Friday, April 20, 2018

The Zoo at the Edge of the World

Winnie reads, “The Zoo at the End of the World,” by Eric Kahn Gale.

The blurring makes it more mysterious!!!

This book contains everything: adventure, suspense, danger and LOTS of talking animals!  I would love to be able to talk!  Imagine me, a dog, able to tell my family… when they’re eating delicious, juicy steaks, that YES, I would love a piece too!!!  Or I could tell them how much I love sleeping as close as I can get to them at night!  Or I could tell them that I love looking out the front window and barking at everyone, and everything that goes by, especially other dogs!  Or I could tell them that I really don’t like the pink sweater they make me wear on our walks outside in the winter……..oops!  I’m getting a little carried away.  Back to the story, there is an actual family owned  zoo and it takes place in the 19th century.  There is a Dad who is a world renowned animal explorer and his two sons, and they manage the zoo together.  The youngest son, Marlin has a very difficult stuttering issue to the point where he can barely talk.  However, he CAN talk to the animals in the zoo, and they talk to him.  How amazing!  People come from all over the world to view these animals.  Ronan Rackham, Marlin’s dad, soon comes back from one of his dangerous explorations with a black jaguar.  This changes everything at the zoo!  The jaguar has magical powers that he shares with Marlin.  The adventurous and suspenseful events that follow will keep you at the edge of your couch….where I like to spend most of my time!  Your paws will not be able to put this book down!  It’s that dog-gone good!  Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Shane Burcaw is right! Not So Different

Pick up the book "Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability" by Shane Burcaw.  Get it at your local library, or from a bookstore, or from a friend.  Don't stop to sniff a fire hydrant, or pee on a tree - just read it.  It won't take you long, but you will feel enlightened and gladdened by the time you close the cover.

I really did want to know all those things about what it's like to have a disability.  Even though I can read people words I can't speak in people (different voice box!) so I've never been able to ask.  I can't hear anymore either, because of my age in dog years.  It is a darn good thing that I can read and type on a keyboard, because I so want to share the joy of this book.  It is simply brilliant!
Shane is magic, and together with Matt Carr he has created a work of genius, with humor and heart.
Matt Carr took most of the photos, and they get you up close and personal so you feel as though you could be one of Shane's best friends, and you so want to be!  Shane is friendly and smart and honest and funny.

After you have washed your paws and circled around a number of times on the best chair, open up the book and enjoy some of these details - the T-Rex, the family portrait with the game controller and the pee bottle, all the helping hands,
and Shane's brother hanging from the basketball hoop.  Even the end papers are droll!  But the best thing about this book is that Shane doesn't shy away from the tough questions, and he's guessed what kids really want to know.  It only takes about ten minutes to read this book, but those ten minutes might be the most important of your day.

I myself am not a genius, but I am able to make some connections between things I read.  I am going to do that here, and hopefully it will make sense to your human brain.  I read another book the same day I discovered "Not So Different".  It is called "A Boy and a Jaguar", by Alan Rabinowitz.

Alan Rabinowitz also writes about himself.  He tells about his early life, and his personal struggles as a stutterer.  He could not connect with kids his own age because he could not talk to them.  School was difficult for him.  Alan could not make the words come out in front of people, but he could sing and he could talk to animals - the pets he had at home, and the lonely jaguar at the local zoo.  He saw that animals were vulnerable, just as he was, because they could not communicate and speak up for themselves.  He made a promise that if he could find his own voice he would be their voice and help to protect them.

Catia Chien made beautiful pictures for this book.  They are expressive and colorful, sometimes dark, and often mysterious.  As Alan grows up he learns how to control his stuttering, and he learns how to follow his dreams.  This is a ten minute book too!  But what a powerful ten minutes, and what a beautiful and inspiring ending!  It made me shiver.

I just read another book that fits in here, called "Joan Procter, Dragon Doctor: The Woman Who Loved Reptiles".  This is a picture book biography written by Patricia Valdez.  Guess how much time it took to read?  You're right!  Ten minutes!  That's just how long I had before I got taken off to the dog kennel. Everyone else is going off on a holiday.  I'd be jealous, but I got to bring along the laptop, and I am also allowed to go out in the play yard with the other older dogs, and sniff their bottoms.
Joan Procter missed a lot of school as a young girl because she was sickly.  Luckily she had best friends - turtles, lizards and snakes.  She was super smart and curious, and this opened doors for her in her life, and allowed her to blossom.  Most women didn't get to blossom back then, in the early 1900s. When you read this book you get to follow along, as Joan immerses her life in the reptiles she loves, even befriending a Komodo dragon named Sumbawa.

The wonderful pictures in this book will intrigue you.  I've never seen such gorgeous lizards, portrayed with just a bit of whimsy.  Felicita Sala is a self-taught artist, just as Joan Procter was a self-taught zoologist, scientist and artist.  Her illustrations immerse you in a world that is so much more lovely than my room at the kennel, which is just four walls and a dog bed, with a shiny metal bowl.

What do Shane Burcaw, Alan Rabinowitz and Joan Procter have in common?  Personal struggles that just make them more amazing and strong.  The wish to help others, whether they be humanoid or animaloid.  Wonderful books that inspire in a mere ten minutes!  And they've all just had their books reviewed by a dog.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Winnie Reads A Cricket in Times Square

This is me!

My name is Winnie, and I'm a 2 year old Australian mini Labradoodle.  I LOVE to read and my family does too!  I'll admit, this is my first time writing about a book I've read.  Usually, my family and I just talk about our latest books....BUT, this is so much more fun!

So, I've just read, "The Cricket in Times Square."  My mother said she read it when she was young.  As we spoke about it, we agreed that we both loved this book although perhaps for different reasons!

The story has 3 main characters: Chester Cricket, Tucker Mouse and Harry Cat.  Personally, I would love to meet these characters.  I kept thinking how much fun it would be to chase them all around Times Square!  Chester Cricket gets lost in New York City and ends up at a newspaper stand.  He meets Tucker and Harry, and they have many fun adventures!  Chester Cricket starts singing and attracts humans.  He eventually holds concerts and many people come from all over to hear him sing.  Although he is happy in Times Square with his friends, he misses his home in Connecticut.  Tucker and Harry help him eventually go home.
Where's the Cricket?

I loved this story because it was funny and sweet, and I loved the characters.  As a dog, I thought maybe I could be friends with Chester, Tucker and Harry.  If a cat can be friends with a mouse and a cricket, certainly a dog can be friends with them too!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Giant Pants and Moving Pillows


Supreme silliness is afoot.  In my case afoot, afoot, afoot and afoot.  All four of my feet were twitching with amusement when I read these two books.The first one has a dog in it.  And a cat, but nothing can be perfect.  Laura Gehl wrote the words and Christopher Weyant made the pictures in "My Pillow Keeps Moving!"  A dog and a cat have no home and are shivering in the cold outside a store called The Pillow Place, which advertises that their pillows are guaranteed soft & fluffy.  A leg approaches on the right - that is just masterful, this illustrator really knows how to increase anticipation and silliness.

This is the setup for a very funny pattern - dog sneaks in to store, hides amongst merchandise on sale.  Goofy old man buys dog, thinking it is sale item.  At home his new product does not behave as expected, he takes it back to store.  Salesman (think used car salesman) assures him the product meets all guaranteed qualities (soft & fluffy!) and sends him on his way. This pattern is repeated with pillows, footstools, and jackets until we reach the inevitable very happy ending.
Make sure you look for the cat throughout the book, and don't forget to enjoy the stinky and embarrassing trip to the grocery store!

Next you might want to open up the giant-sized book "Giant Pants".  Ye Olde Mark Fearing wrote and illustrated this silly book, which seems to take place in the magical Middle Ages, with a touch of cyclops thrown in.  Belbum the giant has lost his one pair of pants, which were specially made for him by the tailor in town.  After unsuccessfully searching his whole house and flinging things about, Belbum must venture forth in his very large and polka-dotted boxers to try to find some pants.  He visits each of his friends - Polyphemus the cyclops (enjoy the picture of Belbum in a very small toga), Old Grint the wise gnome,  and Lucy the unicorn.  No pants!  Watch as Belbum cringingly walks in his boxers to find the tailor in town.  Enjoy his generosity with his friends, and then nod knowingly as he returns home with his fancy new pants, opens a drawer to put them away, and finds his old pants.

I was reminded of one of my other favorite books about a giant, "The Spiffiest Giant in Town".  That would make a great companion read.  Another favorite, "Lost Cat", could pair delightfully with "My Pillow is Moving".  So grab your dog biscuits and a big bowl of water, climb up on the couch and circle around about ten times, then settle down on top of the remote and the one good blanket and have yourself an afternoon of cozy reading.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Just Like Jackie Knocked My Whiskers Off

I realize my whiskers are not as fabulous as those of the cats (a source of much personal dissatisfaction!) but they are still big enough to catch the dog tears that were running down my rather wide snout as this book neared its end.  Just Like Jackie is a debut novel, masterfully written by Lindsey Stoddard.  Although I secretly think it might have been written by her dog.

When we first meet Robinson Hart she has just bopped Alex Carter's nose.  He is one of the worst kinds of bullies-an angel in front of the teachers but sneaky and mean when they turn their backs.  He has pushed Robbie too far, although to be fair it doesn't take much.  She seems to be always ready for a fight.  Her anger turns to fear when the school office calls her grandfather in.  What if they notice that he's confused and befuddled?  He always seems fine in the morning, but now it's the afternoon and his brain just doesn't work right later in the day.  He is all she has.

So let's talk about the characters.  There's Derek the best friend, a prime target for Alex's bullying.  You've already met Alex.  Ms. Gloria is the teacher who offers help and counseling - Robbie is assigned to see her often during the week. Candace and Oscar also see Ms. Gloria, and could be allies for Robbie if she could just let her guard down.  Grandpa is Robbie's most important person, he is her everything.  Harold is also important, he works at Grandpa's garage.  He and his partner Paul are adopting a baby, May.  Famous baseball player Jackie Robinson is a peripheral character.  As Robbie's namesake, he is an example of strength and character.

I see Mom on the couch, snuggling with one of the cats.  It makes me feel itchy and anxious, and I am having trouble concentrating.  At least it is distracting Mom so she doesn't see that I've got her laptop.  I'm going to just give you a few more tantalizing details so you realize that you really, really want to read this book.  You will be glad you did.
Not my family tree, just an example!!

Robbie's class is assigned a family tree project.  Most of the kids are super excited, but Robbie is not.  She knows nothing about any of her family, except that her mother died when she was born.  All she knows is Grandpa, and he closes up tight as a drum when she asks any questions.  Now that he's getting all confused she's afraid she'll never find out about her mother, or anyone else.  It turns out that she's not the only one upset about the project.  Candace and Oscar don't know where to begin either, but the biggest surprise is that Alex the bully is equally troubled.  All four end up in a group with Ms. Gloria, where many secrets are revealed.  As the deadline for the family tree assignment nears, exciting and dramatic things happen.  This is where the whiskers come in.

The cat is showing off her long whiskers on the couch as she gets all that undeserved attention.  Well, she can't read, so she can't feel the worry, and sorrow, and anger and acceptance that makes my eyes water as I follow Robbie through this book.  And therefore she can't experience the ultimate triumph of love and understanding, and the heartwarming finale when Robbie redefines what family means.  So as tears get lodged in my short and stubby whiskers I am an active participant in the wonder of a good story that expands my own world.  The cat may be content but I am enlightened.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Hygge versus Hog, or is it Hug?

Me getting hygge-y with it
Well, I have gotten quite a bit older since I last wrote.  My adorable nose is white now, and my back legs don't always work well - sometimes I plummet down the deck stairs, but I always bounce back as I'm still a little puppy-ish.  I have no excuse for not having written except laziness.  I have been reading, though!  I would never give that up.
people hygge

Mom asked to borrow my blog, as she is obsessed with something called "Hygge".  I thought she said Hog, and that she was complaining about Daddy's weight and eating habits again.  But that wasn't it, and it wasn't Hug, as I sat patiently waiting for her arms to go around me and her hands to scratch my ears.  That didn't happen, at least not right then.  Turns out there's something called Hygge that is all about simplifying, and nature, and living in the moment, whatever that means.  It comes from some place cold, and seems to involve food.  Unfortunately Mom can't cook, but she can make coffee and she also says she can buy baked goods.  She explained this to me while surrounded by dog hair and thousands of Legos and everyone's mess - what she calls material chaos.  Frankly it just prepared me for my next nap.

Two hours later I woke up and she asked if we could start the blog again, and she was going to have something called "The Summer of Moomins".  The whole Hygge thing made her think of it.  She is going to read a chapter of "Moominsummer Madness" each week, and use it to "drag herself back from the brink".  Don't ask me what that means.  She was getting a bottle of wine out of the fridge at the same time.

Where's their bottle of wine?
So, if we're doing this again, I am going to also review a book I've been reading, which has nothing to do with Hygge, or Hog, but maybe with Hug.  This week it is "Turtle in Paradise", by Jennifer L. Holm.  Turtle is a girl growing up during the Depression, not to be confused with the depression, which seems to happen about once a month at home.
Turtle is 11.  Her mother is a housekeeper who works for people who still have money during this poor time in American history.  Turtle and her mom don't go hungry as often as many others because they live with people who have money, but Turtle doesn't have a dad and her mother gets her heart broken all the time by men who are no good.  Then Archie comes along and he seems alright!  The bad thing is her mom's new boss doesn't like kids, so Turtle is getting sent to live with an aunt in the Florida Keys.
You may think that sounds glamorous, but this was before the Keys became a tourist destination.  Everyone is dirt poor, and Turtle is now living with a passel of cousins who don't wear shoes, crammed into a little rickety house.  She's the only girl, and she's got to use her wits and an inner strength she didn't know she had to make a new life for herself.  Soon she is coming out of her "turtle" shell and having exciting adventures.  I won't tell you more, but I will hint at the grouchy grandma and the pirate treasure map, and a fortune discovered and lost.  At the end Turtle gets the best treasure of all - her mama and a real home.  This book is so great, I just know you will love it, and you'll see that you can find hygge even in a rickety, messy little house.  Do you hear that, Mom?

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Strongheart, My New Heartthrob

Wow, what a guy! The strong, silent type with a tough outside and a sensitive inside.  I loved reading this book and imagining myself back in the days of silent films, joining the throngs of Strongheart fans in their adulation of this amazing German shepherd.
Wish that were me on the right...

While my heart is going pit-a-pat my feet are going typety-type-type, unfortunately making many typos because the fur between my toes is so long right now.  I want to recommend this book, "Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen", to any readers who like dogs or historical fiction. Candace Fleming based her book on a true story and included many real details.  Eric Rohmann made Strongheart look positively dreamy, even when he's sneaking donuts.  The pictures sometimes take up a few spreads, a la Selznick's "Hugo Cabret".  Dogs or reluctant human readers (even cats!) will find this book just whizzes by, helped along by the many pages that are only half filled with words, and by all those glorious illustrations.   I could just go on and on!
Fur between my toes

Oh, wait, it's dinner time.  I have to go stare at the refrigerator door.

Ack! What happened to all the food?