Fabulous Picture Books by Steve Antony Kids Love that Teach Life Lessons


Steve Antony‘s picture books are brilliant. Each one is like a treasure filled with amazing animals, and each one teaches manners, patience and cooperation.

pleasemrpandaIt started with “Please, Mr. Panda,” in which Mr. Panda has a box of doughnuts he is willing to give away. He asks the animals one by one if they want doughnuts. When some say they want one or all of the doughnuts, Mr. Panda replies that he has changed his mind and they cannot have any doughnuts. This continues until one animal finally responds correctly, with the magic word “please.” That animal gets all the doughnuts. It turns out that Mr. Panda does not like doughnuts! Make sure that the endpapers are examined as part of the book reading. Each of them is different from the other, and both definitely add to the story! Continue reading

‘Saturdays at Sea’ by Jessica Day George is a Beautiful Ending to a Lovely Middle Grade Fantasy Series

saturday at sea

“Saturdays at Sea” by Jessica Day George is the last book in the five-book series that began with “Tuesdays at the Castle.” It’s a lovely fantasy series for middle grade readers who aren’t really interested in romance, but do love adventure and magical creatures.

“Saturdays at Sea” is the last episode, as Celie and her family leave their beloved Castle to meet the family of her sister Lilah’s bethrothed, Lulath, in their seaside country. In the last book, Celie found a ship’s figurehead, and they decided that a ship would be built as a wedding gift for the couple using wood from all parts of the different countries that have figured in the series — to unify them all — and the figurehead.

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‘City of Saints & Thieves’ by Natalie C. Anderson is impossible to put down

city saints

With “City of Saints & Thieves,” author Natalie C. Anderson managed to write a story that had me so enthralled, so committed to the main character, so intrigued by the plot and the setting, that I stayed up much later than I should have two nights in a row to complete the novel, enjoying every minute.

The story is compelling, and the setting is fascinating. The story takes place in several parts of Africa, mainly Kenya. Tina, the sixteen-year-old main character, is an orphan after her mother is killed while working for an extremely wealthy businessman, Roland Greyhill. She thinks he killed her mother because she had seen them argue the night before the murder, and she had heard  him threaten her mother. Her mother was shot in his office, and the local police did not bother to really investigate the crime.

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‘Be Quiet!’ by Ryan T. Higgins is Pure Laughter (and 3 Adorable Mice)


Ryan T. Higgins is the author and illustrator of “Be Quiet!” a picture book that features the three mice from his previous clever picture book, “Hotel Bruce.” One of the mice, Rupert, envisions the creation of a beautiful, wordless book filled with lovely images.

His buddies, Thistle and Nibbs, two other mice, don’t quite understand the concept. In fact, there is a lot they don’t understand. And as the book fills up with their humorous chatter, Rupert gets more and more angry and frustrated.

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‘The Return’ by Joseph Helmreich is a brilliant science fiction thriller


“The Return,” Joseph Helmreich’s science-fictionesque novel, is a spellbinding exercise in the mystical and the mysterious, the prosaic and the poetic, the scientific and the fantastic. The plot is just convoluted enough that the reader might think at first that he or she is reading a group of almost unrelated short stories. But it all comes together at the end in a veritable burst of colors, fire, ashes, and finally hope and love. And this is a love story, a surprising, touching, sad, and hopeful tale.

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‘Rescuing Penny Jane: One Shelter Volunteer, Countless Dogs, and the Quest to Find Them All Homes’


rescuing penny jane


In her recent book, “Rescuing Penny Jane: One Shelter Volunteer, Countless Dogs, and the Quest to Find Them All Homes,” author Amy Sutherland shares not only her personal experiences as a shelter volunteer, but also her investigations of other shelters, the practice of sending shelter dogs across the country to other shelters, and how to help shelters find  homes for dog.

Penny Jane, the titular dog whom Sutherland ended up adopting, came from a farm in rural Maine where she was probably born outside and may have had little or no human contact during her puppy months. Sutherland writes:

“Puppies can easily adjust to life with another species, even a towering one with long, insect-like appendages such as ours, if they are handled and cuddled. If they have not been, humans become as scary as Martians. (The two puppies) fear of humans was a sure sign of their being feral, or what is also called unsocialized.”

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Shelter workers’ mistake to cost dog her life



Update: Penelope was pulled by rescue thanks to all those who shared her story! Thank you all!



Shelter workers neglect to change the status on a dog’s kennel card and a young dog may die because of it.

pkennelcardPenelope was pre-adopted, and her kennel card was changed to show that. But when the adopter didn’t show, the card was never changed back. So no one looking to adopt a dog paid any attention to Penelope because she had the words “adopted” written on her kennel card. Not once but five times. Those words covered the kennel card. It was obvious to all who visited the shelter that Penelope was safe.

Now the shelter is giving Penelope less than 24 hours to get adopted or rescued or she will be killed. Unless the shelter received an email by 9:00 am tomorrow, Friday March 3rd, Penelope will be euthanized.

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‘Daisy in Chains’ by Sharon Bolton is a marvelous thriller


“Daisy in Chains” by Sharon Bolton is a psychological thriller, murder mystery and romance. Hamish Wolfe, a doctor convicted of killing three women, is helped by Maggie Rose, a well-respected author/attorney who has gotten several convicted killers out of jail on appeal.

The reader is very aware that there is much that is off-kilter about the two main characters. Maggie Rose is mysterious, and the third-person omniscient narrator shares her thoughts, her doubts, and her obsessions. The author says:

“Every copper in the land has heard of Maggie Rose: defense barrister, true-crime author, pain-in-the-police-force’s-collective-arse, but few have met her. She doesn’t do interviews, has never released a photograph.”

For a good part of the book, Wolfe, his mother, and a group of supporters beg Rose to take his case. They truly believe he is innocent of killing the three women, but the evidence was extremely convincing that he did, indeed, do the deed.

In college, Wolfe’s girlfriend was Daisy, a very overweight girl whom he loved in spite of her girth. One night she disappeared after finding out that Wolfe’s friends targeted heavy girls in order to ridicule and film them. The three murdered women, like Daisy, were very overweight.

When Rose finally does take the case, it’s obvious that she feels a personal attraction to Wolfe. It’s understandable because he is an extremely handsome man. But the reader will sense that there is more going on. There is the mysterious person Rose talks to. There are mysterious letters to Wolfe. Rose’s house is broken into.

By the end, the reader is very aware of what the mystery is and who Rose really is. But that’s not the final twist in the story. While making the reader think that the big reveal will be who Rose really is, at the end the author pulls a fiendishly clever double switch.

The story is intriguing and well written. It’s also a difficult book to put down once begun — the author includes Rose’s draft chapters for the book she is writing about Wolfe, letters from and to Wolfe, and the story itself. It’s a wonderful choice for mystery lovers and would be a great book to discuss with a book club.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Minotaur Books for review purposes.

Dog urgently needs home in Miami


Milly thought she had it made. After spending three long months at Miami Dade Animal Services, and after being featured on a pet segment for NBC, there was no interest in her, and she was definitely running out of time. Things did not look good for this sweet dog.

But a volunteer’s coworker visited the shelter and adopted Milly. During the week after the adoption, Milly seemed like the perfect dog. She was cuddly and shared a bed with her new “mom,”  she was smart and affectionate, she knew commands, and she got along with the Chihuahua in the home.

But the happy family life ended when Milly’s adopter arrived home from work to find puncture marks on her Chihuahua, who was bleeding. She rushed the tiny dog to the veterinarian. She was dismayed because things had seemed to be fine between the dogs. But she worried about her small dog, and even through she loved Milly in that short week, she returned her to the shelter.

The adopter is begging for someone to save Milly. She is heartbroken (please, no negative comments), and wants to tell people that Milly is “everything she was looking for in a dog.” And she had been visiting the shelter since her other dog died three months earlier. Now she feels doubly guilty — that her Chihuahua was injured, and that Milly was abandoned yet again.

Milly is a great dog who needs time and someone willing to take things slowly in terms of introductions to other dogs. But even great dogs are killed at this shelter where dogs are either labeled aggressive and killed or said to be sick and then killed. Milly’s return to the shelter offers those in charge the perfect opportunity to kill her. They can simply say she is “dog aggressive” and kill her. Please don’t let that happen. Please share her story.

Milly deserves another chance.

Milly is ID#A1806505. She is listed as a spayed female tan and white Terrier mix. The shelter says she is around three years old and 48 pounds. There may be more information on her Facebook thread. She is located at Miami Dade Animal Services, 3599 NW 79 Avenue, Doral, Florida 33166. The phone number is (305) 884-1101. The shelter is open Monday through Friday from 10:00 am to 6:30 pm and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. Email:pets@miamidade.gov for more information.

Please note that I do not work at the shelter. Do not post pledges or offers to adopt in the comments — they will not be seen by the shelter. Contact the shelter directly to help, or visit the Facebook threads for more information. Also, only respectful, profanity-free comments will be approved.

‘A Shadow Bright and Burning’ is YA fantasy that will hook the reader

a-shadowJessica Cluess manages to hook the reader on the very first page of “A Shadow Bright and Burning.” That’s not an easy feat — especially when the reader is weary of young adult fantasies with long titles. They all start to sound the same.

But after reading just the first few pages, “A Shadow Bright and Burning” was a difficult book to put down. It’s the story of Henrietta, an orphaned young girl in Victorian England (a magical, alternate Victorian England) who has a magical power — fire. She’s afraid that she’s a witch, and witches are killed in England, so she hides her power.

But she is “outed” when she uses her power to save the life of her best friend when one of the magical ancient monsters — who were unleashed by witches and magicians years before — tries to kill him. Her friend, Rook, is considered “unclean” because he bears the scars from being attacked by one of the monsters. He is one of the few who lived through the attack. The “unclean” are shunned by those untouched by monsters.

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Two senior dogs in Miami urgently need rescue or adoption

While the brand new county shelter in Miami says it’s “no kill,” the numbers don’t reflect that. Those who work hard to network the dogs in the shelter have seen what happens to large dogs, bully breeds and senior dogs. In fact, right now there are two senior dogs at the shelter who volunteers are hoping will get pulled or adopted before they are killed for being “aggressive” or sick.

Both these senior dogs are black, which is an additional strike against them. Not only are black dogs the color of dogs most euthanized in shelters, older black dogs are almost impossible to get adopted.

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Sweet Baloo on the kill list for tomorrow


Volunteers at Rescue Me Tampa are begging for someone to help Baloo and seven other dogs who are all on the kill list for tomorrow in Tampa, Florida. The Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center is an open access county shelter, so when they run out of space, difficult decisions must be made.

Some of the dogs in danger are in isolation because they have an upper respiratory infection (URI), basically a doggy cold. Because space is extremely limited in the isolation wing, those dogs are killed when another dog needs their kennel. Baloo is going to die when his kennel is needed, unless someone steps up to adopt him or offer to foster him for ten days. Just a ten day foster, someone opening up their home for ten days, would save Baloo’s life.

True he would go back to the shelter and into a regular kennel, but he’d have more time and a better chance of getting adopted. The volunteers say that Baloo is very friendly and very rambunctious. That makes sense as he is only one year old — almost still a puppy!

Once Baloo ran a bit and was able to shake off the excess energy from being cooped up in a kennel, he lay next to the volunteer and relaxed. They said about him, “Awesome guy!” He may know basic obedience commands as he did sit on command.

There is more information on how to rescue Baloo on his Facebook thread. He is heartworm negative and ready to be adopted. He is ID#A1655846.

dogs in dangerFive other dogs, Thunderbird (ID#A1655477), Cooper (ID#A1651867), Bella, a small two-year-old bulldog mix, Becky (ID#A1653352) and Tiny (ID#A1653484), a one-year-old bloodhound mix, are also on the kill list.

To save Baloo’s life or any of the other dogs’ lives, you must send an email to the shelter by 9:00 am tomorrow morning. Email rescuepets@hillsboroughcounty.org and rescuemetampa@yahoo.com. Make the subject: DO NOT EUTH Baloo ID#A1655846. Include your contact information in the body of the email. You must be willing to pick him up by 3:00 pm.

They are at the Hillsborough County Pet Resource Center, 440 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa, FL 33619. The phone number is 813-744-5660. The shelter is open daily from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.

Please note: Only comments that are respectful and profanity-free will be approved.