Where Birdie Lives

February 10th, 2019 · Books

The curiosity of preschoolers is tapped into throughout the very sweet oversized board book WHERE BIRDIE LIVES written and illustrated by Elena Tsvetaeva. It’s a sturdy lift-the-flap book that will have children following along as a friendly dog journeys to find out where a passing bird lives.

As the dog searches, she looks under leaves and in burrows and under lily pads, discovering new friends along the way. The bright but gentle colors change with each page, and the simple, wide-eyed illustrations are perfect for the birth through three-year old set.

Where Birdie Lives is clearly meant as a read-aloud book, but after several reads, children may choose to look through the book on their own, naming animals and habitats as they go along. In addition, the illustrations lend themselves to creative use like counting the veins on a leaf or using a finger to trace the path of a mole family in its burrow.

This interactive board-book is recommended for ages 0-3.

Review by Kristin Wald

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Books for Dog Lovers of All Ages

January 30th, 2019 · Books

If you’re looking for a fun gift book or just want to add to your library of dog-related reading material, here are some of our favorite dog books from photography to poetry.

DOGFACE pretty much says it all where Barbara O’Brien’s book of dog faces is concerned. But the faces are so varied and scruffy and silly and regal that you’ll choose a different favorite, depending on your mood, each time you flip through the book. Each page includes the featured dog’s name and breed.  Don’t skip her introduction though! It’s brimming with the joy and love of the photo shoots. A really fun book to have on hand!

Another fun book with lots of dog smiles is WAGGISH, from Grace Chon and Melanie Monteiro. It’s a little more saucy than Dogface. Each photo is accompanied by a cute comment meant to come from the dog. While still overall appropriate for most kids, one dog mentions scaring the crap out of the UPS guy and another talks about margaritas. There’s also a dog who admits to “rolling around in the raccoon carcass.” Be aware that it’s not all kiddie stuff. But this is a wonderfully silly book, and the photos are varied and totally adorable.

THE LOVE OF A LAB from Jim Dratfield pairs black & white and color photos of labradors of all shades with quotations from public figures as varied as Jane Austen, Richard Wright, Albert Camus, Amy Tan, and Voltaire. While many of the quotations would be just as comfortable in an inspirational sayings collection, they seem perfectly suited to the photos of Black Labs and Yellow Labs and Chocolate Labs of all temperaments. A perfect gift book or one to keep around for a rainy or moody day. Perfectly appropriate for children and adults of all ages.

For history buffs who want to see how nine dogs factored into life at the Kennedy White House, THE DOGS OF CAMELOT will satisfy both curiosity and a desire for documentation. The book is divided into chapters that are at times general and then focus on one or two dogs for an extended period. The archival photographs, mainly from the Kennedy Presidential Library, show how the Kennedy dogs took part in every aspect of life for the First Family. Details about how they were cared for and special preparations made for them Readers should be aware that the language surrounding the beloved pets is mainly as possessions and not as companions. A pony and cats also make occasional appearances.

A beautiful book of poetry from Linda Pastan called A DOG RUNS THROUGH IT will delight readers and bring a few tears to the eyes of dog lovers. Written in plain and loving language, Pastan describes the many ways a dog affects and enriches the lives of the people who love them. Sometimes joyful and playful, sometimes deep in contemplation and mourning, there is something for every mood any person who loves a dog may have. Appropriate for all ages, although caregivers should be aware that the death of a dog makes an appearance.

Review by Kristin Wald

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Goodnight, Seahorse

January 21st, 2019 · Books

GOODNIGHT, SEAHORSE by Carly Allen-Fletcher is a lovely bedtime book — or anytime book — for young children. The illustrations are vibrant and gorgeous, and the variety of sea creatures spans from the familiar to the unheard of.

In the style of Goodnight Moon, a little seahorse says “goodnight” to various neighbors on its way to bed. Each one has its own way of getting comfortable, from sprawling to burrowing to snuggling. The layered, collage-like style of the illustration suits the underwater environments perfectly.

The end of Goodnight, Seahorse has a collection of 20 sea creatures along with their names. Children who aren’t quite ready for sleep can check those out and go back to discover those mentioned in the story. Highly recommended for infant – two years old.

Review by Kristin Wald

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Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

January 10th, 2019 · Books

My 9-year old daughter and I really enjoyed reading Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH together. I had seen the movie The Secret of NIMH as a kid, but it has been a long time.  This book, a Newbery Award winner, is amazing. Now to (re)watch the movie! (editor’s note: We’ve reviewed that too! Click here.)

After her husband dies, Mrs. Frisby, a mouse, meets the rat colony that lives on the same farm as she does, and she learns that her husband and the rats were once part of an government study (sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health). The study was to change the genetic make up of mice and rats in an effort to teach them to read and live longer, and it was very successful.  The rats tell Mrs. Frisby that they were captured while living on the streets, then trapped in cages and experimented on for years. They also share how they finally escaped after years of planning.  The rats were trapped in tiny cages, given shots to enhance their abilities, and separated from all other rats. There is more to the novel, including the threat of losing her home and the NIMH scientists’ return, but the story of the rats is probably a full third of the book, and it’s definitely the most compelling.

The novel was written in 1971, so gender representation is stuck in the past.  Mrs. Frisby, the main character, is a very brave and well developed character, but we never even learn her first name, although at one point she is referred to as Mrs. Jonathan Frisby. Additionally the rat colony, which started with only 20 rats, has grown to more than 150. Presumably there are some female rats, or the colony wouldn’t be growing. You wouldn’t know it from the story though; the named rats are all male. While this gender-biased story telling may be expected from a book from this time, it did dampen my enjoyment of an otherwise fantastic book.

Amazon recommends this book for ages 8-12, and that sounds about right to me.

Review by JENNIFER KALI

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