‘Ember (Rescue Dogs #1)’ is an inspiring novel about an “unadoptable” rescue dog who performs feats of heroism

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There are many dogs in shelters who are adopted and then returned over and over again. They bark too much. They are too active. They are too playful. In “Ember: Rescue Dogs #1” by Jane B. Mason and Sarah Hines-Stephens, we learn that those kinds of dogs often make the best working dogs.

This story is the first in what will be a series about rescue dogs who earn that title by then rescuing others — in effect showing the readers that just because a dog is in a shelter, unwanted, that dog, like all dogs, has a place where it can shine. Ember, who in the story pushes all her young siblings out from their hidden place when a fire threatens their home, a hole under a house, is rescued last. The firefighter who pulls her out resuscitates her and cradles her in his hand. Before leaving her with the animal control workers, he gifts her with one of his gloves. That turns out to be her most prized possession as poor Ember goes from one family to another, each time returned to the shelter for various reasons.

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‘Stay’ by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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How important are the decisions we make almost thoughtlessly on a day-to-day basis? Sometimes they can have life-altering implications, and in this carefully crafted story about flawed characters, Catherine Ryan Hyde shows that sometimes, heroism isn’t made up of bold, brave actions but rather of listening and sharing small moments.

The story is about fourteen-year-old Lucas Painter. He explains, from some point in the future, that during the summer of 1969, his brother was in Viet Nam, and he was trying to help his best friend, Connor. Both Connor and Lucas have less-than-ideal family lives.

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‘Freeing Finch’ by Ginny Rorby is a middle grade novel about love and what makes a family

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In “Freeing Finch,” author Ginny Rorby does what she excels at — the creation of a main character who is in need of love, understanding, and a place where she feels safe. Part of Finch’s problem is that she was born Morgan, the son of two loving parents. But since she was old enough to articulate the thought, Finch has insisted that she’s a girl. Her mother didn’t mind how she dressed or wore her hair, although it was a source of tension with her father.

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‘The Dog I Loved’ by Susan Wilson who writes books about dogs and love of dogs

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“The Dog I Loved” is by Susan Wilson, many of whose books are about the relationships between people and the dogs who redeem them. Her books are about loss, betrayal, romance, and most of all, about what the love of a dog can do to save us, to make us feel whole, to make us more human. And in this novel, she does just that.

It’s the story of two women, Rosie and Meghan, who meet because of a dog, and it’s the story of how both their lives are changed by that dog and another dog, Shadow, the mystical dog that appears later in the story. It’s also about abuse and loneliness and how we can find comfort in friendship and by having a loving canine companion by our side.

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‘Blind Search; A Mercy Carr mystery’ by Paula Munier is the second in this delightful dog-filled mystery series

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With her “Marcy Carr” series, including the new “Blind Search,” Paula Munier checks all the boxes as to what makes a successful, gripping mystery. First and foremost, the main character, Mercy, and the former military working dog, Elvis, are likable and realistic. Elvis was her fiancee’s military working dog, and when he was killed, both his fianc√© and his dog suffered greatly. Mercy is far from perfect, and she admits that the issue preventing her and Elvis from becoming search and rescue dogs is that they both sometimes¬† lack warmth when dealing with people. Continue reading

Winter and Christmas perfect picture books for the holidays

It’s the time of year for snuggling by the fire, or just on a warm bed, and reading stories about winter, about family, about the holidays. Here are books for everyone — some are just beautiful winter tales about friendship and peace, others are about the Christmas season. Some have wonderful important messages and others are just plain funny. There’s a book for everyone in this sweet collection of picture books perfect for reading aloud.

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‘Stay’ by Bobbie Pyron is a middle grade story about how dogs make us human and how a dog can — almost — save a person’s sanity

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In “Stay,” author Bobbie Pyron creates a story that will grab readers by the heartstrings as they root for practically everyone in this tale of homelessness, pride, friendship, mental illness, and above all — dogs. For in this middle grade novel, the dogs are important parts of the story and important — vitally — to those with whom they live.

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‘I Can Make this Promise’ by Christine Day is touching and diverse middle grade realistic fiction

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“I Can Make this Promise” by Christine Day explores the emotional impact of finding out about one’s own heritage and culture, and at the same time shares a part of our history that is both shocking and horrifying. This book would be an excellent companion choice to Joseph Bruchac’s “Two Roads,” about Native Americans sent to “Indian School” and the discrimination suffered by Native Americans a century ago.

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Dogs, Dogs, Dogs: Three books about dogs that will make you love them even more

It’s rare for me to get three nonfiction adult books about dogs in one month, and even rarer when there is a definite link between the three books. “Rescue Dogs: Where They Come From, Why They Act the Way They Do, and How to Love Them Well” is, like all of the books, a touching set of stories, all about “Pete Paxton” (a pseudonym) and his investigation and undercover work to help dogs who are suffering from puppy mills, bunching facilities, and backyard breeders. The stories are heartbreaking, and in the subsequent sections of the book he delineates why it’s important to rescue or adopt a dog instead of buying one from a breeder or pet store. He also shares how to find a rescue dog and what to expect when you bring it home. His stories always focus on one special dog that energized him, a special personality that motivated him to make things better for all dogs. And in “Doctor Dogs,” Maria Goodavage shares stories of many special dogs, all of whom make the lives of their humans infinitely better. In fact, many of these special dogs have the ability to make life better for mankind as a whole. She shares the many, myriad ways dogs heal us, help us discover illness, help us live with disease, and help us emotionally. The third book, “Molly: The true story of the amazing dog who rescues cats,” brings things full circle with the two previous books. Molly is a rescue, and that’s what Colin Butcher, the author, was determined to use for his proposition — training a dog to rescue cats. He and his family had rescued animals his whole life, and he didn’t want to buy a dog from a breeder, but rather rescue one, as is encouraged in “Rescue Dogs.” Interestingly, the training that Molly received is from the same group that is mentioned often in “Doctor Dogs,” and which nonprofit trains dogs to help humans in many, many ways — even finding lost cats.

Each of these three books is a fabulous read — but don’t just read one, read them all! Continue reading

‘Dachshund Through the Snow’ by David Rosenfelt is a doggone sweet thriller with plenty of four-legged love to go around

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Fans of the “Andy Carpenter” series are going to be thrilled. New readers will be charmed. With “Dachshund Through the Snow,” author David Rosenfelt has added a new canine to the regulars. There’s Tara, namesake of the late real Tara much beloved by Rosenfelt and his wife, for whom they began to rescue many, many senior dogs. Then there’s the basset hound Sebastian, whose gait is tortoise-slow. Now there’s Simon, retired (thanks to Andy Carpenter’s brilliance and his handler’s love) K9. He and his handler, Corey Douglas, will be making return appearances. Continue reading

Don’t miss these 7 children’s picture books about dogs and cats and a turtle and how much we love our pets

There’s nothing that goes together better than a child and a dog, unless it’s a child and a cat or some other kind of pet. In this collection of wonderful picture books, the authors show the special bond that children have with animals. Full disclosure: I’m a teacher, and I believe every child should have a pet. I must also disclose that I rescue dogs and cats (and occasionally rats and rabbits and birds) and always help my students try to convince their parents that they should have a dog or cat. Read on and maybe you’ll be convinced, too.

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Picture books about children and their pets . . . with a twist

Children and adults love picture books that are about animals. In this collection of recently released picture books, readers will love reading about pets, but even more, they will love that these books are not about a traditional pets. Each one is quirky and each one will entertain children read after read.
spencers new pet“Spencer’s New Pet” by Jessie Sima is a fabulous story, and the illustrations tell the whole story. It’s a book without words, and kids love being the ones to tell the story. Even the endpapers are lovely as they countdown the start of the story as if it’s a silent film, because in a way, a story with no words is like a silent film. The reader/watcher has to supply the text. The illustrations are mostly in black and white, with many shades of gray and spots of red — a color that becomes important. The story is even divided into parts like a silent film. The first character we see is the balloon dog, “the pet.” Then we see the boy, who we know from the title is Spencer, leaving a circus tent and walking his new pet on a leash. He is entranced with his new pet and plays with it constantly and sleeps with it at night. But he quickly realizes that life is filled with dangerous sharp objects that could be deadly. Kids (and adults) adore the huge twist at the end that no one saw coming. One reading will not be enough. (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers)

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