The Grand Wolf by Avril McDonald

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The Grand Wolf

Avril McDonald, Author

Tatiana Minina, Illustrator

Crown House Publishing Limited, Fiction, Apr. 26, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Animals, Wolf, Death, Dealing with Grief, Accepting Change, Friendship

Opening: “Once in a while, / on a clear sunny day, / Wolfgang would go / to the Grand Wolf’s to play.”

Synopsis: Wolfgang and his friends enjoyed visiting the Grand Wolf.  Grand Wolf always had fresh bread baking in his house and toys in his shed. He’d take Wolfgang on long walks and show him things in the forest. But one day when Wolfgang and his friends went for their visit, they sensed something was wrong. The Wise Owl tells them that Grand Wolf has died. At first they are angry and don’t believe Owl.  Spider helps them deal with their grief and reminds them Grand Wolf will always be in their hearts and memories.

Why I like this book:

I am in awe of Avril McDonald’s tender and wise book about dealing with grief. The lovely rhythmic language and the beautiful illustrations blend perfectly to explore the emotional journey of love and loss, breaking your heart and then helping it to heal.  The book is so well written and talks about death in such a way that is perfect for children.  Wolfgang and his friends express their disbelief and anger and share their tears as Wise Owl and Spider support them, help them deal with this major change in their lives and remind them that just because someone is gone doesn’t mean they have left your heart.  Tatiana Minina’s colorful, bold and expressive illustrations really contribute to the book’s message.

The Grand Wolf is part of McDonald’s Feel Brave Series of books which are designed to help children deal with real life situations, manage tough emotions and reach their potential. Each book tells a story about a real life situation that children may face and offers simple coping strategies.  Each of the five books helps children deal with self-confidence, anxiety and fears, change, grief, loss, worries and bullying.  Follow Avril McDonald on her Feel Brave website.

Resources: This book is a great discussion book and resource for families and educators to use to talk about death with young children.  It is a helpful book for a family dealing with grief, approaching grief or separation. There is also a Feel Brave Teaching Guide available along with a CD.

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 Perfect Picture Books.

Bobbie The Wonder Dog by Tricia Brown

Bobbie the Wonder Dog 61imub6xbFL__SX408_BO1,204,203,200_Bobbie the Wonder Dog: A True Story

Tricia Brown, Author

Cary Porter, Illustrator

WestWinds Press, Fiction, Apr. 12, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: A lost dog’s journey, Human-animal relationships, Animals

Opening: “Bobbie was going on vacation! Just as his favorite man finished securing the luggage, the mix-breed collie jumped up in one easy leap. This would be his riding place.” 

Book Jacket Synopsis: Frank and Elizabeth Brazier decided that they needed a farm dog and their two daughters needed a friend. They fell in love with a six-week-old puppy, with a bobbed tail, and named him Bobbie. He was the perfect herding dog for their farm animals. When the Brazier’s stopped farming to run a restaurant in town, they decided it was best to leave Bobbie on the farm with his new owners. Days later Bobbie showed up at the restaurant.

In August 1923, the Frank and Elizabeth took a trip from Silverton, Oregon to visit relatives in Indiana. Bobbie was known to jump off the back of the car and chase a rabbit and then show up an hour later further down the road. The evening they arrived in Indiana, Bobbie was with Frank when a pack of wild dogs chased after him. This time Bobbie didn’t return. The couple searched everywhere and there was no sign of Bobbie. They made the trip back home not knowing if he was all right.

Six months after Bobbie was lost in Indiana, a dirty and skinny dog limped into Silverton. Bobbie’s paws were raw and bleeding, but he had traveled nearly 3,000 miles home to Frank and Elizabeth.

Why I like this book:

I am a sucker for a really good dog story, especially when it is based on a true story. Tricia Brown’s heartwarming story about this famous collie is destined to become a classic.  Both children and adults will relate to the love and unbreakable bond between Bobbie and his owner, Frank.

Brown’s storytelling is compelling and her pacing keeps readers fully engaged. The author’s attention to detail demonstrates the amount of research done to portray Bobbie’s unbelievable story as accurately as possible. Bobbie’s 3,000-mile journey that fall and winter across mountain ranges, across rivers and through bone-chilling weather, shows his loyalty to Frank and his family. Bobbie just wanted to go home. All the characters in the story are memorable. The ending makes you want to curl up with the book and start all over again.

Cary Porter’s large, richly textured illustrations are bold, colorful, emotive and significantly contribute to Bobbie’s story. They capture the vintage 1923 automobiles and tractors, the first gasoline pumps, rickety wooden bridges, sleepy towns with dry good stores, dirt roads and cobblestone pavements. The characters are dressed in period clothing. Perfect marriage of stunning artwork and text.

Resources: This is a beautiful book for families. It will prompt many questions from children about what would happen if they lost their pet and how important it is to have pets registered with chips. Encourage kids to come up with a plan if they lose or find a lost pet. Make sure you read the author’s page about the real Bobbie (1921-1927) and his remarkable journey that sparked nationwide interest. Bobbie became a star overnight and people flocked to Silverton, Oregon to see him.  Silverton erected a statue and a seventy-foot mural to pay tribute to their famous dog.

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 Perfect Picture Books.

Stickley Makes a Mistake! by Brenda S. Miles

stickley-makes-a-mistake51jrzhny88l__sx401_bo1204203200_Stickley Makes a Mistake! – A Frog’s Guide to Trying Again

Brenda S. Miles, Author

Steve Mack, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Aug. 15, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 5-8

Themes: Frogs, Animals, Making mistakes, Perfection, Perseverance, Rhyme

Opening: When Stickley was young, he didn’t like making mistakes. “Oh no!” he’d say, and he wouldn’t try again. He wanted to be perfect.

Book Synopsis: Stickley didn’t like making mistakes. With help from his Grandpa, Stickley learns to hop up, try again, and say “oh well” when he makes a mistake. Nobody’s perfect, and good things can happen even when you make mistakes — like putting blueberries in the pancake batter instead of chocolate chips. When Stickley writes 1 + 1 = 3 on the blackboard, he asks for help and a polar bear hands him an ice cream cone with two sweet scoops.

Why I like this book:

Brenda S. Mills’ has written a charming and important sequel to her popular Stickley Sticks To It book. Stickley is so afraid of making a mistake, that he’s afraid to try when he messes up. It is important for children to learn that making a mistake is part of their learning process.  They grow from their mistakes. And, some mistakes can be fun. The language is artful, with a careful use of prose that is also lyrical at times.  “No one is perfect, / so practice your best! / If you’re stuck on a problem, / ask for help with the rest!”  Steve Mack’s illustrations are colorful, lively and full of personality. Stickley’s expressions are priceless.

Resources: The book includes a Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers with tips for helping children to embrace their mistakes, learn from them, and keep trying. Stickley Makes a Mistake, is an important book for preschools and elementary students.  This is a good book to read at the start of the new year, to help children know that perfection isn’t the goal — the fun of learning.  And since many parents don’t like making mistakes, it’s a fun book to read with your child.  It will encourage many fun discussions.

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 Perfect Picture Books.

The Brave Little Puppy by Lori Evert

brave-little-puppy-513orm7vwtl__sx448_bo1204203200_The Brave Little Puppy

Lori Evert, Author

Per Breiehagen, Photographer

Random House Books for Young Readers, Fiction, Sep. 13, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 2 – 5   Board Book

Themes: Nordic Christmas Tale, Lost puppy, Nature, Animals, Friends

Opening: “This is Anja’s puppy. His name is Birki.”

Synopsis: In this Nordic Christmas tale, Anja’s puppy is very curious. When Anja takes Birki for a ride in the basket of her sled, she doesn’t notice that her puppy falls out when she hits a bump. Brave and adorable Birki is lost and must find his way back to Anja. He sets off in the deep snow to follow Anja’s trail. Birki makes many new woodland friends on his journey — a polar bear, a wolf, a squirrel, a lynx and reindeer — who help him find his way to Anja.

Why I like this book:

Lori Evert and her photographer husband, Per Breiehagen, are back with another wintry 18th century Nordic adventure with their daughter, Anja, and her puppy, Birki. This tale is a board book for small hands. With simple and engaging text appropriate for young children, The Brave Little Puppy is a visual treasure, perfect for reading aloud and sharing at bedtime. Award-winning photographer Breiehagen captures the breathtaking and enchanting snow-covered landscapes, the wildlife and the touching moments between Anja and Birki.  This is another beautiful collaborative holiday offering by this husband-wife team, and their daughter Anja.

The Brave Little Puppy is the fourth book in The Wish Book series: The Christmas Wish, The Tiny Wish and The Reindeer Wish. Click on The Christmas Wish website to view enlarged photos from all the books. The three books will be made into a movies, starting with The Christmas Wish in 2017.

Resources: Visit Random House Kids for more information about The Wish Books.  Children can select their favorite photos from the books and send holiday e-cards to friends and family. They can download  and print selected photographs from the books and make their own holiday cards and ornaments. There is a video and other special activities for children.

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 Perfect Picture Books.

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The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan

the-poets-dog-51gd-tehrml__sx331_bo1204203200_The Poet’s Dog

Patricia MacLachlan, Author

Katherine Tegen Books, Fiction, Sep. 13, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 6-10, Grades 1-5

Pages: 88

Themes: Dog, Lost children, Winter storm, Love, Loss, Friendship

Opening: “I found the boy at dusk. The blizzard was fierce, and it would soon be dark. I could barely see him with the snow blowing sideways. He stood at the edge of the icy pond, shivering.”

Publisher Synopsis: Teddy is a gifted dog. Raised in a cabin by a poet named Sylvan, he grew up listening to sonnets read aloud and the comforting clicking of a keyboard. Although Teddy understands words, Sylvan always told him there are only two kinds of people in the world who can hear Teddy speak: poets and children.

Then one day Teddy learns that Sylvan was right. When Teddy finds Nickel and Flora trapped in a snowstorm, he tells them that he will bring them home—and they understand him. The children are afraid of the howling wind, but not of Teddy’s words. They follow him to a cabin in the woods, where the dog used to live with Sylvan . . . only now his owner is gone.

As they hole up in the cabin for shelter, Teddy is flooded with memories of Sylvan. What will Teddy do when his new friends go home? Can they help one another find what they have lost?

Why I like this book:

Patricia MacLachlan’s book is a magical tale that will warm the hearts of readers from the first page. It is a story about Nickel and Flora, who are rescued during a storm by Teddy, an Irish wolfhound.  It is quiet and cozy story about how they help each other survive loss and find love.

The prose is lyrical and simple for older elementary children. The chapters are short. The beautiful narrative is in Teddy’s voice, as we learn about his great love for his master, Sylvan, who has died. Teddy is in mourning and sleeps in the barn until he finds Nickel and Flora and takes them to Sylvan’s cabin. Nickel is a protective older brother. He takes care of the firewood, shovels snow paths and goes outside with Teddy to the barn.  Nora takes over the food preparation with food is stocked in the cabin. They enjoy being on their own with Teddy in the cabin. It becomes an adventure. And their presence helps Teddy deal with his loss as he shares his beautiful memories of Sylvan and their relationship. The plot and the pacing are perfect for the age group. The message is a bit complex for young children.  The ending is satisfying and uplifting.

This is an endearing read from a wonderful storyteller. Parents will enjoy reading The Poet’s Dog to younger children. However, older children will be able to read it on their own. This is a book worth reading for both young and old alike.

Check other Middle Grade review links on author Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post.

Move Your Mood!

Move Mood 51yBzV7KVTL__SX401_BO1,204,203,200_Move Your Mood!

Brenda S. Miles and Colleen A. Patterson, Authors

Holly Clifton-Brown, Illustrator

Magination Press, Fiction, Apr. 18, 2016

Suitable for Ages: 3-6

Themes: Learning about emotions, Mood, Movement, Animals, Rhyme

Opening: “Feeling blah? Here’s what to do. MOVE YOUR BODY and your mood moves too!”

Book Jacket Synopsis: Move Your Mood! encourages children to twist, wiggle, hop, march, shake and smile their way into a better mood. 

Why I like this book:

Brenda S. Miles and Colleen A. Patterson have written a fresh and clever story that teaches children to move their bodies when they feel angry, sad, worried, anxious and frustrated. What a great way to boost their moods.

Adorable anthropomorphic animals (cow, giraffe, pig, elephant, kangaroo and duck etc.) wearing stylish hats dance, waddle, hop, twist, wiggle, and march across double-page spreads to the delight of young readers. The text is simple: “Twist out tired! Twist. Twist. Twist.” and “Wiggle out worried! Wiggle like this!” Holly Clifton-Brown’s humorous illustrations are colorful, lively, and expressive.

Verdict: This book will elicit many giggles from children, who will feel energized and happy after doing all the suggested movements before they sit down to focus on an activity. This book is a winner for kids, parents and teachers!

Resources: There is a Note to Parents, Caregivers, and Teachers at the end of the book with suggestions in how to use this book at home in the morning to start the day, at school during circle time and in the afternoon to re-energize and refocus students. This is such an uplifting and terrific resource to use with preschoolers and kindergarteners.

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 Perfect Picture Books.

The Adventures of a Girl and Her Dog by Dagny McKinley

The Adventures of a Girl & Her Dog

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Dagny McKinley, Author

Ostap Stetsiv, Illustrator

Brigham Distributing,  Fiction, 2015

Suitable for Ages: 4-8

Themes: A girl and her dog explore nature

Opening: These are the adventures of a girl and her dog / That played together in rain, snow and fog / Nature was their home / high in the mountains / Away from / cities, subway, planes, cars and trains.

Synopsis: A girl and her dog explore the mountains with abandonment. With no adults to restrict their explorations, they can roam through fields full of flowers, cross streams, climb trees, dig in the earth, splash in streams, watch bears, dodge bee hives, laugh, scream, and get dirty. When the girl and her dog visit the city, they have to look hard for natures’ beauty in the flowers living in the cracks of the sidewalks and in the bird’s nests sitting in gutters.

Favorite Verse: “The girl’s soul lived in the mountains / where trees grow into the clouds / Where there are rocks, there are birds / but nothing loud.”

Adventures-snow…in the Snow

Brigham Distributing, Fiction, 2015

Opening: These are the adventures of a girl and her dog / Who play together in the snow, sleet and fog / Who love to wander where no one else goes / In temperatures of five, ten, even twenty below.

Synopsis: A girl explores the winter wonderland with her dog.  As the snow begins to fall, they relish the possibilities all around them. They watch the clouds transform the landscape and find stories in the tracks left by cougars, foxes, and rabbits. While the temperatures dip, bears, marmots and chipmunks, hibernate in dens. The girl and her dog dance in the snow, run without a care, dig caves in the snow, make snow and dog angels, and watch the sun set. The world changes around them, each day they explore.

Favorite Verse: “Together they set off through the white / as light as a feather / That dances around their feet / like sugar and glitter.

Why I like this series: Dagny McKinley has written a charming series about the joy found in the changing seasons. Children will love the delicious rhyming and words choices. They will delight in romping through the natural world with the girl and dog, feel the peace and tranquility as they explore the mountains and navigate the quiet, winter snow-covered woodlands. The author is clever not to name the girl or dog, as it allows children to imagine that they are the ones having this grand adventure. Ostap Stetsiv’s illustrations are colorful, whimsical and show the wonder on the girl’s face.  The warm, bright colors of summer and cool colors of winter, highlight the different seasons. Exquisite images! Nice collaborative work on this heartwarming series for children and adults.

Resources: Take children on a nature walk to explore the many wonders found in the fields, forests and streams.  Since autumn is here look at the colorful leaves on trees and talk about the life cycles.  Take along a camera and a journal and encourage kids to record birds and animals they see. In the winter, kids can track animal footprints in the snow, make snow angels and build a snowman.

Dagny McKinley has lived many places, but found a home in the expansive granite landscape of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. McKinley stays current on environmental issues, women’s issues and is an avid animal rights supporter. She believes all lives are interconnected and each person, landscape and insect has something to offer and teach.  She is the author of The Springs of Steamboat: Healing Waters, Mysterious Cave and Sparkling Soda, and  Wild Hearts: Dog Sledding the Rockies – written while working as a dog sled tour guide for three years. Visit Dagny McKinley 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 Perfect Picture Books.