With soft, smudgey watercolors, the book shows us the unsmiling Madame going about her usual business. She even irons with her back turned to a gorgeous view of the Eiffel Tower from her apartment window! “Eh! It’s a tourist thing,” she says dismissively.
Then one rainy day, Madame discovers a small, wet, dirty dog that licks her hand and wags its tail. “It needs me,” she thinks, and “A dog might be nice.” She takes him home, cleans him up, and names him Max.
Max fits comfortably into Madame’s routine life, until one day he takes off after a squirrel and chases it under the turnstile to the Eiffel Tower. Madame has no choice but to buy a ticket and follow him. Young readers will relish the wild journey as Max rushes all the way to the top, even taking the elevator! Will Madame be cross with her pup, or will Max’s unplanned adventure change her life for the better?
Brannen’s illustrations masterfully capture the intricate metalwork that compose the Eiffel Tower and she paints the full range of misty, hazy sky shades that drape Paris in the spring. Beautiful large spreads of the flickering city lights help reinforce the idea that the world beyond one’s doorstep is a wondrous place to explore. Children will adore the cuddly, lively Max whose puppyish energy and enthusiasm ooze off the page.
MADAME MARTINE is a nice book to share with children who embrace routine and resist change. It is also refreshing to see an older person portrayed in a picture book as a character who is still open to change, growth and discovery. And while Madame is not completely transformed, the book gently emphasizes that life is a sweeter journey with a good friend – or dog – at your side.
– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I reviewed a promotional copy of MADAME MARTINE from the publisher and received no compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.
We know you’re looking forward to Thanksgiving, but who else do you think is eagerly awaiting the holiday meal? Man’s best friend, who in this case happens to be Tucker, an adorable white terrier so well behaved you’ll want him at your home, too.
Tucker smells the aromas of Thanksgiving, primarily turkey, and naturally is close at hand during preparations for the dinner, just in case “… someone drops some food!” He’s helpful and friendly to arriving guests of both the human and canine variety. Tucker can resist the temptation of turkey and taters, but not his cousins. Tiger and Murphy beg and whimper for a taste to no avail. When at last mealtime comes, the dogs “wait patiently while everyone eats.” The spread, with three doggie derrieres visible from under the tablecloth, is irresistible and will garner giggles galore from your youngsters for sure. With mealtime over, man’s best friends get to chow down leftovers to their hearts’ content then drift off to sleep already looking forward to the following Thanksgiving.
This 32-page board book with its simple artwork and bright bold colors feels like a wonderful cross between Todd Parr and Lucy Coussins. Sentences are kept at one or two per spread to keep even the littlest listeners engaged. When Tucker and his pals finally tuck into some savory treats, kids will be delighted that no one was left out of the holiday feast.
Dogs will be dogs. They chase cats. They dig holes. They get excited to see you, and nearly knock you over. They’re not trying to be bad. They don’t want to make you mad, but sometimes they do. This sounds like some children I know!
In Bad Dog Flash, by award-winning NZ author and illustrator Ruth Paul, (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Oct. 7, 2014, $15.99, Ages 3-8), a scruffy rascally puppy named Flash, can’t seem to do anything right. He’s only playing with the cat when he chases her up a tree. Flash didn’t mean to break the window. He just wanted to bring his stick inside. Those shoes smelled so good, he couldn’t help but lick and chew them, and the laundry hanging on the line …
Flash continues to misbehave and be corrected, in this adorable picture book, until he’s sent to the dog house for a time out, and is one sad pup. I giggled at the smirk Ruth Paul put on the cat’s face every time Flash got in trouble. Her old-time illustrations remind me of the classic Tip and Mitten books by David McKee from my early childhood.
Her text, with its rhythm, rhyme, and repeating refrain of “Bad dog, Flash,” make this a perfect read-aloud book for toddlers, and a delightful early reader for older children. Children will relate to Flash, who always seems to get in trouble, and will like it even more when he’s invited back into the house to snuggle, and finally hears, “Good dog, Flash!”
Once upon a time (okay, maybe three years ago), in a not too distant land (okay, California), two talented (okay, multi-award-winning, New York Times best-selling) picture book pros teamed up and created EXTRA YARN … Published in 2012 and awarded a Caldecott Honor in 2013. Now, once again, the winning and wickedly funny team of Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen have joined forces, this time to bring us SAM & DAVE DIG A HOLE. I’m delighted to say that with their latest (on sale October 14), these guys (Barnett & Klassen not Sam & Dave) have outdone themselves, and that’s going to mean lots of happily ever afters. ENTER THE GIVEAWAY ENDING SOON BY CLICKING HERE.
Pick up a copy of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole (Candlewick Press, $16.99, Ages 4-8) written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen and you’ll see what I mean in just a few short pages. Then, at the end, which you’ll arrive at in no time because you’ve been turning the pages so quickly to see how things for Sam & Dave turn out, you’ll find yourself, along with your kids, racing back to the beginning to check things out because you’ll love, love, love what you think has happened, but want to be sure. Or not be sure, it’s totally open to interpretation and that’s all I’ll say.
In a nutshell, or in this case a hole, Sam & Dave set out (parents and caregivers take note: the action begins even before the title page), shovels on shoulders, to dig a hole. They’re joined by an attentive dog whose presence is instrumental in the story. Sam wonders when they’ll stop, but the hole is only waist high. Dave says, “We won’t stop digging until we find something spectacular.” Who doesn’t recall having that same feeling of anticipation during a childhood adventure just like these boys do? So, they dig on. And readers, well readers are rooting for them, too!
Klassen wastes no time in complementing Barnett’s excellent yet economical prose with visual humor that will keep kids engaged and thoroughly entertained. In a hilarious Abbott and Costello-like manner, the two boys seem to play Abbott’s straight man. They carry on with their mission of finding a treasure that readers see is almost within reach, so when they find nothing and change directions, or eventually split up and dig separately, the humor and tension build in the best possible way. The adorable dog, with a keen nose or sixth sense, takes on the role of the comic relief in true Lou Costello-style, and knows exactly where all the treasures are. The “so close yet so far” theme Barnett has mapped out and Klassen has illustrated is both exciting and irresistible. The pacing of each page turn is so perfect that I can almost hear kids calling out as Sam & Dave is being read to them. “Wait, don’t change direction! It’s over there!” And that kind of interaction is a treasure in itself!
It isn’t until all dug up routes lead to nothing but exhaustion that this picture book takes a final comical turn (or fall …. ) courtesy of the boys’ trusty companion, the dog. Its pursuit of a buried bone leads to what I’m certain will be this season’s most clever and talked about ending, guaranteeing countless re-readings, imaginative conversations and a spate of shovel purchases.
Recently, two adult friends and I sat down for a discussion of Sam & Dave Dig a Hole, another great thing about this already terrifically entertaining picture book. It got us talking about our childhood experiences and how those might be influencing our responses to the book. One friend pointed out how the layout of the text in each spread mimicked the depth, width or action of the simple, understated yet totally spot-on artwork. The other friend wondered if the boys were brothers or cousins, and I sat thrilled to hear how animatedly we were talking about the plot and how it had affected us. In other words, just imagine what your children will be thinking after reading this gem of a book, and how wonderful it will feel to have shared that experience with them.
Gaston, written by Kelly DiPucchio and illustrated by Christian Robinson, is reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey.
Two little pups, as cute as can be, discover that family comes first, even when you must struggle to find your place in the litter. Kelly DiPucchio’s adorable GASTON (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster, $16.99, Ages 4-8), doesn’t look like his poodle sisters Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo and Ooh-La-La but he works hard to master mama’s lessons in sipping, yipping and walking with grace. During a stroll through the park, Gaston encounters Antoinette, who doesn’t quite fit in with her rough-and-tumble bulldog brothers Rocky, Ricky and Bruno. Trading places makes the canine families look right, but they just don’t feel right. Can the mixed-up pups reconcile how they appear with who they really are?
DiPucchio’s clever, zippy text makes this a delightful book about families, belonging, and being true to oneself. The silly names and playful phrases (nibble their kibble/proper or precious or pink) will guarantee giggles through multiple readings. Robinson’s delightful acrylic illustrations capture the bouncy theme perfectly, wrapping the text around the energetic action of the pups and enhancing their distinctive personalities. Springy greens, mustard yellows, and mauve taupes give a retro feel to a fresh and fun story.
GASTON received a starred review from Kirkus, which proclaimed it “A perfect read aloud that will leave them begging for more—an absolute delight.” I couldn’t agree more. Whether tough or tender, precious or brutish, young book lovers will fall head over heels for the charm of Gaston.
– Reviewed by Cathy Ballou Mealey
Where Obtained: I received a review copy from the publisher and received no other compensation. The opinions expressed here are my own.
Ruff Ruffman is the lovable canine host of the PBS Kids’ show, Fetch! My daughters greatly enjoy watching that educational and fun program. In that vein, Fetch! with Ruff Ruffman: Doggie Duties presents the reader with Ruff’s latest dilemma, a broken toilet. What’s a desperate dog to do?! Too proud to use a litter box, Ruff decides he must learn how to make a space toilet. After all, if NASA can do it, why can’t he?!
Fetch!’s colorful cast of characters, including the feline show supervisor, Blossom, and Ruff’s assistant, the mouse Chet, join Ruff for his adventure. Complete with a science activity on how to clean dirty water with a filter, this book is sure to please and teach.
Extraordinary Jane, a new picture book
written and illustrated by Hannah E. Harrison,
is reviewed by Ronna Mandel.
Kids will fall in love with Jane, a circus dog, and the most adorable and extraordinary character in Harrison’s new picture book, Extraordinary Jane (Dial, $16.99, Ages 3-5). Jane might be a mutt although she reminded me of a little fluffy, white Maltese my family once rescued. But that really doesn’t matter because what Jane definitely is is lovable, precious, friendly and loyal. And while these qualities make her so very special, Jane clearly doesn’t realize these things about herself.
The book opens with a spread of antique-style circus posters, none of which show Jane. From these first illustrations readers know they’re in for a treat with Harrison’s warm, inviting and detailed artwork. Parents will love the opportunity to scour each page for the fine details Harrison’s included so they can point them out to younger children. Older kids may find them on their own. Written with few words, the story is still easily understood and helped along by the circus characters’ many expressions and emotions which say so much.
“She wasn’t graceful like her mother [who rides atop a galloping horse], or mighty like her father.” We see the daddy dog lifting a humongous elephant while Jane struggles to pull a pail of water nearby. Jane has to cover her ears when her daring brothers are blasted out of circus cannons and, fearful of heights, Jane could never attempt to traverse the tightrope like her sisters.
“Jane was just Jane.” And just being Jane meant being loved by all the circus members despite an array of things she was unable to do (and humorously conveyed in Harrison’s illustrations). My favorite image is of Jane looking down from the trapeze as “She tried to find her special talent.” She does not look happy in the least!
Everyone knew what was good about her, especially the Ringmaster and ultimately, Jane. This ideal read-aloud book is great for story time, bedtime and any time a parent wants to reinforce the message to their child about how they should celebrate themselves. I’m looking forward to Harrison’s next book because if it’s half as good as Extraordinary Jane, it will still be super.
If you enjoy Harrison’s artwork, click here to read our review about another book she illustrated called Just Like You.
KOHL’S CARES IS BACK
WITH A GREAT SELECTION OF BEGINNER BOOKS!
Every season the Kohl’s Caresprogram creates a great new reading opportunity for families at affordable prices. We’ll never tire of sharing the $5 book offers every chance we can. And what we love most is that Kohl’s Cares not only supports children’s health and education initiatives nationwide, but it also offers parents a terrific selection of some of the best picture books around at a low, low price making it easy to own new Beginner Books, encourage reading at home and start your own collection.
In addition to the books, the Kohl’s Cares program also sells plush toys and cookbooks for the hard-to-resist price of $5 for any item. That’s not a typo! It’s just the Kohl’s Cares philanthropic platform of the Kohl’s Department Stores. Your purchase of products from the Kohl’s Cares cause merchandise program helps Kohl’s give back not only to help children’s initiatives, but to support the fight against breast cancer and champion environmental issues, too. Click here now to be connected with the online program or head to your local Kohl’s.
Customers can buy these products on sale now through April 5th both online (including several online exclusives) or in stores, but don’t wait so that your first choices are gone. Choose from the following children’s books (recommended for ages 3 and up) and coordinating stuffed animals, along with cookbooks for adults:
Put Me In The Zoo by Robert Lopshire, and Zoo character plush
*Go, Dog, Go! by P. D. Eastman, and Dog plush *A GRWR Blog Fave!
The Nose Book by Al Perkins with illustrations by Joe Mathieu, and Elephant plush
Hand, Hand, Fingers Thumb by Al Perkins with illustrations by Eric Gurney, and Monkey plush
Big Dog … Little Dogby P. D. Eastman,and Fred and Ted plush toys – ONLINE EXCLUSIVE
What an eye-opener this fast-paced and moving historical fiction novel was for me! I had no idea that mercy dogs existed, yet after reading Darling, Mercy Dog of WWI, I learned and appreciated what a vital military role they played in finding and assisting wounded soldiers on the battlefields of Europe. Hart’s tightly constructed story begins with Darling’s recruitment by the military from the family who loved her, especially the two children, Robert and Katherine. The book then details Darling’s training period and finally focuses on her service as a mercy dog, braving life and death situations. Montgomery’s sketch-like illustrations done with various lines in assorted directions complement the story in their depictions of village life, battlefields and various characters.
Hart manages to convincingly share the tale in Darling’s voice so readers experience first-hand the stresses she feels and the successes she accomplishes as a soldier. In addition to all the satisfying action and adventure they’ll find in the book, kids will be drawn into the story because of several meaningful relationships detailed. First there is Darling’s relationship as beloved pet of Katherine and Robert. Second is her role as Mercy dog under the caring and watchful guidance of handler, Private Kent. There’s also a sweet friendship between Darling and a stray dog named Rags from Darling’s home town of Cosham in England. Before the war, Rags and Darling would roam the town together when, on occasion, Darling slipped free from her leash.
When at last Darling is faced with the prospect of being on an actual mission, she is scared but well prepared. “Hoping to pick up a trail, I kept my nose to the ground. The smells of burnt earth, gunpowder, and a hundred boot soles grew confusing.” Using all her keen senses, Darling the mercy dog locates a fallen soldier. With the story focusing more on the dog squad and Darling’s role saving soldiers, young readers will find this perspective less harsh than had it been a full-on WWI tale. There are some harrowing moments like when the Allied trench of Darling’s regiment is blasted by a barrage of enemy shells. Darling must race to find and dig out her colleagues despite a painful wound she’s sustained. Of course the questions remain whether she’ll get to them in time, whether she’ll recover from her wound and then, will she ever make it back from the Continent to Cosham and her dear Katherine and Robert?
Next up in this series:Murphy, Gold Rush Dog *1896*
The GOOD READS WITH RONNA giveaway opp begins today, Friday, October 4, 2013 and runs through Sunday, October 20th ’til midnight. Enter now by sending your name and address to Good Reads With Ronna by clicking here. Be sure to write DARLING/Peachtree Giveaway in the subject line. One winner of (1) one copy of Darling: Mercy Dog of World War I-1917- will be selected via Random.org and notified on Monday, October 21st. Click here to see our contest and giveaways rule page. Good luck!