends away for her 25 cent unicorn, she has big dreams of what it’s going to look like. It is sure to be blue with a pink tail and pink mane. She will ride on him and name him Sparkle. But when the box finally arrives, Sparkle is not what she expected at all. He does love cupcakes, but that’s not all he loves to eat. He also eats underwear, his flower necklace and the tutu Lucy puts on him. She can’t ride him at all and he doesn’t behave at show-and-tell. Lucy decides to return Sparkle, but the man can’t come and get him until the next day. In the meantime, Sparkle turns out to be scared of storms, butterflies love him, and he makes Lucy laugh. Perhaps it’s not important to be the perfect unicorn after all.

I must admit that I expected this book to be overly sweet, rather too sparkly and filled with too much princess and unicorn fluff. However, it’s not that kind of a picture book at all and I can’t resist a book that surprises me this much. Even better, it’s a unicorn book with a “unicorn” that farts, smells and has fleas. In fact, it’s a unicorn book about a goat and a girl who learns to love him. And in the end, I think readers are going to fall for Sparkle too and realize that the idealized unicorn may be very dull compared to one very active goat.

Young’s illustrations are very appealing. She does a mix of large format pages and then more detailed ones that show all of the trouble that Sparkle manages to get into. Lucy imagines herself as a princess, but throughout is clearly a colorful little girl who loves to pretend and imagine. Readers will immediately know that Sparkle is not a unicorn, but will love the fact that he’s a goat with a heart-shaped mark on his side.

A sparkling and clever story about new friends that defy expectations. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley

The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read by Curtis Manley, illustrated by Kate Berube (InfoSoup)

Nick has two pet cats, Verne and Stevenson. They love doing things together, but the cats don’t appreciate it when Nick sits down to read. So Nick decides to teach them to read too. He starts with easy words, but the cats aren’t interested. He moves on to flash cards and soon Verne is paying attention, particularly when the words and books have to do with fish. Verne sounds out words and starts reading books on his own, he even gets his own library card. Stevenson doesn’t seem interested at all though. Verne and Nick have lots of fun acting out the stories that they are reading, though it would be more fun with Stevenson playing too. Then one day Nick discovers pictures that Stevenson has drawn of a pirate story. Could it be that Stevenson is interested after all?

Manley cleverly shows the process of learning to read in this picture book. Moving from simple words to sounds of letters to looking at books on your own and then reading entirely on your own. Delightfully, he also has Stevenson who is a reluctant reader. Stevenson though just needs someone to notice what he is passionate about and suddenly he too is interested in reading. It’s a smart way to show that we are all readers, some of us just need to not read about fish but about pirates!

The illustrations by Berube are friendly and fun. I love that Nick is a child of color and that it is not an “issue” in the book or even mentioned. One special part of the book is Stevenson’s expressions which are pure grumpiness and then can be seen later in the book as purely piratical.

A summery book about reading that will move nicely into the school year. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Simon & Schuster.

 

Who Wants a Tortoise? by Dave Keane

Who Wants a Tortoise by Dave Keane

Who Wants a Tortoise? by Dave Keane, illustrated by KG Campbell (InfoSoup)

Released July 19, 2016.

A little girl has been longing for a puppy for her entire life. She has lists of dog names, read about training, and dreamed about life with a puppy. So when she opens the box with holes in the top on her birthday, she is dismayed to discover a tortoise inside. Her father had told her he was allergic to dogs, but she had still dreamed of having one. Now she has a cold-blooded reptile. She has no ideas for names for him, so she doesn’t name him anything. She figures out that he can’t play fetch, does not like rolling over, doesn’t do many tricks, and doesn’t get excited when she returns home. Slowly though, she does figure out things that she can do with a tortoise, including selling turns holding it and painting its nails. When she tries playing hide-and-seek though, she discovers that tortoises are far too good at it. Now she is the owner of a lost tortoise. How will she ever find him again?

Keane has written a witty story that shows the natural progression of falling in love with a different kind of pet. The protagonist tells the story in her own voice, filled with righteous indignation at being given a reptile and then turning to grudging respect for what it can do, and finally becoming an expert on tortoises. The characters throughout the book are thoroughly realistic and human, from the father who mentions his allergy to no avail to the little girl and her friends as they try to find the hiding tortoise. The reactions and emotions here are honest and true, creating a book that is funny and heartfelt.

Campbell’s illustrations add so much to this picture book. The little girl’s pigtails show her emotions just as much as her face. They are perky when hopeful, limp when lonely, and almost stiff when angry. Using plenty of white space, the illustrations show both a loving family and a warm community where people are willing to line up for lemonade and a tortoise.

A dynamite picture book that is ideal for pet-themed story times or to introduce a new pet to a classroom or family. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from e-galley received from Penguin Random House and Edelweiss.

 

Ferocious Fluffity by Erica S. Perl

Ferocious Fluffity by Erica S Perl

Ferocious Fluffity by Erica S. Perl, illustrated by Henry Cole

Released July 19, 2016.

The author and illustrator of Chicken Butt return with another uproariously funny picture book. Mr. Drake brings a new pet into his classroom. It’s a tiny hamster. They aren’t allowed to hold her, but one day when Mr. Drake is late, the children take her out of her cage. But Fluffity is not as sweet as she looks. She bites all of the children! Then she chases them down the hall and continues to bite them as they hide in the library. When Mr. Drake discovers them all, Fluffity bites him too and won’t let go. They finally get Fluffity back into her cage and figure out that she needs exercise and lots of things to chew on to be happiest. In fact, they do so well that Mr. Drake brings in a new pet for the classroom!

Now, I must admit that when I start a picture book and it is in rhyme I tend to worry and even shudder a bit. Here Perl handles her rhyme with panache, using it to up the frenzied action and to increase the humor as well. The rhyme adds a galloping pace to the book that is wonderful as well as making it a treat to read aloud. The humor is broad and never subtle, in other words perfect for small children to laugh right along with. It is also appreciated that in the end the students learn how to care for Fluffity rather than getting rid of the little nipper.

Cole’s illustrations add to the zany feel of the book. Just look into the eyes of Fluffity and you will know that something is about to go wrong. The ball of fur may be tiny, but her glare would have me hiding in a library too. Just like the writing, the illustrations are ideal for sharing out loud too with their bright colors, large format and action-filled images.

Sure to keep even the wiggliest preschooler listening, this picture book is a great finishing read for a story time welcoming children back to school. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.

 

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins

Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynne Rae Perkins (InfoSoup)

Frank was having a horrible day until his parents took him to get a new dog at the shelter. That’s when Frank met Lucky and Lucky met Frank. They learned a lot about each other, but they also both just loved learning things. Lucky loved science, especially learning about the ducks in the pond. He also loved exploring nature, handily bringing a lot of it back with him when he returned home so that Frank could study it closely. There was math too, questions about how many dog biscuits Lucky deserved and how much hair he could shed. Dogs can even be heroes, though Lucky may not have been particularly heroic when eating the entire birthday cake. Art, languages, geography and more were studied as Lucky and Frank spend time together. There is so much to learn when on walks together!

This is an unusual picture book, one that is immensely clever and completely noteworthy. Perkins doesn’t create a linear picture book here, rather the story of a boy and his dog is specifically told in different school subjects. This makes the book a very dynamic read and offers wry insights into the perspective of both dog and human as they spend their days together outdoors. The focus is on exploration and learning, which both of them do in different but also parallel ways. There is humor throughout, intelligently speaking to the relationship of human and pet but also to learning in a larger way about life.

The art by Perkins is stellar. Done in pen, ink and watercolor, the illustrations are humorous but also delicate and realistic. With different and interesting perspectives used, each page is different from the next but also part of a cohesive whole. A dynamic mix of different sized illustrations makes the book all the more fun to read.

Children will respond to the idea of learning in life and outdoors and will also love Lucky right from the beginning. Appropriate for ages 4-7.

Reviewed from copy received from Greenwillow Books.

 

 

The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart

Groundwood Logos Spine

The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Sydney Smith (InfoSoup)

A white cat named Pangur and a monk live together. At night, by candlelight the two work side by side. The monk quietly studies his books. The cat hunts mice along the walls, examining a mouse hole. The two do not disturb one another. At the end of the night, as day comes, they have both found what they were seeking. One searching for the joy of an answer to a puzzle and the other for the satisfaction of a successful hunt.

This picture book is a retelling of a classic Old Irish poem “Pangur Bán.” It is a tale that is contemplative and quiet. It offers space to simply be, a world of solitude and study, and also one that is filled with richness of the most simple forms. Bogart captures the power of a man’s simple monastic life accompanied by an animal companion. In particular, it is the interplay of their evening activities that demonstrate the impact of the natural world on even the quietest of evenings.

Smith’s illustrations evoke a period of time that is filled with illuminated texts, thick stone monastery walls and the light of several candles. They are done with rich blacks and subtle colors, the light playing across the page as the cat seeks dark corners.

A beautiful look at the power of contemplation, mindfulness and cats. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

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.