‘Can I Be Your Dog?’ by Troy Cummings Is a Must-Have Picture Book for Dog Lovers


“Can I Be Your Dog?” by Troy Cummings is a book that should be on the shelf of every family who loves dogs. It’s an extremely touching story of a homeless dog who wants nothing more than a home of his own.

He decides to try to find a home by writing letters to the people who live on his street, Butternut Street. He starts with the nicest house on the street and explains in his missive that he is potty trained and has his own squeaky bone. He even offers to get along with their cat. They respond:

“Dear Arfy,
We’re so sorry, but you cannot be our dog. Our cat is, um, allergic to dogs. Good luck in your search!
The Honeywells”

Arfy’s face is sad as he reads the letter, but Arfy doesn’t give up. He writes a letter to the butcher lady offering to keep her floor clean. The illustration shows the mail carrier reading the letter as she walks up to the Chop Chop Butcher Shop to deliver the letter.

Each time Arfy writes a letter and the mail carrier delivers it, he is rejected. The last letter he sends is heartbreaking:

Dear last house on Butternut Street,
Can I be your dog? I see that your yard is full of weeds, and your windows are broken, and there’s a funny smell. But I’m not picky. Just lonely. Arfy

When the letter is returned to sender, the reader can see the return address. “Arfy, Soggy Box in the alley.” And Arfy cries. It’s raining and Arfy goes into his soggy box and sleeps there, alone.

But the next morning, there’s a letter waiting for Arfy! A letter with a pink sticker that says “to Arfy.” And unexpectedly, Arfy has a home of his own.

The story is lovely and kids will be rooting for Arfy to find some happiness. Depending on the age of the readers, a discussion might be had about how Arfy ended up alone and homeless. On the last page are some tips about helping a homeless animal. The suggestions include adopting a shelter animal, volunteering at a shelter, spaying or neutering pets, donating to a local rescue group, and helping find animal friends forever homes.

Cummings includes a curious dedication: “To the real Arfy.” Who is the “real” Arfy? Cummings explains:

“As for the “real Arfy” in my book dedication, it’s sort of a combination of two dogs in my life. Arfy’s name comes from a raggedy-old stuffed toy dog I had as a kid. And his heart comes from a real-life scruffy mutt who showed up at our house when I was about six years old. Those dogs and I had a lot in common: we loved to cuddle, we loved to play in the woods, and we all really needed a bath. I lost both dogs around third grade, and still have dreams about them. So this book is, in part, a little thank-you letter to those two puppies.”
Cummings goes on the share that he and his family are “big supporters of rescue…both in terms of the animals we live with, and by volunteering our time and money to helping our animal pals.”
Cummings must enjoy visiting schools to share his work because he commented on how much he loves seeing the dog and cat posters that students create when trying to help animals. In fact, he says, “Student-created dog and cat posters are pretty much my favorite thing ever.” He’s hugely impressed by students, especially those in elementary school, who donate their time and money to save animals.
So if you want Cummings to visit your school, a great incentive might be to have a fundraiser for a local rescue in his honor! He’d love it and the local rescue could probably really use the help!

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by the publisher, Random House Books for Young Readers, for review purposes.

‘The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig’ Is a Picture Book that Will Charm Readers Young and Old


“The True Adventures of Esther the Wonder Pig” by Steve Jenkins, Derek Walter and Caprice Crane is illustrated by Cori Doerrfeld. It’s a lovely picture book about a pig who grew and grew — not only in size, but also in the hearts of those who love her.

Esther’s story is incredible. Adopted as a mini-piglet, she was nothing of the kind. An acquaintance called her adopters, two of the authors of the picture book, and said that she had a five-pound micro-piglet but couldn’t care for it. She explained that the piglet shouldn’t grow to more than 70 pounds. The adopters thought Esther would be like a third dog, but when they took Esther to the vet, he broke the news that Esther wasn’t a micro-piglet, but rather a commercial pig. The woman who gave them Esther wouldn’t answer messages.

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‘Being Fishkill’ by Ruth Lehrer Is a Heartbreaking Young Adult Novel About Those Born into Despair

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“Being Fishkill” by Ruth Lehrer is a book that will break your heart and force you to think about the horrors that a troubled family may engender. If you are born into a family filled with incest, abuse, and poverty, your choices, your life, and your future may be forfeit to a fate from which you cannot escape.

Fishkill Carmel, who was named after the exits that the car she was born in was passing at the moment of her birth, has lived the first twelve years of her life with her illiterate mother and her extremely abusive grandfather. When her grandfather dies and her mother disappears, she lives on her own in their cabin. But after befriending Duk-Duk at school, life turns around for Fishkill. For a while.

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20 Dogs in Rural Florida County Shelter Urgently Need Rescue by March 20

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There are 20 dogs at the Sebring, Florida county shelter who are scheduled to be killed on Tuesday if they are not rescued or adopted before then. The volunteers are desperately trying to spread the word so that no lives are lost. Please share their story and please see if any of these dogs might work with your rescue, should you have one. The volunteers are willing to help with transport and pulling the dogs.

Note that all the dogs have the comment that they need a slow introduction to other dogs and cats. This is because shelter workers and volunteers know that when adopters are rushed and impatient, the results can be bad, so dogs get returned to the shelter. There are proper ways to introduce new dogs into a household. The internet has lots of information — just Google it. But a dog needs time to decompress from the stress of being in a shelter with many, many other dogs. Just throwing a dog into a new environment without slow introductions is taking a huge risk. And when an adopted dog is returned to the shelter, often a second “owner surrender” at that point, the shelter often doesn’t give the dog much time to find a new home. Please, no matter where you adopt from, do some research. Ask questions and take lots of time.

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‘Read the Book, Lemmings!’ by Ame Dyckman Is A Darling & Humorous Picture Book About the Value of Reading

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It’s funny, it’s informative, it’s clever, and the illustrations are great. “Read the Book, Lemmings!” by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Zachariah OHora is a must-have for toddlers and kids through third grade. The adults reading the book will love it, too!

The book begins with some facts about lemmings:

“lemmings: small, fuzzy, illiterate rodents who share the icy North with arctic foxes and polar bears. People used to think lemmings jumped off cliffs. Now we know they don’t.”

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‘The Wife’ by Alafair Burke Is a Suspense-Filled #MeToo Novel

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In “The Wife,” Alafair Burke manages to combine several characters who bring plenty of backstory to the novel. The titular wife, Angela, is the survivor of a kidnapping she had suffered as a teenager. She and another teen were kept by a sadistic rapist and tortured for years. She finally escaped with a baby, but the other girl was killed.

When Angela met Jason Powell, a successful professor, the fact that he wanted to marry her overwhelmed her. But she was thrilled at the chance to leave East Hampton, where her parents and those around her struggled to make a living. Angela had had her life disrupted when she was kidnapped, so she never finished high school. That left her feeling insecure around Jason’s highly educated friends, so she became a homebody, happy to be left to raise the son whom Jason considers his as well.

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‘The Thrifty Guide to Ancient Rome’ and ‘The Thrifty Guide to the American Revolution’ Are Both ‘Handbooks for Time Travelers’ by Jonathan W. Stokes


Kids who love reading about history and facts will love “The Thrifty Guide” books, billed as “A Handbook for Time Travelers,” a time-traveling series by talented author Jonathan W. Stokes. Sprinkled throughout the books are references to vacation packages to exotic places/times like ancient Rome and other hot locales. There are also legal warnings like this one:

“If you are shot by a British musket, just remember, you signed a waiver. Enjoy your trip to the American Revolution!”

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Young Florida Dogs Urgently in Need of Rescue By March 1


On Thursday, ten dogs at the Sebring Shelter in Florida will die unless they are adopted or pulled by rescue. Many of these dogs are still practically puppies. A few of the dogs should not go to homes with cats, including Ramsey, who is a volunteer favorite! Please read about them, share their story, and help them if you can. Pledging on their Facebook post helps rescues know that any medical needs will be covered. Please visit the Sebring Facebook page to see videos of the dogs, too.

Hammy is an incredibly sweet dog who arrived at the shelter horribly emaciated. He only weighs 36 pounds and he should be around 60 pounds. The volunteers say he’s sweet and happy. He certainly deserves a home where he will be fed and cared for, and where his love will be returned for the first time in his life. He’s only a year old.
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‘Marabel and the Book of Fate’ by Tracy Barrett Is a Middle Grade Fantasy With Princesses and Unicorns But also Plenty of Feminist Appeal


“Marabel and the Book of Fate” by Tracy Barrett is a clever book about a young girl, a princess, who is not afraid to act in spite of often being treated as if she is a fragile creature with no brains and no abilities.

Marabel’s twin brother, Marcos, was born at the exact moment to fulfill a prophesy in the Book of Fate, a book with truths (or so those who translate it believe), so he is considered the Chosen One. What that exactly means is unclear, but Marcos is all-important and Marabel, his twin, who was born one minute later, feels invisible. Her mother died when they were young, her stepmother is kind, but her father, the king, is rather distant and uninvolved.

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‘Marty Pants: Keep Your Paws Off!’ by Mark Parisi Perfect for Young Readers


“Marty Pants: Keep Your Paws Off!” by Mark Parisi is the perfect book for readers who enjoy “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” And, of course, every boy between the ages of seven and seventeen loves the “Diary” books, so this book should be an easy sell.

In this second book in the series, Marty thinks he’s turning into a werewolf. The story shows him going through stages of being certain the changes are happening and then thinking it’s not true. As Marty goes through his day at home with his older sister, and then at school on picture day, readers will smile and laugh out loud at the situations in which Marty finds himself.

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‘The Ambrose Deception’ by Emily Ecton Is a Clever and Creative Caper for Middle Grade Readers


“The Ambrose Deception” by Emily Ecton is an unusual mystery/adventure set in Chicago, as experienced by a trio of middle school students who have been chosen for a unique assignment — not for their brains, nor for their talent — but because of their rather unusual abilities and what have perceived as their failures.

But these three teens are admirable and determined. When their inclusion in a scholarship competition is announced to their schools, members of the staff are sure a mistake has been made. Yet each of the three has a unique talent that will help them in the competition — but only after they get together to solve the mystery.

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