Tag Archives: Dogs

Perfect Pairing – Feeling Blue?

In a favorite passage in Emilie Boon’s Ella & Monkey at Sea, young Ella utilized “angry black”, “scared gray” and “cold blue” crayons to color as a storm raged. Since reading these descriptions and writing a review of this awesome, new picture book, these images have haunted me. Blue is a favorite color, and I rarely associate it with coldness, sadness or angry feelings. But depending on shade, blue can be sad or happy, angry or peaceful, and so much more, as evident in these two recent picture books. How do you feel blue?

Blue

Author & Illustrator: Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Publisher/Date: Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press/2018

Ages: 3-6 (and older)

Themes: low word count; loss; dogs; blue

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

How many shades of blue are there?

There’s the soft blue of a baby’s cherished blanket, the ocean blue of a romp in the waves, the chilly blue of a cold winter’s walk in the snow, and the true blue of the bond that exists between children and animals.

In this simple, sumptuously illustrated companion to Caldecott Honor Book Green, award-winning artist Laura Vaccaro Seeger turns her attention to the ways in which color evokes emotion, and in doing so tells the story of one special and enduring friendship.

Read a review by Julie Danielson at Kirkus Reviews.

The Blue Hour

Author & Illustrator: Isabelle Simler

Publisher/Date: Eerdmans Books for Young Readers/2017 (originally published in France as Heure Bleue, Éditions courtes et longues, Paris/2015)

Ages:  4-8

Themes: nature; evening; quiet; blue

Short Synopsis (from Goodreads):

A lovely and tranquil celebration of nature

The sun has set, the day has ended, but the night hasn’t quite arrived yet. This magical twilight is known as the blue hour. Everything in nature sky, water, flowers, birds, foxes comes together in a symphony of blue to celebrate the merging of night and day.

With its soothing text and radiant artwork, this elegant picture book displays the majesty of nature and reminds readers that beauty is fleeting but also worth savoring.

Read a review at Waking Brain Cells.

I paired these books because they evoke feelings and emotions through various shades of the color blue. In the almost-wordless Blue, Seeger traces the lifespans and love of a boy and his dog from infancy, with a baby blue blanket, to the end, utilizing differing shades and descriptive words for blue. In The Blue Hour, Simler provides snapshots of many animals preparing for the darkness of night. Both of these picture books are quiet, and because of the illustrations, merit multiple readings and re-readings.

Looking for similar reads?

See Seeger’s Green and Aree Chung’s Mixed: A Colorful Story.

PPBF – Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Happy Book Birthday to today’s Perfect Picture Book! While all book birthdays are happy occasions, today’s book birthday is particularly special as we celebrate the pairing of an award-winning children’s author and poet hailing from the United States with a preeminent illustrator hailing from Iran. Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, Tiny Owl Publishing, I received an advance copy that I’ve read and reread, including to my own pup (he loved it, too!).

Thinker_9781910328330-768x1074Title: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Written By: Eloise Greenfield

Illustrated By: Ehsan Abdollahi

Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/April 2018

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes/Topics: dogs; poetry; communication; #WNDB

Opening:

Naming Me

They brought me from the neighbour’s house

and put me on the floor,

they talked about their love for me,

and I thought, “More! More! More!”

Brief Synopsis: A collection of discreet poems that tells the story of Thinker, a dog who writes and recites poetry, and Jace, a young poet, as the pair bond over poetry and ultimately enjoy a memorable Pets Day at school.

Links to Resources:

  • Can your pet talk? Explore the different ways animals communicate;
  • Enjoy more dog-themed poetry;
  • Follow Greenfield’s lead and write “a poem or two”;
  • Although I’ve never met a poetry-writing dog, some dogs enjoy being read to, including therapy dogs who visit libraries and encourage children to read aloud to them. Learn more about library dogs;
  • Make tissue-paper collages, similar to those created by Abdollahi.

Why I Like this Book:

Told in a series of 16 free verse and rhymed poems, primarily from the point of view of Thinker, Thinker explores what it means to be part of a family and be appreciated for one’s talents within that family, and how we can share our unique talents with the wider community, too.

Thinker is an engaging story with a kid-relatable problem: Jace doesn’t want his poetic dog to show off his unique skills in school because Jace doesn’t want other children to consider him weird. But being quiet is difficult for Thinker. He questions,

Who am I, if I’m
not myself?
Who am I?

Only by being himself and sharing the poetry in his heart is Thinker happy. Indeed, who are we, if we can’t be ourselves and express the joy and music in our hearts, in our own unique ways, too. Jace learns this important lesson. He also realizes that others admire Thinker’s poetry and that other pets have unique talents. But you’ll have to read Thinker to discover what those talents are.

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Ehsan Abdollahi from Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me

Thinker also celebrates communication: the cross-species communication of the two poetry-loving friends and the cross-cultural communication between the poet’s words and the illustrator’s images. United by a love of children’s literature, the renowned American poet Greenfield shares her lyrical words and the talented Iranian illustrator Abdollahi shares his colorful, handmade, hand-coloured collaged illustrations to create a wonderful reading experience that owes its beauty to the unique talents of its creators.  Thinker’s smaller, just-right-for-younger-hands size will appeal to kids. The retro feel of the illustrations is an additional plus, especially as Thinker features a family of color, living  an everyday life with a twist – a poetic dog in their home.

A Note about Craft:

Greenfield includes poems in Thinker that switch between the points of view of Thinker and Jace. In “Two Poets Talking”, Jace and Thinker even hold a conversation through their poetry.

Greenfield includes many free verse poems and also some that rhyme.  There’s a short Haiku and the 89-year young poet even ends Thinker with “Thinker’s Rap.” I hope when I reach Greenfield’s age, I’m still writing and embracing new forms of expression.

Greenfield is the author of 47 books for children, and has received many awards, including the 2018 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children from the National Council of Teachers of English. Read Greenfield’s essay  about how Thinker began. See also a 2007 interview by Don Tate in The Brown Bookshelf.

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         Eloise Greenfield by Ehsan Abdollahi

Abdollahi is a noted Iranian illustrator, who illustrated, among other works, When I Coloured in the World (Ahmadreza Ahmadi, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2015) and A Bottle of Happiness (Pippa Goodheart, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2017). Read an interview with him here.

Thinker is not yet available in the US, but you can order it from the Book Depository, that ships for free worldwide.

This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

PPBF: My Old Pal, Oscar

It’s been a tough year in our house for older pets. First, we lost our most senior dog, Daisy, one year ago, one month shy of her 15th birthday. Although her daughter, Jazmine, was much younger, she faded swiftly and passed away a month ago, just after her 12th birthday. Despite realizing that in both cases, they are more comfortable and happy now, and despite the presence of a dear young pup in our home, we still feel their loss, especially the one who works from home, walks dogs most days, and is feeder-in-chief – aka, me!image

Jazmine, Chili and Daisy, summer 2015

When I found the book highlighted below, I knew it was perfect to help ease the pain. I’ve also included a few other titles that I found helpful. If you know of others, please add them in the comments.

9781419719011_p0_v1_s192x300Title: My Old Pal, Oscar

Written By: Amy Hest

Illustrated By: Amy Bates

Publisher/date: Abrams Books for Young Readers/2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-7

Themes/Topics: dogs, loss, overcoming grief, bibliotherapy

Opening: “Hello, you. Who are you?

No tags? No name?

You sure are little. Except for those feet.

Those four big feet making footprints in the sand.”

Brief Synopsis: A young child grieving for his deceased dog meets a stray puppy who follows him on the beach.

Links to Resources:

  • Take a walk on a beach (or some other favourite place – like a park);
  • Collect things (that are free and won’t be harmed, of course!) while you walk;
  • Do you have a favourite pet or person? Draw a picture of your favourite pet/person and place it by your bedside.

Why I Like this Book:

With simple text and stunning watercolour illustrations, Amy Hest and Amy Bates tell the story of a young child grieving a deceased pet and finding new love. My Old Pal, Oscar is sure to soothe anyone, of any age, who is grieving a loss, whether from moving away, death, or any other reason. And while it’s clear that the young child’s grief subsides as the story progresses, it’s also clear that the “old pal” is far from forgotten – an important reminder for all of us.

A Note about Craft:

My Old Pal, Oscar has a very low word count and is told entirely in dialogue, or more precisely monologue, by the young child missing Oscar. While all the words are said by the child, the stray pup answers via his looks and actions – making this a great example of letting the illustrations tell part of the story.

If You Liked this Book:

If you’re missing a pet or otherwise coping with loss, I also recommend:

9780763649272_p0_v1_s118x184Sammy in the Sky, Barbara Walsh with paintings by Jamie Wyeth (Candlewick Press, 2011)

9781423103004_p0_v3_s192x300city dog, country frog, Mo Willems, illustrated by Jon J Muth (Hyperion Books for Children, 2010).

Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Story of Moose

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Title: The Story of Moose: How a Big Dog on a Little Island Found Love…After Nearly 5 Years in a Shelter
 

Written By: Laurie Damron

Illustrated By: Photographs

Publisher/date: Self-published (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform), 28 February 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes/Topics: Dogs, Animal Shelters, Hope, Perseverance, Community

Opening: “I am Moose. I was brought to the Animal Care Center (ACC) in February 2011 when I was found running with the head of a pack of 1000 runners getting ready for the Islands’ annual ‘8 Tuff Miles’ road race. We put me in a kennel hoping to find my owner. My owner never came for me.”

Brief Synopsis: This is the true story of Moose, who spent almost 5 years in a no-kill animal shelter in St. John, US Virgin Islands, and of the efforts of ACC staff and friends, staff of Last Hope K9 Rescue in Boston, and the community of Moose lovers to find Moose a home.

Links to Resources:

  • Visit a local no-kill animal shelter;
  • The ACC participates in voluntourism – providing volunteer opportunities for tourists visiting St. John – if traveling, check to determine if there is a shelter where you can walk dogs or pet kittens or donate items or if there are other community organizations or schools that can use your help or donations (gently used books are often most welcome in more remote destinations, for instance).
  • Discuss with older children what it means to support a Cause: how would they work together to promote and achieve something important to them.

Why I Like this Book: I know this is a true story, because I have met, and walked with, Moose. When his Facebook page was first promoted, I followed and shared the posts often. I didn’t choose The Story of Moose as a Perfect Picture Book just because I already knew the story, however. Told from Moose’s perspective, this story highlights the power of community and an important lesson for children of all ages to persevere, work together and never give up hope: “Everyone can make a difference.”

This book is available for purchase on Amazon.com. All proceeds benefit ACC and Last Hope K9Rescue. Moose’s family has continued his Facebook page, now called Moose Found a Family – The Next Chapter.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!

Perfect Picture Book Friday – Greyfriars Bobby

As Snowmaggedon looms, at least for those of us in the path of Winter Storm Jonas, I think it’s time to “get out of Dodge.” I propose a journey – and what better destination than Scotland in honour of Robert Burns’ birthday next week (25 January). So grab your kilt and woollies, nab some shortbread and a cup of your favourite steaming beverage, and come along…

9781849396325_p0_v2_s192x300

Title: Greyfriars Bobby

Written & Illustrated By: Ruth Brown

Andersen Press, 1995

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes/Topics: Animals; Dogs; Loyalty; Travel; Scotland; History

Opening: “I’m fed up with sightseeing,” moaned Tom. “It’s too hot and I’m thirsty.”

 
Brief Synopsis: Tom and Becky, two young tourists, discover the statue of a Skye Terrier next to Greyfriar’s Churchyard, Edinburgh, Scotland. A friendly gardener relates the tale of the loyal dog, Bobby, who guarded his master’s remains for 14 years, and of the townspeople who cared for him.

 
Links to Resources: Most of us aren’t in a position to visit Bobby’s statue anytime soon, but anyone who has ever travelled with children can relate to the impatience of young travellers and their fixation with the small details that adults often overlook. Whether we journey to a foreign land, a neighbouring city or state, a local landmark or even around our own home, we can create our own stories about the things we discover. I’ve also created travel “diaries” with my children – pictures they’ve drawn and then I collected and captioned. Learning more about Skye Terriers and life in 19th century Edinburgh will add to any child’s enjoyment of this tale. In addition, Disney (1961) and Piccadilly Pictures/Ursus Films (2005) released movies based on slightly different versions of this story. Both appear to be available in the US.

 
Why I Like this Book: Whether or not Greyfriars Bobby is a true tale (and the jury is out on this), the statue exists, and the story of Bobby’s loyalty, and the care the townspeople show him after his master’s death, add up to a heart-warming story. Generally, I would prefer a book told from the point of view of someone experiencing the events firsthand- perhaps a child in 19th century Edinburgh. In this case, though, the lens of modern children discovering the past adds a rich layer to the story. Like Bobby who befriends his master, Old Jock, and the café owner who feeds Bobby, a gardener who tends the cemetery befriends the modern travellers. He becomes storyteller, relating Bobby’s saga and providing a glimpse into 19th century Edinburgh. Author/illustrator Ruth Brown adds charming spreads at the beginning and end of this book with 19th century children in the same settings as Tom and Becky. And although this is an older book with quite a bit of text, Brown includes several wordless spreads that evoke Victorian Edinburgh.

 
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!