‘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.

‘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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‘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 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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‘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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‘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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‘S.T.A.G.S.’ by M. A. Bennett Is a Thrilling Young Adult That Will Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats


In “S.T.A.G.S.” by M. A. Bennett, the reader is introduced to the life of the rich and elite through the eyes of a scholarship student who attends a posh British boarding school.

Greer MacDonald, a middle-class girl, is the one token scholarship student attending the $50,000 a year private school attended by Britain’s ultra-wealthy, ultra-upper-class teens. Also attending the school are others who don’t quite fit in with the snobbish students,  especially the group of power students, the Medievals, who practically run the school.

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7 Fabulous Choices in Children’s Picture Books for Black History Month

With the increase in diversity in children’s books, there is a plethora of wonderful books for children of all ages that are perfect picks for February and the celebration of Black History.

“Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic dreambigdreamsPresidency” by Pete Souza, the former chief official White House photographer, is a beautiful book filled with touching and insightful images of a president who could be solemn when the occasion called for it, caring when compassion was needed, loving with his family, and fun when children were involved. The images show a man who wasn’t afraid to be real with people and to show them that he cared. The photographs show a man who radiates confidence and charm. It’s a really lovely book. (Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers)

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Ten Perfectly Poignant Picture Books for Valentine’s Day

It’s not too late to get the perfect Valentine’s Day present for your favorite picture book reader. Here are ten picture-perfect choices.

Dog lovers who are book lovers know that almost no one writes nonfiction dog books IMG_3995like Dorothy Hinshaw Patent, author of “Made for Each Other: Why Dogs and People Are Perfect Partners.” This small picture book is aimed at older picture book readers, although younger readers will love the beautiful photographs by William Muñoz. The book is filled with all the nonfiction features teachers love to teach, like Contents (Part One: A Perfect Partnership; Part Two: The Science of Love; and Part Three: Sharing Our Lives), Resources for Young Readers (books, websites and videos with more information), Source Notes and Additional Sources (a bibliography of resources used for the information in the book), and an Index. Within the book’s pages is information ranging from how dogs differ from wolves and how they may have parted ways in the past to how dogs help us now by being our best friends, guiding us, protecting us, providing us with therapy, and just loving us. It’s a beautiful, completely true love story. (Crown Books for Young Readers)

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‘The Piper’s Apprentice’ Is the Last Novel in ‘The Secrets of the Pied Piper’ series by Matthew Cody


Matthew Cody’s books are much beloved by middle grade readers and with good cause. Like his latest trilogy, “The Secrets of the Pied Piper,” all his books feature fabulous characters, thrilling plots, and some really good writing.

In “The Piper’s Apprentice,” the last book in the series, Cody does what is all-too-often missing from last books in a series, he manages to include enough information about what has happened that the reader isn’t lost by reading this book without having just reread the first two books. And if the reader is reading all three books in a row (lucky reader!), he or she will not even notice that bit of extra information that keeps someone who read the second book in the series a year ago from feeling lost.

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‘Truly Devious’ by Maureen Johnson Is a Thrilling Mystery

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“Truly Devious” by much-loved young adult author Maureen Johnson is a fabulous novel. It begins as a mystery about a murder that took place over 80 years ago at an elite private school in Vermont.

The novel is really two stories combined into one mystery. There is the decades-old mystery of Albert Ellingham’s wife and daughter, who disappeared while on a car ride. The wife’s body was found, but there has been no trace of the three-year-old daughter, and what happened to her remains a mystery. The kidnappers did contact Ellingham, demanded a huge sum of money, and escaped with the money.

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