‘Love Can Be: A Literary Collection About Our Animals’ Is Filled with Beautiful Stories about the Creatures Who Fill our Lives with Beauty

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“Love Can Be” is a touching and creative collection of writing about animals and our connections to them. The contributors include Joyce Carol Oates, Delia Ephron, S. E. Hinton, and Reyna Grande. The stories vary in content from Dean Koontz sharing a story about his much-loved dog Trixie, to Reyna Grande discussing monarch butterflies and comparing their long migration to her life. Both stories share the beauty and mystery of our love for animals.

Each story, those which are not stories about beloved pets and those that are, share a sense of wonder about the world around us and the animals that inhabit them. Those animals whose lives intersect ours enrich us through that interaction from raccoons being saved to frogs and turtles in danger on roadways.

One story, by Wade Rouse, made me cry. He shares the power of dogs to heal us, and his story about rescuing animals and how they repay that good deed many times over is a truth that those who rescue hear over and over. “That dog got me through my cancer treatment” is a statement that I have been told from at least two people who adopted dogs I’d rescued. One was a puppy mill survivor, Irving, and the other a terrier mix whom I found wandering down the sidewalk in Highland Park, unwanted and ungroomed. Rouse’s story is about his father-in-law who had just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and, ignoring all advice and warnings about getting someone a dog for Christmas, they got him a black Lab mix. It was beautiful, tear-jerkingly beautiful — both the story and the writing. Just like love can be.

Love can be many things, and with animals, all things are possible. One thing that is sure is that “Love Can Be: A Literary Collection About our Animals” would be a perfect gift for any animal lover on your holiday gift list. Truly.

The Kirkpatrick Foundation is donating all net proceeds of this book to animal charities in Oklahoma as well as honoraria donated to the contributor’s selected animal charities. Dean Koontz, for example, is a huge supporter of Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), an organization that supplies service dogs to the handicapped and facility dogs to those who work in hospitals and schools. (I attended training for my facility dog at the Oceanside branch of CCI, to which Koontz has donated generously.) His much loved dogs were CCI dogs who were released for various reasons and adopted.

The Kirkpatrick Foundation’s Safe & Humane initiative is comprised of people who care about the welfare of animals and understand that the wellbeing of animals is a key component of community well-being. They are committed to making Oklahoma the safest and most humane place to be an animal by the year 2032. Learn more about that here.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s copy provided by Wunderkind PR for review purposes.

‘Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up’ Is a Fascinating View of What Might Be

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“Beyond the Sixth Extinction: A Post-Apocalyptic Pop-Up” created by Shawn Sheehy and illustrated by Jordi Solano is an imaginative and clever peek into what might become of our world in the year 4847, after the sixth global extinction has happened.

This clever pair created new species from old ones — creatures that adapted to the new ecosystem after environmental disasters and world-wide destruction of wildlife. It’s a new world.

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Five Nonfiction Picture Books for Kids of Many Ages — From Monsters and Animals to Historical Figures and the Flight to the Moon

“Vincent Can’t Sleep: Van Gogh Paints the Night Sky” by Barb Rosenstock and Mary Grandpr√©¬† shares with young readers the lonely, often tormented life of Vincent Van vincentGogh. Each page begins with “Vincent can’t sleep…” and begins with his childhood when at the age of nine or ten he once walked at night six miles from his home in the Netherlands to Belgium where he was “found with torn clothes and muddy shoes.” The author includes that he was moody, “Excited. Bored. Eager. Lazy. Explosive. Shy. His many-colored moods scare the customers — and he’s forced to go.” This is a wonderful book for encouraging discussion about being different. Van Gogh was different. He’s described as “A sensitive boy. A hidden genius. A brilliant artist.” But according to the Author’s Note, he may have only sold five paintings while he was alive. Questions to discuss can include what makes someone successful? Was Van Gogh successful? Was he crazy? Why are his paintings so revered and so valuable? A beautiful book about a brilliant — and tormented — artist. (Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)
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‘Fiona the Hippo’ by Richard Cowdrey Is a Picture Book About Not Giving up (and It’s Adorable!)

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In “Fiona the Hippo,” a picture book by Richard Cowdrey, readers who didn’t know about the baby hippo who was born six weeks early will get to see how the staff at the Cincinnati Zoo cared for her and helped keep her safe. The story is lovely, and Cowdrey cleverly has Fiona say, “I’ve got this!” for each new accomplishment.

That’s a great catch-phrase for kids. Fiona’s story teaches that all new skills take practice — sometimes lots of practice — but if a child is taught determination and perseverance and says, “I’ve got this!” the chances of success are multiplied tenfold.

Fiona got it, and she was reunited with her parents. Cowdrey’s story of Fiona’s start is a picture book that kids will want to read over and over. They will know when to chime in for Fiona, “I’ve got this!” and one might hope that it becomes the new mantra for a generation.

Learn more at Fiona the Hippo. Watch her adorable video on YouTube.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Big Honcho Media for review purposes.

Six Picture Books for Older Kids: Books to Think About

Picture books aren’t just for babies. There are many thoughtful, informational picture books that are wonderful reads for children of all ages. Here are just a few.

god bless america“God Bless America: The Story of an Immigrant Named Irving Berlin” is a very timely nonfiction picture book by Adah Nuchi and illustrated by Rob Polivka. The author is the daughter of immigrants, and this book is chock-full of references to the contributions of immigrants to our country. And the man who wrote such American classics as “God Bless America,” “White Christmas,” “Blue Skies,” and “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” to mention just a few, was an immigrant. In fact, Izzy Baline, more famously known as Irving Berlin, was a prolific, brilliant songwriter. Yet his family escaped from Russia where Jews were being persecuted, and they came to America with their children, their work ethic, and nothing else. When Berlin’s father died, the family was even more in need. So young Berlin went to work, kept writing songs, and eventually sold one, which led to more work. As much as this story is about Irving Berlin, it’s also very much a story about the contributions that immigrants make to our great country. Nuchi writes, “And while some people didn’t like that the voice of America belonged to an immigrant and a Jew, most people felt that a refugee was just the right person to celebrate the hope America held.” Ain’t that the truth. (Disney-Hyperion)

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From Robins to Band-aids: Nonfiction Picture Books Perfect for Summer Reading

Just because it’s summer and the sun is shining doesn’t mean it’s time to stop reading. Not with all the fabulous books out there that children will love and that will keep them learning new information. From animals who build shelters to the man who invents a way to make bandages to help his accident-prone wife, here are a bunch of books to make your summer a bit more interesting!

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Summer Comic Books that Will Keep You (and Your Kids) Learning: ‘Action Presidents’ Series

 

Shhh. Don’t tell the kids, but when they start reading and laughing out loud at the humor in the “Action Presidents #1: George Washington” and “Action Presidents #2: Abraham Lincoln,” they will be learning a bunch of history at the same time. Real history — history presented in a graphic novel format that’s humor-filled and easy-to-understand.

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‘Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind’

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A beautifully written, touching picture book about a shameful period of American history is “Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind” by Cynthia Grady and illustrated by Amiko Hirao.

The book includes pictures from that time of children wearing identification tags and families with their belongings (they were only allowed to bring what they could carry). At the heart of the story is Clara Breed, a children’s librarian in San Diego County where many Japanese American families lived. She formed relationships with her patrons, and when they told her that they were going to be imprisoned because they were of Japanese descent, she gave them postcards so they could keep in contact with her.

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

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“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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‘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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