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Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster, written by James Howe and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House, 2018. $18.00 ages 6 and up

"There was so much noise that Houndsley could not hear what Wagster was saying now.

But he could tell by the way Catina tilted her head and laughed that she found Cousin Wagster charming.

Everyone found Cousin Wagster charming.

Suddenly, Houndsley felt invisible."   

I think I am right when I tell you that this is the sixth book in the Candlewick Sparks series about Houndsley and Catina. They are best friends who like to spend their time together, and who support one another in every circumstance. Early readers have gravitated to the series for its lively adventure, real dialogue, and the believable highs and lows that characterize true friendship. The two seem able to accomplish anything ... as long as they are together.

In this latest caper, Houndsley welcomes his loud and brash cousin, Wagster. Wagster arrives by train for a short visit before he is off  to experience more 'razzle-dazzle'. His visit is marked by enthusiasm, charm and nonstop compliments. A lot of those compliments come from Houndsley's good friends and are aimed at Wagster. As they sing his praises, Houndsley often feels left out, and fearful that his friends no longer care for him as much as they once did.

As happens with difficulties among friends, it is Catina who reassures her best friend and helps him realize the visit is just that ... here, and then gone!

'Catina laughed. "Don't be silly," she said.
"You are like a beautiful butterfly that stays 
in the garden. You make every day brighter
just by being you."

The book is divided into three chapters, and is just right for  children looking for a bit more difficult text. The sense of accomplishment that comes from reading those first 'chapter books' is hard to measure unless you are looking at the huge smiles and hearing the independence that comes from their taking another step forward. As she always does, Marie-Louise Gay adds just the right touch with endearing characters, repeating patterns, and details that enrich the story itself. 

The first five in the series are available in paperback, making them a viable purchase for a classroom library. Enjoy!

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