Pandemic-perfect picture books Part Two: We’ve gone to the dogs

As many have discovered during this pandemic, adopting or fostering a dog (or cat) is a lovely way to have a furry, loving companion who gives nothing but love (and fur). There’s nothing quite like an animal’s unconditional love. Here are some reading choices that will share some training tips you may (or may not) want to take note of, as well as some doggy quirks (like digging in dirt), and two picture books about dogs and reading.

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‘A Guard Dog Named Honey’ by Denise Gosliner Orenstein is a sweet summer story of determination, friendship, and a big slobbery dog

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I started the middle grade story “A Guard Dog Named Honey” by Denise Gosliner Orenstein predisposed to dislike it. I don’t usually approach books with that attitude, of course, but this one is about a girl who wants to sell a dog for profit in order to raise the bail money to get her brother out of jail. I’m all about the dogs, and if her brother was in jail, I reasoned, no dog should suffer because of his stupidity.

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‘Devoted’ by Dean Koontz brings back — in spirit — a genius dog from decades ago.

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The Dean Koontz book that got me hooked on him was “The Watchers,” and the dog in that book, a brilliant golden retriever, thoroughly enchanted me. In “Devoted,” Koontz creates a dog, and then a network of dogs who — maybe, he hints — descend from that highly intelligent dog. And Kipp, the loyal golden, is the kind of dog every dog lover dreams of having — a dog who understands us completely and can communicate with us freely. Continue reading

‘The NOT Bad Animals’ by Sophie Corrigan is the perfect book for an online lesson in critical thinking

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It’s stay-at-home time in Illinois with COVID 19 everywhere. We left school on a Thursday afternoon expecting to return on Friday. But after an emergency school board meeting, our superintendent (rightly) decided to close school that night. School as usual was cancelled, and we have not been allowed to go back.

For me, it’s presenting a problem because all of my treasured personal picture books, a collection built up over years of reviewing superb books, are in my classroom. But a few new picture books have arrived in the mail, and one, in particular, is going to make for an excellent lesson with my first and second (and maybe third) grade students. Continue reading

‘What I Lick Before Your Face and other haikus by dogs’ by Jamie Coleman

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Dog lovers will be charmed and amused by this little literary gem, with an adorable photo of a dog licking its face on the cover, and more adorable photos of dogs on every page. From pit bulls to pugs, the faces of the dogs and the haikus on each dog’s page are carefully selected for maximum effect. The lovely white poodle with the fancy lion haircut adorns a haiku that reads:

‘Names
Within me there lies
The blood of a million wolves
You named me “Fluffy”‘

Some haikus are so clever and ambiguous, only dog parents will know what they are really referring to. “Lunch, no longer lunch/ Pooling in autumn sunshine/ Becomes again lunch”

There’s many references to poop and balls. The toilet might also be mentioned a few times. After all, it’s a dog who “wrote” these poems. Right? But there are also references to the companionship and love we have for our dogs and they have for us. But mostly, it’s humor. With some poignant exceptions like on poem titled “Going to Live on the Farm:” “Guys, there is no farm/ I wish there was, but there is/ Only nothingness” Heartbreaking haiku.

What makes these poems so enjoyable and so relatable is that they really do seem to express the feelings of our dogs. Loving, resigned, stoic, even disgusting at times, in all ways like our four-legged (usually) best friends.

And to answer the title question? It’s what remains after the surgery to neuter one’s dog, only expressed in rather less technical language.

First posted on Bookreporter.com.

 

‘A Flicker of Courage’ by Deb Caletti is a farcical fantasy for middle grade readers

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“A Flicker of Courage” by Deb Caletti is a book that will appeal to children who love extremely fantastic books — fantastic in the sense that everything that happens in this story is either the best or the worst in the world, and Henry Every, the main character, and his four friends will have to vanquish evil and do heroic deeds without being caught or killed themselves. Continue reading

‘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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