CHALL, Marsha Wilson. One Pup's Up. Illus. by Henry Cole. New York: Margaret K.
McElderry Books, June 2010. 32pp. ISBN 978-1-4169-7960-9. $16.99. Hardcover
Using puppies and rhyme to teach counting is not a new concept. Over the years dozens
of books have been written, including Doggies, A Counting and Barking Book by
Sandra Boynton (Simon & Schuster,1984), Ten Dogs in the Window by Claire Masurel
illustrated by Pamela Paparone (NorthSouth,1997), and Let's Count, Noisy Puppies by
Christine Gunzi (Barrons, 2010) to exemplify this idea. But Chall, who has written seven
other children's books, and Cole, whose illustrations appear in over 50 books, create
a new twist by using the antics of a litter of 10 puppies to teach counting both forward
to and backward from 10. The book begins with a mother and her ten (10) roly-poly
offspring, each one a different color or pattern of spots, snuggled together at naptime.
Then the most daring of the group awakens, and the adventures start. One by one the
puppies get up and join in the mayhem. Chall and Cole have captured the essence of
puppyhood - the playfulness, the curiosity, the sloppiness, the frenetic activity followed
by instant and total collapse. The chubby puppies tumble, jumble and piddle. They
chase and race, pounce and bounce as well as nibble and beg for more kibble. Once
exhausted, one by one, they curl up to sleep in a heap.until that instigator, that one pup
is up once again. The simple yet expressive illustrations and the rhythm of the words
will have preschoolers begging to hear the book over and over again. It would not be
surprising if in no time they are both counting and pleading for one puppy, two puppy,
three puppy more!
STUTSON, Caroline. Cats' Night Out. Illus. by John Klassen. New York: Simon
& Schuster, March 2010. 32 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-4005-0. $15.99, Hardcover.
"In the city, windows light. How many cats will dance tonight?" Watch 'em boogey,
samba, tango. out of the shadows. Count them, but count them by two's - Pas de deux.
Or is this a clever method of teaching multiplication? Either way this lively picture book
is the cat's meow- an absolute fancy feast of strutting stray felines, rhythmical rhyme,
vivid vocabulary and magical math, all set in a city street scene that looks as if it just
pussy-footed off a Broadway set. Young readers, ages 4 to 8, have plenty to do as they
groove to the beat. There are kitties to count plus not so easy hidden numbers to locate
as you turn the page for each dance routine and wardrobe change. Author Stutson's
language vibrates 'cuz "cats rock to blues in poodle skirts and saddle shoes" while "town
Tabbies twist swinging their hips in dotted Swiss." Animator Klassen created a winner in
his debut children's book, with urbanscapes reminiscent of a nocturnal Ezra Jack Keats'
and cute chorus line cats lighting up each page. The sleepy neighbors at the end of Cats'
Night Out might want the fox-trotting cats to "Cut It Out" but feline-philes of all ages
will hope the show goes on. Pair Cats' Night Out with Wanda Gag's 1928 kitty/ kiddie
classic Millions of Cats, and both teachers and parents can kick off a discussion about
homeless cats, ferals, or even the importance of spaying and neutering pets, adding a new
dimension to the term "multiplication".
GRAVETT, Emily. Dogs. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers,
February 2010. 32pp. ISBN 978-1-4169-8703-1. $15.99, Hardcover.
This wonderful introduction to dog breeds for preschoolers is also a lesson in opposites,
written in rhyme and illustrated delightfully. Award winning author and illustrator,
Emily Gravett begins with the unseen narrator's simple statement, "I love dogs." On
each warm, cream colored page her comical drawings capture the essence of each breed.
There is the gentle Great Dane nuzzling a feisty Chihuahua; a stern Bulldog intimidating
a submissive Bichon; a mangy mutt startling a perfectly coifed, pink Standard Poodle;
a devoted Golden Retriever fetching the master's slippers while a mischievous German
Shepherd Dog destroys them. Clever touches reinforce the dog theme throughout the
book. For example, on the inside front and back covers, breeds are identified at the
bottom of the pages. Additionally, the copyright information is typed in the shape of a
bone. But, the most important question is who is this narrator who loves "big dogs and
small dogs, tough dogs and soft dogs, dogs that bark and dogs that don't, dogs that play
and dogs that won't"? Surprise! It's a cat who reveals that she loves "any dog that won't
chase me!" This charming book is sure to put smiles on the faces of a dog-loving mother
and toddler as well as reinforce the intelligence of cats for cat lovers.
RYLANT, Cynthia. Brownie & Pearl Step Out. Illus. by Brian Biggs. New York: Birch
Lane Book, January 2010. 24pp. ISBN978-1-4169-8632-4. $12.99, Hardcover.
Cynthia Rylant, Newbery Award winner, author of over 100 books, including the Henry
and Mudge, Annie and Snowball, and Mr. Putter and Tabby series has teamed with Brian
Biggs, illustrator of the Roscoe Riley, Goofball Malone, and the Shredderman series to
create a charming story of a kitten, Pearl, who helps a little girl, Brownie, overcome her
shyness. Brownie and Pearl have been invited to a party. But when they arrive at the
home, Brownie gets cold feet and does not want to enter. Pearl is not a scaredy cat and
confidently jumps through the kitty door, forcing Brownie to knock. Everyone is happy
to see Brownie. She relaxes, plays games, stuffs herself with ice cream and cake, and
has a wonderful time. Rylant is known for the simple way she is able to convey strong
emotions and gently teach lessons. Little children who hide behind mommy's back can
learn that taking a chance can lead to fun and friends. This is a short book for toddlers
to listen to or an easy to read story for beginning readers. Biggs' illustrations filled with
bright colors and subtle patterns should capture a child's attention. This is the first of a
series of eight books featuring Brownie and her kitten friend Pearl exploring new social
situations. Moreover, I'm looking forward to more adventures with this little girl and her
SHIELDS, Gillian. Puppy Love, The Story of Esme and Sam. Illus. by Elizabeth
Harbour. London: Simon & Schuster, July 2009. 32pp. ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-1041-1.
Disney did it better; much better. Even the intended audience of 4 to 8 year olds
will sense that. The plot of Puppy Love seems to have been whelped from Disney's
Lady & the Tramp, except now the star-crossed canine paramours have transported
from Victorian times into a more contemporary New York City. Told in a plodding
and somewhat bumpy verse, Esme, a pampered pedigree Poodle, gets lost when she
unexpectedly bolts from her owner in Central Park. The doggie damsel in distress
is delivered safely to the penthouse by streetwise mongrel Sam who is then chased
back to his tenement by order of Esme's wealthy guardian. (The artwork is bland.
Sam's "tenement" is far from believable. Many New Yorkers would kill for an apartment
this good.) Esme escapes again to be with her true love. Without an explanation, the
whole family- Esme, Sam, and their five pups parade on leash alongside the rich owner.
Puppy Love hasn't enough characterization, pathos, or pizzazz to sink your teeth into.
In contrast, poor Lady was driven from her home, wrongly accused of misdeeds, while
headstrong Esme left twice on her own volition. It is hard to feel sorry for her. Puppy
Love is predictable, lacking the urgency and al fresco romance of Lady and the Tramp.
Plus in Disney's 1950s a whirlwind courtship of unaltered dogs was acceptable, whereas
Puppy Love is Lady & the Tramp meets "Sex in the City". Nowadays, with the dual
problems of pet overpopulation and rampant teen pregnancy, not only does Puppy Love
send the wrong message about responsible pet ownership, but it also subliminally gives
young girls the green light to run away after meeting the ruff dawg of their dreams.
SHIELDS, Gillian. Dog Fish. Illus. by Dan Taylor. New York: Atheneum: November
2008. 32pp. ISBN-13: 978-1-4169-7127-6. $16.99, Hardcover.
Boy wants dog. Parents don't. A familiar family scenario, especially when you live in
a 44th floor walk-up. The fishbowl-faced boy narrator in Dog Fish soon discovers his
single mother's words ring true: "If you can't have what you want, you could try to want
what you have." To the boy's credit he never whines or throws a tantrum, but instead,
logically counters his mother's objections, and has the insight to "read between the lines"
when interpreting her tone of voice and remarks. He soon realizes that No means No
- a rare phenomenon with kids these days. By problem solving, the boy whimsically
transforms his pet goldfish, "Bubbles" into his substitute dog. He trains the fish to fetch,
feeds him table scraps, and balances the bowl on his head as he negotiates the long
stairway trek so his one of a kind "dog fish" can accompany him on walks in the park
aboard a wagon. Whether his fish or his imagination is really the boy's best friend is up
to the young reader to decide. Dog Fish shows that we each must find our own bliss;
yet within this delightful book, "Bubbles" bubbles over with happiness too. In our era
of parental overindulgence, this simple fish tale, geared to pre-school through second
graders, as a read aloud or independent perusal, reiterates the lesson that while it is okay
to want things, many times it is better to notice and appreciate what we already have. In
Dog Fish, the moral is subtle not preachy. Humor and 1950ish drawings help kids realize
this in a fanciful way.
Duno, Steve. Last Dog on the Hill, The Extraordinary Life of Lou. New York: St. Martin's Press,
June 2010. 336p. ISBN 978-0-312-60049-5. $24.99.
If a person is lucky, he is adopted by a once-in-a-lifetime dog; a dog that fulfills his boyhood dreams of
a trustworthy companion, a best friend, a confidant; a combination of Lassie and Rin Tin Tin; a smart,
willing, athletic, sensitive, fearless creature who transforms him. Such a fortunate man is Steve Duno,
and such an outstanding dog was Lou.
In this moving tribute, Duno tells how a parasite-infested, mixed-breed puppy stepped into his life and
changed its course forever. At the time of acquiring Lou, Duno was a tutor for the children of Hollywood's
rich and famous. In schooling Lou, Steve discovered his vocation as a dog trainer.
Having worked as an obedience instructor with several hundred dogs over many years in training centers for
incorrigible and aggressive dogs, Duno decided to follow his heart to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming
a full-time writer. This is his 18th book. In beautiful prose, sometimes heart-wrenching and sometimes
hilarious, Duno describes his 16 years of adventures with this exceptional dog, who comforted the elderly,
captured a rapist, foiled a gang of robbers and fought coyotes.
In his early years, Lou showed Duno the world of canine behavior and communication, thereby opening a path
to a career that has been both enjoyable and rewarding. Five years after his death, Lou continues to guide
Duno as the inspiration for his latest book.
Readers who enjoy personal narratives about the transformative nature of the human-animal bond, such as
Dogs I have Met and the People They Have Found by Ken Foster,
Dogs of Dreamtime by Karen Shanley and Marley
and Me by John Grogan, will not want to miss this one. I loved it.
Stern, Beth Ostrosky with Kristina Grish. Oh My Dog, How to Choose, Train, Groom, Nurture, Feed, and Care
for Your New Best Friend. New York: Gallery Books, division of Simon and Schuster. May 2010. 512p.
ISBN: 978-1-4391-6029-9. $25.99.
Surprisingly, Beth Ostrosky Stern's book is a fun, comprehensive, easy-to-read and reasonably-priced introduction
to all things canine. It is an excellent book for the first-time dog owner or the empty-nester who, after sending
her kids off into the world, can devote time to a dog of her own. As a modern-day canine guide book, the
author mentions relevant matters to the dog-owning public: lifestyle, financial matters and keeping your dog
thin with healthy snacks. Moreover, this book could be considered an updated version of "Everything You
Wanted to Know about Dog Ownership," since all aspects of choosing and caring for a dog are addressed.
Ms. Stern begins by discussing acquiring a dog, and she is very insightful by devoting equal time to purchasing
a puppy from a reputable breeder, and adopting a dog from a rescue group or a shelter. I particularly enjoyed
the chapter on nutrition, talking about diets, ingredients and deciphering pet food labels. Also noteworthy is
the chapter on bonding with your pet. Here, the author encourages owners to spend time with their dogs by
participating in activities that capitalize on their breed characteristics.
In her capacity as spokesperson for the North Shore Animal League, Ms. Stern has developed an extensive network
of nationally-known experts, including veterinarians, behaviorists, trainers, groomers and representatives of
animal welfare groups. To her credit, she draws on and highlights their advice throughout the book.
Comparable in scope to, but more enjoyable to read than, Tracie Hotchner's The Dog Bible (Gotham Books, 2005),
Oh My Dog is an excellent resource for anyone who wishes to enhance the quality of their life with a dog.
Charleson, Susannah. Scent of the Missing: Love and Partnership with a Search-and-Rescue Dog. New York: Houghton
Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. April 2010. 285p. ISBN 978-0-547-15244-8. $26.00.
While most dogs are content to snuggle on the sofa with their people, in Scent of the Missing, Susannah Charleson
introduces a group of dogs trained to track missing people. Charleson takes us on her journey from a flight instructor
to search and rescue (SAR) handler. After flying several disaster searchers, she stumbled across a newspaper clipping
of a SAR dog from the Oklahoma City bombing. This led Charleson to SAR, first as a field assistant, and later as a
handler. With the help of her SAR team leader, she purchased a Golden Retriever puppy, aptly-named Puzzle, to be her
partner in the field.
Puzzle was a typical puppy: She devoured a couch, almost tipped over a china cabinet and picked on Charleson's
older Pomeranians. Despite her puppy high jinks, Puzzle proved she was ready for SAR work. Charleson and Puzzle
trained in the dark, in the brush, in piles of rubble and burned-out buildings. To succeed, they had to rappel
from buildings, run hundreds of test searches and acclimate to weather variations - all while learning how to
communicate with each other.
Charleson weaves her personal battles into the story, from divorce to health issues that might sideline her and
Puzzle from SAR. The writing is incredibly descriptive; Charleson evokes the look and feel and scent of each search.
But the focus of the book is about more than SAR work. It's about the trust and responsibility placed on these dogs'
shoulders by their handler and team, by law enforcement offers and by victims' families.
Scent of the Missing is a riveting book that dog lovers will enjoy. It truly is a testament to the importance of the
animal-human bond and the intelligence of our dogs, even the ones snuggling on the sofa.
Last Dog on the Hill: The Extraordinary Life of Lou
Jean M. Fogle
Tricks for Treats
(Bowtie Press, 2010)