Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook

RagweedFarmdog

Image Credit: Candlewick Press, Anne Vittur Kennedy

This is, hands down, one of the funniest picture books of 2015! Love it. It makes me miss my crazy Ibizan hound Loki and his shenanigans…

In Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook, Ragweed is a confident little fellow. He wrote a handbook so that other dogs can follow his lead on how to be the best farm dog ever. Ragweed tells us all the things that are not a farm dog’s job BUT…if a farm dog were to do them, there might be biscuits involved. He really shouldn’t wake the farmer but…if he does he’ll get a biscuit to go away! He knows EXACTLY what he’s doing. The writing of this book is very formulaic and funny and kids will be able to follow along easily. There’ll be lots of laughs and maybe a few “ewwws” too? 😉

Anne Vittur Kennedy’s beautiful acrylic paintings really create the spirit of farm life and Ragweed is so adorable! That little scoundrel with his huge eyes, scraggly hair and long snout is sure to win your heart. He also has great expressions and the animals do too (they know to keep an eye on him!). Hope you enjoy this one as much as I did!

 

Recommended for: All ages
Great for: Humor, Animals, Dogs, Relationships, Farm Life, Love, Read-Aloud
Book Info: Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook by Anne Vittur Kennedy, 2015 Candlewick Press, ISBN: 9780763674175

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Remy and Lulu

 

RemyandLulu

Image Credit: Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books), Kevin Hawkes/Hannah E. Harrison

Art has always been an integral part of my life so when I read this book for the first time, I was delighted. It’s very silly and endearing. Hawkes is a great storyteller.

In Remy and Lulu, Lulu meets a painter named Remy and they become friends. Remy is VERY confident in his art and claims to paint the “essence of a person, not their likeness” (his art is a blur) but his patrons are always disappointed and angered by his art! One day during a session, Remy stops to rest and Lulu picks up a brush and takes off painting. At first his patrons are angry but then they spot the tiny, meticulous masterpiece in the corner and are ecstatic! They thank Remy and pay him double and he’s reassured that painting from his heart will lead to great results (and money in his pocket and food in their bellies!)

Remy (and Lulu) becomes very famous but he has bad eyesight, so he never notices Lulu’s paintings UNTIL he has a commission from an optometrist who gifts him with new glasses. Finally his eyes are opened to the truth of their fame and he is angry and bitter and forgets about his good friend. Luckily, Remy comes to realize just how important friendship is when Lulu helps him find himself again.

Kevin Hawkes’ paintings are great; the scenes of the French countryside are beautiful and inviting. His style stands out with its bold color and strokes but so does Hannah E. Harrison’s. Her miniature, highly detailed animal paintings are gorgeous. Harrison’s oil paintings add something special to the book, similar to how Lulu is the best business partner and friend Remy could ask for. Check out her book Bernice Gets Carried Away which is also AWESOME and highlights her detailed style.

Be sure to read this story with your little budding artist and head out to the country side to paint like Remy and Lulu!

P.S. The story actually begins on the endpapers (when you first open the book)! Look at Lulu’s sad expression as the beautiful paintings are taken away. 😦


Recommended for
: All Ages
Great for: Humor, Art, Friendship, Determination, Dogs, Animals, Dreams, France
Book Info: Remy and Lulu written by Kevin Hawkes/Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes and Hannah E. Harrison, 2014 Alfred A. Knopf (Random House Children’s Books), ISBN: 9780449810859

Beyond the Pond

BeyondthePond

Image Credit: Balzer + Bray (HarperCollins), Joseph Kuefler

Sometimes it takes a new experience to see the “exceptional” in our everyday lives.

Ernest D. is an adventurous boy who finds life to be rather drab until he realizes that the pond in front of his house is infinitely deep. He grabs his supplies and with his trusty dog, takes a dive into the unknown. Underwater, it’s pretty amazing but when he reaches the other side of the pond, he finds a land of wonder and fantasy. Soon it’s time to go home though, but Ernest D. takes a bit of that wonder home with him and…his drab world isn’t so drab anymore. He sees it with more color!

The message of this book resonates with me because I lived abroad for several years and as any person who’s lived abroad/outside of their home for a long time knows, you’re quite changed by that experience. When I came back from Korea, I experienced some reverse culture shock and now that I’m well settled back into my home, I still carry a bit of “color” from my Korean life. I can’t help but be affected by my experiences on the other side of that large pond, the Pacific Ocean.

The digital illustrations in Beyond the Pond are very well done and I especially love the murky blue scenes underwater. Kuefler uses a mostly blue, green and brown palate for Ernest D’s world, but Beyond the Pond, the colors explode in brightness. Ernest D’s big expressive eyes reflect his feelings of excitement, fear and content. This book is excellent for discussion and for children who have a natural sense of exploration! Go forth and explore. 🙂

P.S. Pay attention to the front and back endpapers!

Recommended for: All Ages
Great for: Adventure, Exploration, Discussion, Perspective, Friendship, Dogs
Book Info: Beyond the Pond by Joseph Kuefler, 2015 Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins), ISBN: 9780062364272

The Honest Truth

TheHonestTruth

Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Dan Gemeinhart

“Here’s what I don’t get: why anyone would try to stop me. All I wanted to do was die. That’s the truth.”

This is a tough book.

Mark, a twelve year old boy, takes his trusty dog Beau on the last adventure of his lifetime and on the way, discovers his inner strength. He’s been battling cancer for years and is emotionally and physically worn out. He finally decides that he’s had enough and runs away to climb Mt. Rainier to die.

The story is told from two perspectives; he tells his story in first person and then the story regularly switches to third person to tell the reader about the person who holds Mark’s biggest secret, his best friend Jess. The Honest Truth is as much about his journey as it is about her struggles, anguish and doubt. Ultimately though, we follow Mark’s emotions most closely, as we watch him switch between sadness, regret, determination, bitterness, love and relief.

This story is powerful; Gemeinhart really explores what it means to be human, to be alive, to look death in the eye and live fully. The relationship between Mark and Jess is amazing but the relationship between Mark and his dog Beau is also extremely remarkable; that little dog loves him to the end of the world! If you’re looking for a great read about the strength of the human spirit, try this one. You’ll be moved. That’s the honest truth.

P.S. Grab some tissues…ㅠ ㅠ

P.S.S. In celebration of a year since the release of his book, Dan Gemeinhart gave us Beau’s voice in a special “lost” chapter. Click here to enjoy! ❤

 

Recommended for: Ages 12 and up
Great for: Emotions, Inner Strength, Friendship, Determination, Growing Up, Cancer, Dogs, Love, Family, Power of Photography, Hope, Grab the Tissues
Book Info: The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, 2015 Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc.), ISBN: 9780545665735

 

Wiggle

Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Doreen Cronin/Scott Menchin

Image Credit: Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), Doreen Cronin/Scott Menchin

I have to admit, I wiggled while reading this book. It makes you wiggle. Honest! It’s been a while since I’ve reviewed a cute story time book! I think your kids will enjoy this one a lot; especially the toddlers.

Puppy dog has the wiggles all day long from the time he wakes up until the time he goes to bed! He even wiggles while making breakfast…and that’s a little messy. This book encourages children to wiggle along; it gets them up and moving along with the story. Doreen Cronin always knows how to write great rhymes for speaking aloud.

Wiggle also has great art! I love the colorful ink illustrations and the puppy is so cute! The book’s cover is very striking. Menchin includes photographs in the illustrations in a collage style; puppy has a real pancake on his head and a cute little yarn outfit for his trip to visit the polar bears. Children will like this story time book and you’ll probably get a few giggles as well as wiggles! If this book is a hit, check out the accompanying books Bounce and Stretch.

Recommended for: Toddlers and young children
Great for: Storytime, Rhyme, Movement, Colors, Animals, Dogs
Book Info: Wiggle by Doreen Cronin/Illustrated by Scott Menchin, 2005 Atheneum Books for Young Readers (Simon & Schuster), ISBN: 9780689863752

Ball

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Mary Sullivan

Image Credit: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Mary Sullivan

This post is dedicated to my good friend Scott and his doggie Fuhlonnie (Yellow Dog) who recently passed away. She was a GREAT doggie and she loved her ball, right Scott?  🙂 So does the yellow doggie in this lovely book.

Ball has only one word in the entire book. Can you guess what it is? Yup, it’s “ball.” What makes this book memorable is how clever Sullivan is with her storytelling and how charming her illustrations are. The book is set up comic-book style so you have to follow the panels to read the story. It’s about a day in the life of an energetic and lovable dog who just wants someone to play ball with. The members of the family either have to go to school, are busy or are just plain rude! It’s quite a fun book; I chuckle every time I read it. I recommend the board book form of this book because it is very sturdy and in my opinion, looks the best stylistically. This book is great for toddlers, early elementary (could make for great storyboarding/creative thinking lessons) and for ALL dog lovers. Ball…ball?…ball!!

Recommended for: Toddlers, 1st graders and dog lovers  😉
Great for: Storyboarding, Creative Thinking, Discussion
Book Info: Ball by Mary Sullivan, 2013 Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, ISBN: 9780544313613

A Handful of Stars

Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Cynthia Lord

Image Credit: Scholastic Press, Cynthia Lord

Sweet Summery Goodness is the best way to describe this novel. Cynthia Lord creates a story of friendship set in the backdrop of a blueberry field. It’s a quick read and like the star of a blueberry, this novel is star.

Lily lives with her grandparents and helps them out in their general store. Her dog Lucky is going blind but she desperately tries to save money to get his eyesight back. Her personality is a little uptight and she is doggedly (ha!) focused on her goals. One day, Lucky romps through a blueberry field and almost runs into the busy road but Salma, a young migrant worker, lures him back to safety with her sandwich. The friendship between these two young girls begins with Lucky and he binds them together.

I enjoyed this book so much because in addition to encouraging readers to step outside of their comfort zones/be more open-minded, it also discusses Mexican migrant workers and the troubles that families have settling into new places. Salma desperately wants to feel like she belongs, to establish roots and to have real friends. Lily learns how to view the world more vibrantly though her friendship with Salma. Their worlds combine and they are both better for having found each other.

Recommended for: Ages 11 and up
Great for: Friendship, Community, Diversity, Tween Life, Social Issues
Book Info: A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord, 2015 Scholastic Press, ISBN: 9780545700276