Finding a Dove for Gramps by Lisa J. Amstutz

Finding a Dove for Gramps

Lisa J. Amstutz, Author

Maria Luisa DiGravio, Illustrator

Albert Whitman & Company, Fiction, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 5-7

Themes: Animals, Birds, Counting, Nature, Community

Opening: “Mom and I slip silently out the door. Today we’re going to count birds. It’s just the two of us this year, since Gramps flew south for the winter. “Just like the swallows!” he said.

Synopsis:

This year I want to find a dove.

Jay looks forward to participating in the bird count each winter with his mom and Gramps. It’s fun to spot different birds like a nuthatch, a black-capped chickadee, and even a golden-crowned kinglet! This year Jay wants to spot his Gramp’s favorite bird — a dove. But with so many different birds in the nature preserve, will Jay have a chance to locate one before the count is over?

Why I like this book:

This is  heartwarming tale is about a boy and his mother enjoying their time together outdoors counting birds. The boy grabs his clipboard and binoculars as they quietly step into nature, careful not to scare the birds. The story also involves community.

The illustrations are rendered in soft shades of blue and white, so that children can easily spot a wide variety of birds around them.

This book is a timely book to introduce children to bird counting and conservation. The annul Christmas Bird Count is inspired by a national citizen science project in which everyone can participate. Many hold special Christmas bird counts for kids. And there is a Backyard Bird Count and many other counts throughout the years. Great book for classrooms.

Resources: This is the perfect time of the year to join the Great Backyard Bird Count in February or one of the many other citizen science projects that take place through out the year. Visit the Audubon website for a list of count cirles near you. This year marks a 120-year celebration of counting.  And visit the Sonoma Birding website and the eBird website to do you own bird count any day of the year and track your counts. There also is a bird count check list at the end of the book.

Lisa J. Amstutz is the author of more than eighty books for children. She loves finding new birds to add to her yearly list. Lisa and her family live on a small farm in rural Ohio with Daisy the dog, two ornery goats, and a flock of chickens.  Visit Lisa at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by publisher.

Little Robin’s Christmas by Jan Fearnley

Little Robin’s Christmas

Jan Fearnley, Author and Illustrator

Nosy Crow, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 2-5

Themes: Bird, Animals, Caring, Giving, Friendship, Christmas, Santa

Opening: “Once upon a time, there was a little brown bird. His name was Little Robin, and this is his story.”

Synopsis:

It’s the week before Christmas, and each day Little Robin leaves his nest and gives away one of his seven vests to someone who is cold and needs it — a frog, a porcupine, a hedgehog, a mole, a squirrel, a rabbit, and an otter baby. Finally, on Christmas Eve, he gives away his last vest to a shivering mouse. Now it’s snowing and Little Robin is cold and alone.

Luckily, a certain magical man dressed in red knows about Little Robin’s selflessness and has the perfect present to keep him warm.

What I like about this book:

Jan Fearnley simply communicates the true meaning of Christmas in her charming  holiday tale about Little Bird, a compassionate and generous bird who gives away his warm vests to help his friends stay warm. Little Bird feels happy inside as he spreads holiday cheer. The joy of giving is a heartfelt message to share with children.

Little Bird’s journey is perfect for young children, as they will have fun guessing what will happen next. The text is lyrical, flows nicely and has a repetitive feel to it, especially with the seven-day countdown. But, the ending is a surprise.

Fearnley’s colorful and wintry mixed media illustrations are expressive and lively. They help build the tension of what is to come.

Resources: This is the perfect opportunity to show kids how good it feels to give to others less fortunate. Help your children pick out toys they no longer play with and clothing that is too small, and donate to a local toy/clothing drive. Let them pick out nonperishable food items at the grocery store to give to a local food bank.

Jan Fearnley is the award-winning author-illustrator of many books, including Milo Armadillo, and the illustrator of Never Too Little to Love. She lives in the French countryside with  her husband, two donkeys, five rescued goats, two Limousin hens, five cats — and any other stray that appears at the kitchen door.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale by Carole Gerber

The Gifts of the Animals: A Christmas Tale

Carole Gerber, Author

Yumi Shimokawara, Illustrator

Familius, Fiction, Oct. 1, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-8

Themes: Christmas tale, Animals, Nativity, Rhyming, Religious, Holiday

Opening: “The gentle beasts of sky and earth / prepare their stable for Christ’s birth.”

Book Synopsis:

The Gifts of the Animals shares the miraculous offerings the humble animals in the manger gave to the baby Jesus.

The birds on the roof of the lowly shed / prepare a pillow for His head, / with feathers pulled from downy breats; / mice carry them to where He’ll rest.

Celebrating the Savior’s birth, this beautiful reimagining of the nativity story is a must-have addition to any family’s Christmas library and Christmas Eve traditions.

Why I like this book:

Carole Gerber’s The Gifts of the Animals is a beautiful and elegant tale! She creatively imagines how the animals lovingly prepare for the birth of baby Jesus. The ox fills the manger with straw. The sheep share bits of wool. The birds pull downy feathers from their breasts and the tiny mice carefully arrange the offerings in the bed, as they all wait with anticipation for the baby’s birth.

Gerber’s fluid and poetic narrative is both soothing and joyous as the angels announce the arrival to the shepherds. Her rhyming story is condensed from The Book of Luke.  Yumi Shimokawara’s stunning watercolors are realistic, warm, joyful and celebratory. The gorgeous book cover is exquisite and heavenly. Children will delight in pouring over all of the details of this quiet and contemplative Christmas book. It is a perfect gift book that will surely become a family favorite.

Resource: Make sure you read the postscript of the story from the Book of Luke, Chapter 2, at the end of the story. Ask children what special gift that they might leave in the manger (a song, a poem etc.)  Hand them paints, markers and crayons and encourage children them to draw their own scene and their unique offering.

Carole Gerber has written sixteen picture books, three chapter books, and more than one hundred elementary science and reading texts for major publishers. Her most recent picture book, A Band of Babies, was named a 2017 Best Book for Children by Amazon editors. She holds a BS in English education and an MA in journalism from Ohio State, and  has taught middle school and high school English as well as college newswriting and factual writing at OSU. Learn more about Carole at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the publisher.

Dasher by Matt Tavares

Dasher

Matt Tavares, Author and Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Reindeer, Circus, Nature, Santa, Christmas

Opening: “Life was not easy for the reindeer family of J.P. Finnegan’s Traveling Circus and Menagerie.”

Synopsis:

Dasher is a brave little doe with a wish in her heart. She spends her days with family under the hot sun in a traveling circus, but she longs for a different life. Dasher listens to Mama’s story of a “magical place” where she and Papa were free to roam under the glow of the North Star, and yearns to go there. One night a strong wind opens the gate to the circus pen. Dasher knows this is her chance to escape, so she runs into the forest with the North Star as her guide.

It’s not too long before she meets a nice man in a red suit with a big sleigh. The sleigh is heavy with toys for children and is pulled by a tired horse, Silverbell. Dasher offers her help. She likes the idea of making children happy.  Santa attaches her harness and before she realizes it, she’s looking at the ground beneath her and the stars before her. And, soon, with the help of a powerful wish, Christmas will never be the same.

Why I like this book:

Matt Tavares has crafted an original new holiday tale that focuses on the origins of Dasher, Santa’s first reindeer. It is a visual journey that will delight children and the young at heart. It’s message is perfect for the holiday season.

Everything about Dasher is gorgeous and elegant. Tavares’ has beautifully designed his book with luscious illustrations that resemble paintings in muted and soulful colors. The illustrations are done in watercolor, gouache, pencil, and pastel.  Some pages have double-spreads with minimal text and others have artwork on one side of the page and the story printed on a pure white page. The story is a little longer, but I doubt children will mind at all. They will be holding onto every word of this magical story. The front cover and the illustrations are simply stunning.

Tavares’ story is also about family and the meaning of home. Dasher is the youngest reindeer in her family and is filled with a lot of heart. She has big dreams, a love of family and a wish for a better life for her family. After she helps Santa with the deliveries, Santa brings her to her new home of snow and cold air — the place in Mama’s stories.  Even though is wonderful, Dasher “misses her family and wishes they could be together” under the glow of the North Star. I won’t spoil the story.

This enchanting story is sure to become a Christmas treasure that you will look forward to reading aloud to your family each year.

Matt Tavares is the author-illustrator of Crossing Niagara, Henry Aaron’s Dream, There Goes Ted Williams, Becoming Babe Ruth, and Growing Up Pedro, as well as Zachary’s Ball, Oliver’s Game, and Mudball. He is the illustrator of “Twas the Night Before Christmas, Over the River and Through the Woods, Lady Liberty by Doreen Rappaport, The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, and Jubilee! by Alicia Potter. Most recently he wrote and illustrated the enchanting Christmas tale Red & Lulu.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.
*Review copy provided by the publisher.

The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Colfer

The Dog Who Lost His Bark

Eoin Colfer, Author

P.J. Lynch, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Pages: 144

Suitable for Ages: 7-10 years

Themes: Boy, Dog, Rescue shelter, Divorce, Music, Multigenerational family

Opening: “The LOUD MAN called him DOG. Or PUP. Or MONGREL. But mostly DOG.”

Synopsis: Patrick Coin’s dad is a musician and in Australia, while Patrick and his mother are spending their summer vacation at Grandad’s house. Patrick is puzzled by his father’s absence and isn’t satisfied with his mother’s answers. She suggests Patrick get a dog.

Patrick has longed for a dog of his own forever. With his father away, he could use a best friend more than ever. Grandad suggests they visit the local rescue shelter. Patrick chooses a small, sad dog in the last cage. He names him Oz.

In his short doggy life, Oz has suffered at the hands of bad people. Somewhere out there, he believes, is an awesome boy — his boy. And maybe, when they find each other, Oz will learn to bark again.

Why I like this book:

The cover shouts “read me.” Dog’s face is so sad and lonely.  Nearly every page is accompanied by P.J. Lynch’s realistic and expressive pencil illustrations that illuminate  Eoin Colfer’s heartwarming story and makes it sing.

Readers first meet Dog, who is mistreated and discarded in a dump by previous owners. Dog stops barking because he knows barking means no food and trouble. He’s rescued and taken to a shelter. When Patrick meets Dog, he sees the pup as a “potential soul mate.” Patrick names him Oz. Dog is cautious and afraid, but Patrick is patient and loving.

The story also follows Patrick who has to cope with an absentee father, his parents’ separation and new partners, and some tough choices to make. Foturnately Patrick has a strong bond with his grandfather and a devoted dog who loves him. I enjoy reading stories about multigenerational relationships.

I love how Colfer uses the power of music to heal the mistreated dog, and later, Patrick.  When Grandad plays a melody on a tin whistle, Oz whines most of the tune back to him. Patrick pulls out his violin and starts to play a tune and Oz howls it back to him. Oz finds music soothing and the two create a bond of trust, that carries through to the end of the story, when Patrick discovers the truth of his parents’ separation. Oz knows what Patrick needs to heal.

This inspiring story by Eoin Colfer, internationally best-selling author of the Artemis Fowl fantasy series, is certain to enchant many readers, who will undoubtedly relate to Patrick’s sitution.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Copy provided by the publisher.

Birds of Paradise by Pamela S. Wight

Birds of Paradise

Pamela S. Wight, Author

Shelley A. Steinle, Illustrator

Borgo Publishing, May 1, 2017

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Birds, Overcoming fear and danger, Self-confidence, Bullying, Friendship

Opening: “Bessie and Bert are Birds — sparrows, humans call them. They just call themselves birds.” 

Synopsis:

Bessie and her brothers and sisters hatch from their shells, while their parents feed them fat bugs and  warn them about the danger that lurks around them. Thunderstorms and Blue Jays scare Bessie. But so do cats. When it’s time to fly from the nest, Bessie is hesitant to leave its security and needs some nudging from her mom. Still she stays close to the tree, afraid to explore the world around her.

Bessie meets Bert, a risk taker who finds joy in life. He dives for grass seed and soars high above the forest listening to the wind.  Bert is so busy enjoying life that he lets his guard down and nearly becomes dinner for a prowling cat. After he loses his tail to the cat, Bert is bullied by the other birds for his recklessness. Bessie and Bert become friends and encourage each other. Together they explore the world.

Why I like this book:

Pamela Wight’s Birds of Paradise is a heartwarming story for children about balancing fear with the simple joys of life.  And chirping sparrows are the perfect medium to tell a beautiful story of friendship and taking care of each other — all valuable life lessons. This is a story for all ages.

Wight is a lyrical author. Her captivating prose simply transport her readers. “Like the sunrise after a snowstorm?” Bert asks with excitement. “Or the flock of birds diving together in the summer sunshine?” 

Shelley A. Steinle’s illustrations are beautiful, lively and expressive. She depicts a variety of bird species with intricate detail. There is a lot to study on each page. Children will enjoy searching for the lady bug Steinle has hidden on each page.

Resources: Birds of Paradise will encourage children to observe birds in their own backyards. Summer is ending and birds are preparing for the winter. Some will migrate. Take a walk in the woods and listen to their bird chatter. Search the skies for the migrating bird formations. Draw a picture of what you observe.

Pamela Wight is a successful author of romantic suspense as well as the author of the illustrated children’s book, Birds of Paradise, enjoyed by readers ages 3 to 93. She earned her Master’s in English from Drew University, continued with postgraduate work at UC Berkeley in publishing, and teaches creative writing classes in Boston and San Francisco. The gorgeously illustrated book was a  finalist in the 2018 International Book Awards. Visit Wight at her website.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the author.

You Weren’t With Me by Chandra Ghosh Ippen

You Weren’t with Me

Chandra Ghosh Ippen, Author

Erich Ippen Jr., Illustrator

Piplo Productions, Fiction, Feb. 12, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 3-7

Themes: Separation, Fear, Understanding, Love, Healing

Book Synopsis:

Little Rabbit and Big Rabbit are together after a difficult separation, but even though they missed each other, Little Rabbit is not ready to cuddle up and receive Big Rabbit’s love. Little Rabbit needs Big Rabbit to understand what it felt like when they were apart. “Sometimes I am very mad. I don’t understand why you weren’t with me,” says Little Rabbit. “I worry you will go away again.” Big Rabbit listens carefully and helps Little Rabbit to feel understood and loved. This story was designed to help parents and children talk about difficult separations, reconnect, and find their way back to each other.

What I like about this book:

Chandra Ghosh Ippen’s timely book addresses  a wide variety of painful situations in which a child is separated from a parent: divorce, military deployments, parental incarcerations, parental drug abuse and immigration-related separations. Indeed it is a treasure!  We need more stories like this to help jump-start the important conversations about challenging separations between children and parents. Only then can healing begin.

The animals characters make this book a perfect choice in dealing with tough issues. It isn’t a happy homecoming story, as both Little Rabbit and Big Rabbit have to learn to deal with their feelings and get use to each other. Little Rabbit is angry that Big Rabbit left, worries he/she may leave again and doesn’t trust it won’t happen again. The author gives Little Rabbit time to share his concerns before Big Rabbit responds and they find a way to reconnect.

Ippen’s illustrations are rendered in soft pastels and are priceless. The text is minimal with the illustrations carrying much of the story. There is an occasional burst of color that signals the feelings being shared. I especially like the physical distance and space between the rabbits throughout the story.  Little Rabbit needs time and space until trust is established again.  Slowly they move closer to one another. And the facial expressions are spot on for the feelings being communicated. Great collaboration between the author and illustrator.

Resource: This book is a resource due to the way it is written. It will encourage many important discussions. I think it would be fun to take some of the expressive illustrations and have children fill in their own dialogue.

Chandra Ghosh Ippen combines her love of story and cute creatures with her training in clinical psychology. She is the author of Once I Was Very Very Scared. She has also co-authored over 20 publications related to trauma and diversity-informed practice and has over 10 years of experience conducting training nationally and Internationally.

Erich Ippen Jr. was always interested as a boy to drawing cartoons and character designs. In his professional career, he has created visual effects for movies like Rango, Harry Potter, The Avengers, Star Wars and many other films. He is also a singer, songwriter, music producer and founding member of the local San Francisco band, District 8.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by the author.

Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia Lord

Because of the Rabbit

Cynthia Lord, Author

Scholastic Press, Fiction, Mar. 26, 2019

Pages: 192

Suitable for Ages: 8-12

Themes: Rabbit, Rescue, New school, Feeling different, Special Needs, Friendship

Book Synopsis:

It is a powerful thing to rescue something. It changes both of you.

On the last night of summer vacation, Emma tags along with her game warden father on a call. They expect to rescue a wild rabbit that’s stuck in a picket fence, but instead they find a honey-colored little bunny, maybe someone’s pet. Emma convinces her father to bring him home for the night. She knows that rabbits can be lucky — and she needs all the luck she can get.

Because the next day, Emma starts public school for the very first time. After years of being homeschooled, she’s ready to ride the bus and eat in a cafeteria as a brand new fifth grader. More than anything, Emma wants a best friend, someone who’s always on her side.

But things don’t go as planned. On the first day of school, she’s paired with a boy named Jack for a project. He can’t stay on topic, he speaks out of turn, and he’s obsessed with animals. Jack does not fit in.

As Emma and Jack bond over her rescue rabbit, she worries that being seen with Jack will mean that’s she’s different, too. Will their friendship keep Emma from finding the best friend she’s meant to have?

Why I like this book:

A heart warming story about the bond between Emma and a rabbit that helps her face some major changes in her life. This sweet honey-colored rabbit nuzzles her neck and her worries melt away. She names him Monsieur Lapin, after a rabbit character in her deceased grandfather’s magical stories. Perhaps Pépère (grandfather) may be sending some rabbit magic and her life will be okay.

Lord writes characters with depth. I really enjoyed Emma’s relationship with her brother, Owen, and the clever banter between them that runs throughout the story. For example on Emma’s first day of school, Owen asks her, “So who’s ahead. Scared or Excited?” Emma responds, “excited has been training all summer for this day. Scared forgot to eat breakfast.”  Owen slides a rock into her hand that says, “Be Yourself,” and tells her to look at it when she needs it most. Their sibling relationship sealed Lord’s story for me, because it is such special and unusual. And Emma’s relationship with a classmate, Jack, who is on the on the autism spectrum, took time to develop and was well worth the outcome. Jack knows a lot of facts about rabbits and their relationship is sealed with their love of animals.

Each chapter of the book starts with a torn piece of notebook paper with a rabbit fact: “If a rabbit refuses food, it can quickly become an emergency,” or “Rabbits are the third-most surrendered pets to animals shelters, behind dogs and cats.” Fun tidbits readers will enjoy.

I enjoyed learning about at the end how Lord explains how her books begin from a tiny  “seed” of her real life and allows it to percolate over time until a story begins to form. And yes, she has rabbits.  Many of the characters in this story are based on family members, including her son who has a sensory issues. She beautifully weaves them into her story.

Cynthia Lord is the award-winning author of Rules, a Newbery Honor Book and a Schneider Family Book Award winner, as well as the critically acclaimed Half a Chance and A Handful of Stars. She made her picture-book debut with Hot Rod Hamster, which won several awards, including the Parents’ Choice Award, and is the author of the Shelter Pet Squad chapter book series. She lives in Maine with her family. Visit her at her website.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.

Pippa’s Passover Plate by Vivian Kirkfield

Pippa’s Passover Plate

Vivian Kirkfield, Author

Jill Weber, Illustrator

Holiday House, Feb 5, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: Animals, Passover meal, Seder Plate, Jewish Holiday,

Opening: Hurry, scurry, Pippa Mouse, / washing, scrubbing cleaning house. / Passover starts at six tonight, / Seder meal by candlelight.

Publisher Synopsis:

Sundown is near, and it’s almost time for Seder to begin. Where is Pippa’s special Passover Plate?

Pippa the Mouse has been working hard all day– cleaning her house, setting the table, cooking the meal. Everything looks great– but her special Seder plate is missing!

Searching through her tiny house turns up nothing, so Pippa ventures out to ask her neighbors if they can help. Bravely, she asks the other animals for help, but the snake, owl, and cat haven’t seen her plate, either. But it’s almost time for the Seder to begin, so she keeps looking– and when she finds it, she invites all the other animals home to join her celebration.

A charming story with a happy ending, Pippa’s Passover Plate pairs simple, rhyming text with bright paintings by Jill Weber, illustrator of The Story of Passover and The Story of Esther. In bravely facing her animal neighbors, this adorable little mouse finds not only her missing Seder plate– but new friends along the way.

Why I like this book:

Vivian Kirkfield’s charming picture book will help children learn about joyful Passover traditions. The story is fun and lively and flows effortlessly in rhyme.  It is a perfect book to read aloud, as the words will roll off your tongue. Jewish or not, readers will relate to the how busy Pippa is in preparing for a holiday meal and the memories made with friends and family.

I especially enjoyed learning about the Seder plate and the six symbolic items that are carefully arranged for Passover: beitzah,(an egg), zeroah (a roasted bone), maror (horseradish root), and charoset (chopped apple, walnut, and red wine), chazeret (Romaine lettuce), and karpas (a sprig of parsley or onion or boiled potato).

Jill Weber’s brightly painted illustrations accentuate the feeling of spring. Most important, they show a very expressive and brave Pippa as she journeys around the woodland searching for her Seder plate. And they showcase Kirkfield’s beautiful text. Make sure you check out the endpapers.

Resources:  Encourage children to participate in preparing the food items for the family Seder Plate. Or you can give them a plain white plate and paint pens to draw the food items on their very-own Seder Plate. It is an easy craft and keepsake for kids and family.

Vivian Kirkfield is a children’s picture book author and a former kindergarten teacher and early childhood educator. A passionate advocate for children and reading, she is the creator of the popular blog Picture Books Help Kids Soar and the author of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, and her newly released, Sweet Dreams, Sarah.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Reviewed from a book won in a giveaway on Diane Tulloch’s website, Writer and Dreamer at Work.

A Case for Buffy (Detective Gordon) by Ulf Nilsson

A Case for Buffy (Detective Gordon)

Ulf Nilsson, Author

Gitte Spee, Illustrator

Gekko Press, Fiction, Aug. 1, 2018

Pages: 105

Suitable for Ages: 6-10

Themes: Animals, Forest, Police Station, Detectives, Mystery, Adventure

Opening: In the forest was a small police station. Any animal with a problem could go there for help. It was painted red with white windowsills and had smoke coiling up from the chimney to the sky.  There was a garden too, and a lawn and currant bushes.

Synopsis:

Two police officers, Detective Gordon is snoozing while Detective Buffy is busy reviewing police reports — a missing blue scarf, a naughty child littering in the meadow, a lost hedgehog, and an angry grandfather badger who bullies a little mouse. Buffy organizes the cases and takes care of ordering new cakes — coconut, banana, nougat, and mint chip for the office cake tins.

When a small baby toad (Sune) and a little baby mouse (Gertrude) from the local kindergarten hop into the police station and ask to be police helpers, Detective Gordon sees an opportunity to interact positively with the younger members of the forest. He teaches them about policing, the law, saluting, creeping quietly around the forest, and investigating deep crannies. They are rewarded with paper police hats.

Detective Buffy remembers the day she came to the police station, but she can’t remember why. Her memories slowly begin to return and she remembers she lost her mother and siblings in a catastrophe involving a fox on Cave Island. The two detectives and two baby police set out to investigate their biggest case ever. What happened to Buffy’s mother and 15 siblings? Will they outsmart a fox?

Why I like this book:

Swedish author Ulf Nilsson has written an enchanting and heartwarming animal detective adventure for children. A Case for Buffy is the fourth and final volume in the series. It is an early reader mystery that is humorous with age-appropriate police action. Spees’ colorful pastels fill the chapters and compliment the story with many expressive and touching moments. This book can be read as a stand-alone story.

The animal characters are endearing. Detective Gordon is an old toad (19 years) and brings professionalism, wisdom and compassion to the story. He also likes to snooze. Detective Buffy is a young mouse who shows up at the station one night. She is so happy about having a job and a home, that she’s suppressed some memories about her past. Detective Gordon makes her his assistant. She is organized and thoughtful. Fox is sneaky and can cause a lot of damage — the reason Detective Gordon has driven Fox out of his own police district.  Gordon realizes later, “If you simply drive your danger away, it becomes someone else’s danger.” Sweet nuggets of wisdom like this one are shared throughout the story.

A Case for Buffy has classic appeal and reminds me of books I read as a child. It is charming read-aloud to younger children, but is designed for more advanced readers who like adventure and action. Children don’t need to read the first books, to understand the story. Although I highly recommend reading the entire series, which will be a hit at home.

Ulf Nilsson is a celebrated Swedish children’s writer who has written over twenty books for all ages. He has written this series, Detective Gordon: The First Case, A Complicated Case (Detective Gordon), and A Case in Any Case (Detective Gordon). He has received the prestigious August award and the American Batchelder Award.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Reviewed from a library copy.