Friday, June 28, 2013

An Unforgettable Summer, With a Very Sad Middle and a Hopeful Hind End

Some of you may already be familiar with the author Sara Pennypacker, because her series about Clementine is one of the best things going for children and dogs ages 7-10.  Clementine is not as naughty as Ivy and Bean, or as Junie B., but funny things happen to her all the same.  Plus I like how she calls her little brother vegetable names, although I would personally have called him "Kibble" or Chicken Chunks".

So, anyway, I was just sniffing around on the floor, looking for crumbs, and I came across a book that had been lost under the coffee table.  Not to digress, but coffee tables are just the right height for dogs.  First you pretend you're not at all interested in the chips on the coffee table, then you create a ruckus in the kitchen with one of the cats, and voila! It is but the work of a moment to snarf down those delicious, salty chips and carry off the bowl, hiding the evidence.
Back to the book.  I noticed that the author was Sara Pennypacker, but this book wasn't bright orange, and it was thicker.  Two girls are on the cover, walking on a beach, and one is spreading her wings like a gull.  She is lost in the moment, and I can almost feel the wind in my furry ears and smell the salt air.  It looked like the perfect summer story, so I nosed open the cover and started reading.
This book struck close to home from the very get-go.  One girl is living with her Great-aunt Louise because her mom can't seem to do a good job taking care of her.  Another girl is living with them, a foster child who is unhappy and growly.  I thought about my own life, three homes, so many changes, and always looking for love.  Just like Stella and Angel, two very different damaged girls trying to keep their hearts together, but unable to sniff out the good in each other.
Until something absolutely terrible happens!  I couldn't believe it!  And it got buried in the back yard like a bone, except even smellier!  And those girls had to find out how to help each other, and how to grow up fast and learn to trust.  This story was beautiful and strong, sad and funny all at the same time.  The ending was like the girl on the cover, eyes closed, arms spread, ready to take off into the unknown with hope in her heart.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Cats Made Me Read These, So Don't Tell Them I Actually Enjoyed Them

I don't know what happened, but I am actually scared of the cats again.  They used to run away from me in a very satisfying way, but now they puff all up to twice their size, and the sounds coming out of their mouths are truly frightening!  I tell you, I'd really like to take a big bite out of - oops, here comes Mom, shhhhh!

OUCH!  My nose!
I'm sitting on a pile of four books, a series is what I think they call them.  The cats flung them at me while I was trying to eat their cat food, which had been placed up on a desk, just out of my reach.  These books are not very big, thankfully, because they came flying at my nose.  They would be good for young readers, maybe ages 7-10.

Janet Taylor Lisle wrote them, and they are about three friends, two girls and a boy.  Angela, Georgina and Poco.  The first book has mysterious letters from "Pilaria, the Gray-Eyed Faerie" that appear over the fireplace.  In the second Juliette the cat disappears (good riddance, I say!) and the children use a Ouija Board to find her (shouldn't have bothered).  A statue of a Match Girl sends secret messages to Poco in the third, and the last book has aliens in it.  Angela claims they came and took her away, and indeed she seems greatly changed to her friends.  The series is called "The Investigators of the Unknown" and there was certainly enough unknown stuff going on to keep me reading through the whole series, which I finished before my evening walk.  Even while I was peeing on the neighbor's lawn I was pondering what was and wasn't real.  Just like at home, when those letters mysteriously come through that little slot in the front door.  And why does Mom get so excited about those "catalogs" (cats again!) with all the glossy pictures of clothes and shoes?  And why does Dad recycle them as soon as Mom leaves the room?  So many  unanswered questions!

I hate to admit that for once those two cats had good taste, but these books were really good, and you should read them too.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I Laughed My Tail Off!

After finding the dead mouse under the couch I needed to calm myself.  I snuggled up on the family's best chair with a book I found between the cushion and the arm, also I found some delicious old popcorn!  To be honest, this book did not look too relaxing or calming, it had a crazy cover , and the title was "The Great Cat Conspiracy", by Katie Davies.  The cat had a snaggly tooth, which made me nervous.
I started to read it anyway, since I was too lazy to get up and choose another book, and it made me laugh so hard drool shot out of one of my nostrils.  I was glad no one was home to see that.
Anna and Suzanne are best friends, and they live next door to each other, in one of those houses that's connected but with a wall between.  There's a little brother Tom who is always eating cookies, and some very silly neighbors, and a Dad who is always yelling, and a New Cat.  The New Cat has replaced the Old Cat, who died, and the New Cat likes to attack feet and anything else that moves, and one day it disappears.  No one notices but Tom, and even cookies can't make him feel better.  So Anna and Suzanne and Tom try to find the New Cat, and their search leads them into all sorts of trouble and also some amazing discoveries.  But what you need to know is that this book will make you laugh and laugh, and you will want to then read:
"The Great Dog Disaster" - which features a dog named Beatrice who "smelled like Graham Roberts's PE bag with a dead vole at her back end.  And at the front she smelled like Mrs. Constantine's pond, the time it went green with slime and all the fish floated to the top."  Find out how the girls and Tom save Beatrice, and how Beatrice saves Tom from the ducks and the river, and becomes a dog hero.  Also, find out about Mrs.Rotherham's huge underwear and why Beatrice is wearing them, and why the Ark got flattened at Sunday  School, and why Tom is wearing an inflatable dinghy and a furry black rug.  You won't be disappointed, and you will definitely laugh your tail off!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Would Dogs Really Agree to Wear Clothing?!?

I have a bone to pick with two very famous author/illustrators!  They both have created books with dogs wearing clothing, and I just don't think it's right, especially to put them in those tight, old-fashioned jackets.  We are just too dignified for that!  Oh, Mom just came back from her visit to the anti-wrinkle-cream aisle at CVS.  She is reminding me that the books are pretend...
I am referring to Tasha Tudor and Jan Brett, two of the very most famous authors and illustrators of children's books.  This generation of kids might not be so familiar with Tasha Tudor, but she was amazing!  She spent a lot of time pretending she was living in the 1830s, dressing in old-fashioned clothing and creating a fantasy world of dolls and animals at her farm in Vermont.  Her illustrations and stories are full of colorful detail and are very whimsical, and there are a lot of dogs in some of them!

I just read "The Great Corgiville Kidnapping" and it is very funny, with lots of adventure.  If you are like me you may have always thought that raccoons are really very villainous, and this book certainly backs up that theory.  They are definitely up to no good, and it takes a heroic and super-smart dog to outwit them.  This book is a picture book, and would be such a good read for a family who likes a slightly longer story with a lot of detail and excitement, and clever vocabulary, like "deviltry", "agile", "distraught" and "blasted  windbag".  Plus, there are products like Knock-'Em-Stiff flea powder and OdorGone spray for your feet to help you disguise yourself when you are dealing with nefarious raccoons.
I know you all know about Jan Brett!  Her pictures are so beautiful, with each feather, or prickle, or whisker painted in until we all look so glorious.  She puts in little tidbits of story around the edges of her illustrations so you can enjoy the pictures again and again, and maybe see something new each time.
I read "Comet's Nine Lives" because I wanted to know if it's really, really true that cats have nine lives.  According to this story it is - that is so unfair!  I'm miffed at cats.  Plus, in this book they don't have to wear clothes, but the dogs all do.  Well, at least there are way more dogs than cats in the book, but I guess that is what drives the story.  The cat that lives in the Lighthouse is lonely, because there are only dogs on this imaginary version of Nantucket.  She doesn't know that the whole time a very silly, clumsy and unlucky cat is wreaking havoc and losing eight of his lives, right nearby!  It is a great story, even if it has cats in it.  You will definitely enjoy it!             YUM, get a load of those crazy chickens below.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Foxes Schmoxes!

Hold onto your hats, gloves and tiger boots!  It may be almost summer here, but Jilli, Fiercely and Jim are surrounded by snow and tracking a sneaky snow fox!  Fat tail, pointy ears, orange fur!  Brrrrr!
Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself.  I just read "The Sneaky Snow Fox" by Patricia Reilly Giff with illustrations by Diane Palmisciano.  Jilli is a girl with a fabulous dog, Fiercely.  She says he's not brave, but he goes out into the whirling snow after that scary fox, so he's my hero.
Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself again.  It all starts when Jilli is reading a book about a sneaky, scary fox to Fiercely.  The fox is snipping and snapping his teeth in the book, and they are too scared to keep reading.  They look out the window and there's the fox!  Jim is Jilli's best friend, and together they follow Fiercely when he follows that fox into town.  The end of the book has cookies in it!  Read this book if you like dogs, snow, best friends, mysterious foxes, bookstores and cookies.  It is for readers who are just beginning to feel comfortable with very short chapters and slightly bigger words.

Just so you know, the person who did the colorful and snowy pictures for this book is very nice to my human grandmother, and I know you will like her pictures.
I'm reading these books so fast I'm just a blur!  Daddy is telling me how amazing I am.

Chaos Ensues in 3 Books for Young Readers

These three books were in a pile under some dirty socks, so of course I knew they would be good!  Here's the titles:
Captain Awesome Vs. Nacho Cheese Man - by  Stan Kirby
Escape From Silver Street Farm - by Nicola Davies
Ghost Buddy: How to Scare the Pants Off Your Pets - by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver
I was instantly attracted to the hamster on the cover.  Can you see him?  He is wearing a cape and sunglasses, and is quite plump!  Plus there's the whole nacho cheese thing.  This book is pretty easy to read and has lots of fun pictures inside.  Turns out that Captain Awesome and Nacho Cheese Man are best friends, also known as Eugene and Charlie.  They have a big fight - will evil take over because the Sunnyview Superhero Squad can't get along?  There is also a baby called Queen Stinkypants and a dog called Mr. Drools.  Read it if you dare!

Chaos on the cover!!  Sheep running rampant in a market make it hard not to grab this book by the upper corner, being careful not to leave tooth marks,  and shake your head so that it falls open in front of you.  First there's a map with pictures of yummy chickens and turkeys, then the story starts with a literal "bang" as Kenny the ram head-butts his stall door.  Pretty soon you've met the three children, Flora the farmer, the yummy chickens and turkeys, and the silly sheep.  Also two dogs!!  Then crazy things happen that involve a messy market, the sheep and the turkeys, a rescued baby, a blow-up castle, turkey thieves and some policemen.  There's lots of food at the end.  This is not too hard to read and the pictures are fun.
Yikes, a ghost!!  I was a little scared, but when I actually read this the ghost turned out to be silly and spoiled, not scary - except to a fish and a cat (of course!). He's in "time out" for bad behavior, like when I pee on the rug.  He shares a room with a modern boy, Billy, who happens to have moved into the house he is haunting.  They're friends, and Billy tries to help him get out of time out. Every thing Billy does to help goes wrong, especially with the goats!  The goats cause the chaos in this book, I wish I had been there for that scene. Will this have a happy ending?  I'm not going to tell you, but a very fat cat has something to do with it.  This book was a little more challenging for me to read, with more words and chapters.

The best part is that all of these books are part of a series, so if you like them you can read more about the characters.  Mom says she thinks the one by Nicola Davies is the best, because she loves the writing of  authors from the United Kingdom (whatever that is), but that kids will like any of these when they are just looking for a fun read.

How to Sniff Out a Good Book

If you're like me (a dog) then you may have found that choosing a good book can be very difficult.  You're stuck in the family room or the backyard, the lights are usually turned off when no one else is home, maybe your reading glasses have been placed up high by a well-meaning human...

I am going to share some tips and tricks that may help you!

First, consider the following:

Access - look for books that have been left in piles on low tables or maybe next to a bed.  They are easier to reach and grab with your teeth.

Smell - does the book smell good?  Does it have that old-book smell or, even better, was the last person reading it eating a sandwich or macaroni and cheese?

Ease-of-use - Can you turn the pages with your nose or tongue?  Are the pages thick or thin, is the book heavy or light, can it stay open on its own or do you have to put a Milk-Bone Brand dog biscuit across the pages?

Cover - Is the cover exciting?  Is there a dog on it (good) or a cat on it (bad)?  If there is a small rodent on the cover snatch it right up!

Reader - Who in your family has been reading it?  If it was one of the children it's probably a good read.  If it was your mother and she is a Children's Librarian you can be assured that it is high-quality.  If your dad was reading it it is assuredly boring.

You may discover, if a family-member puts some visiting hamsters up on top of a tall bookshelf, that you can leap up and reach a whole new set of books!  That is what happened to me, and now that I know they're up there there is no stopping me!  Happy Reading!

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Aviary, but why not the Squirrellery?

It's no secret that I prefer squirrels, but given the boring nature of my Friday afternoon alone I had to find something to read, no matter what it was about.  The book on top of mom's pile was "The Aviary".  The cover is great, dark green and black with all sorts of birds (yummy) and a girl in old-fashioned clothes.   When I read the inside of the cover it told about a crumbling mansion, a magician from the past, an old lady and a girl named Clara. Also an aviary full of some screechy, scary birds.  One day the mynah bird squawks, "Elliot, hurry!" to Clara.  That leads Clara into a mystery with villains and danger and old secrets and lots of birds(!), but sadly no squirrels.
Then here's what happened.  Paul came home!!!!  I had to leap all over him and sniff his smelly shoes, and sit on the couch with him so he wouldn't be lonely.  Now my mom has got the book and she's not sharing, so I'll have to tell you about this book later.  She also says that the inside of the cover is called a flyleaf.

Can I tell you a little about another book with birds?  It is "The Apothecary" by Maile Meloy, with lots of illustrations by Ian Schoenherr.  There are three friends - Janie, Benjamin and Pip.  Benjamin's father, an apothecary, vanishes.  The children have to save his sacred book, the Pharmacopeeeeia, or Pharmacopooiea, or something like that.  It's full of spells and some Russian spies are after it, and they are bad.  There's lots of danger, some good chase scenes (again, sadly without squirrels), a murder, and something you won't believe involving birds!  The cover of the book makes you want to pick it up and drool on it.  I definitely recommend it, especially if you are stuck in the house by yourself and can't even open the door or the refrigerator because you only have paws, no thumbs.  It is good for boys and girls and dogs, but too advanced for cats and hamsters - so don't even think about it!