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Thursday, December 31, 2020

A World of Mindfulness. From the Editors and Illustrators at Pajama Press. 2020. $19.95 ages 3 and up


"I can hear birds and breezes
and a dog barking. Even 
with my eyes closed, I know
where I am.

As the Pajama Press team led by Gail Winskill did in A World of Kindness, they again combine stunning artwork with sensitive text to help young children find 'warmth, peace and hope' in difficult times. As 2020 winds down with a fervent hope for a better new year, this is a book that will resonate with all families. 

The table of contents lists the artists and their place in the book. Each illustration is complemented by text that brings awareness to the senses, emotions, and circumstance of the children presented. Readers are encouraged to use their senses, as these children do, to pay attention to their world, their thoughts, and their feelings. 

The artwork is created in a variety of media, and is beautifully rendered to bring a sense of calm and to empower readers to take note of the world that surrounds them every day. The well-chosen words offer a chance to think about self, nature, feelings, movement, and place in that world. 

"I know who I am. I am someone
who sees, smells, hears, tastes, and 
feels the world around me. I know 
where I am. I am here.

Read slowly. Look carefully. Feel the calm as the world moves from one year to the next, with hope for better and a plan to find joy in the small things. 

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Your Place in the Universe, written and illustrated by Jason Chin. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House, Penguin Random House. 2020. $24.99 ages 8 and up


"The tallest living things are trees. 

The tallest trees on Earth are 
California redwoods, and the 
tallest redwood is 380 feet tall.
It's 20 times taller than the 
tallest giraffe, and it's still 
growing, but even it is not 
as tall as ...

Seeing a new book by Jason Chin is a sure invitation to learning more than you already know. In this one, he takes his readers from the planet they call home out into the far reaches of space. In illustrations that provide perspective and understanding for just how big the universe is, he captures attention and offers points for discussion for everyone who reads this amazing book.   

The four 8-year-olds who are present on the book's opening page are sky watchers, as seen by the telescope they are using to make observations. He shows readers that it would take five copies of this book to be as tall as they are. A note at the bottom of the verso says that their average size is 50 inches (127 centimeters) tall. An interloper arrives at the edge of the recto with a statement that notes the children are only 'half as tall ... ' 

As an ostrich! One of the children standing on the shoulders of another is not quite as tall as the huge bird. The ostrich is only half as tall as ... a giraffe. Compared to an ever-taller line of trees, the giraffe seems like a shrimp! Those trees have nothing on the tallest buildings in the world (from the Eiffel Tower at 324 meters to the under-construction Jeddah Tower which will be 1 full kilometer tall!) Attention is then drawn to mountains, to space, to the far reaches of the exosphere. Wow! 

Earth is compared to the moon, the sun, the other planets, and beyond. 

"Our galaxy. 

The Milky Way galaxy is 100,000 light-years 
across and contains more than 100 billion 
stars. There are so many stars that from a 
distance they blend together and look like
swirling clouds of light. We are 27,000 
light-years from the center of the galaxy,
which means that even if you could travel
at the speed of light, it would take you 
27,000 years to get there!

And there is more! Pages more, moving readers to a place where scientists can see the edge of the 'observable universe'.  At the end of the book, Jason Chin reviews all that he has revealed to readers with short paragraphs that make the journey one more time. Finally, he provides a note from the author, a note on the age of the universe, and a note about the illustrations. These notes are followed by a list of selected sources, and websites where interested readers can find even more information. 

We are so small in the grand scheme of things. Amazing? Indeed! And worthy of attention for every home, classroom and library.                                                                                      

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Nothing in Common, written by Kate Hoefler and illustrated by Corinna Luyken. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages 6 and up


"That day when a hot air balloon floated over the
city, they were the only ones who thought a dog
might be flying it - a marvelous dog who was lost
and looking for his friend far and wide.

The two children in this book about kindness and discovery live in facing apartment buildings. They do not know each other, and never acknowledge the other, although their windows are at the same level. What both love to do is watch from a distance the relationship between an old man and his dog. But for that, they appear to have nothing in common. 

One day, they both notice the old man crying. In an effort to find his lost dog, both don helmets, take binoculars and spend their time looking for the much-loved canine. Their journey is similar as they search. Sighting a hot air balloon has both imagining the dog piloting it in search of his dear friend; no one else would would have that same thought, would they? It takes the effort of both to rescue the pup and bring it home. As they work together, they notice others things they do have in common. 

"It was a slow walk - one with time to notice things. 
            Things they hadn't noticed before: 

                          Tall things. 

            How patient a dog in the sky is. 

How they both had the same feeling inside -
a deep feeling that ballooned out.

Beautifully told, with gorgeous illustrations, this warm story of friendship discovered and appreciated leaves readers with an understanding that caring brings people together. 

Monday, December 28, 2020

Fauja Singh Keeps Going: The True Story of the Oldest Person to Ever Run a Marathon. Written by Simran Jeet Singh and illustrated by Baljinder Kaur. Kokila, Penguin Random House. 2020. $23.99 ages 6 and up


"Once Fauja began to walk, his legs needed 
strengthening. He practiced walking around
the banyan tree every day. Some bullies thought
his legs looked like sticks, and they teased Fauja
by calling him "danda".

This week begins the countdown to a brand-new year. We can only hope 2021 holds promise for better times. Saying goodbye to 2020 isn't much of a chore this year. It may have you talking with your kids about resolutions for the new year. Perhaps getting more exercise will be one of your goals. Fauja Singh is a bright light when looking for a person to emulate in a quest to be more active. 

In his foreword, he tells readers:

"Doctors couldn't figure out why I had trouble walking 
as a child, nor could they figure out why I was able to 
begin walking and, eventually, running. I think of it as 
a reminder that all of our bodies are different - and so 
are our experiences with disabilities. 

I'm now 108 years old which means I'm probably more
than 100 years older than you. Can you believe that?

I knew none of Fauja's story. Having read this informative picture book biography, I am happy to meet him. What a wonder he remains! He was the first 100-year-old to run a marathon! As a child, no one would have expected such an accomplishment. He didn't walk until he was five, and then he never stopped. His perseverance in the years that followed was undeterred by bullying, a lack of schooling, and other obstacles; that determination resulted in life as a successful farmer, husband, father. He knew the success of a life well-lived. 'He cherished every step in life's journey'.

As he grew older, his children moved away. When his wife died, he decided to move from his home to live with his children in England. He was not happy, until he happened to see runners while watching television. That changed everything. At 81, he decided on a new course for his life. Once again, dedication and hard work put a smile on his face. He ran every day, filling his heart with joy. Training with a coach, Harmander Singh, led to his first marathon at 89 years of age. Then, he did it five more times, always improving his record. 

It was time to run in New York City, where few people knew much about Sikh people. He wanted to change that. Now 93, he did what he had always done - believed in himself. That was 2003. Saddened by his performance, he returned to England and was soon training again. 8 years later, he ran in the Toronto Waterfront Marathon ... a new record as the oldest person to run a marathon! Bravo! 

End matter includes further information about him and a photo of Fauja, as well as a list of his records. What a triumph! 

"Warrior lion", indeed. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Too Much Stuff! Written and illustrated by Emily Gravett. Two Hoots, Publishers Group Canada. 2021. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"At first they brought back little stuff:
Two ornamental cuckoo clocks, 
Four tiny socks, 
And a pack of plastic pegs
(In shades of blue to match their eggs).

On this Boxing Day, you will likely recognize the sentiment behind this book. Who doesn't have 'too much stuff' today? Meg and Ash certainly do. They are magpies determined to build a nest for their eggs - not just any nest, a perfect one! To do that, they must start with collecting. 

Collect they do: mud, sticks, grass, and an old magazine to line it for comfort. The eggs are laid and safely tucked within its boundaries. As so many parents are wont to do, Meg and Ash begin to worry that they need more for their expected family. One always stays with the eggs, the other goes off in a search for more. Their ideas come from seeing the pictures on the magazine lining. There is so much more they need. 

No matter how much they find, it never seems to be just the right amount. Their eggs are deserving of the effort they are making to provide a perfect home. There is no stopping them. Then, CRACK, and it all comes crashing down. 

"The shiny bucket, and the lights
Came clattering down from the heights. 

The fancy pram that they'd brought back, 
Hit the ground with quite a smack.

Falling fast, the poor lost ted
Landed hard upon his head.

If you are an Emily Gravett fan, you will know the wonder of her picture books. The forest setting allows readers a chance to watch the magpies' many expressive and astonished friends as the gathering of 'stuff' becomes more and more cumbersome. It is a tale filled with humor, rhyme, and great delight for all. I haven't even mentioned the endpapers, or the book's cover (when you remove the paper cover to take a look). The STUFF magazine Ms. Gravett creates on the endpapers add even more fun, and a lesson in the four 'R's of recycling. Wow!                                                                                         

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Shadow Elephant, by Nadine Robert and illustrated by Valerio Vidali. Translated from French by Sarah Klinger. Enchanted Lion Books, Publishers Group Canada. 2020. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"Not a smile. Not a sound. 
The elephant listened attentively. 
but remained in the shadows. 

Next, the ostrich sisters gave it a try."

None of the animals who share the savannah setting with the blue elephant know its story. They are not sure if the elephant is sad, is resting, or just likes being in the shadows. No matter, they are determined to try to make the difference that proffers a change. The monkey tells a joke, the ostriches dance, and the crocodile offers a tasty treat. The elephant does not respond. 

Along comes a mouse who chooses to sit quietly next to the portly pachyderm, sharing its space and its silence. The silence arouses the elephant's curiosity. It sits up. Because the mouse has no motive for being there, they sit in silence some more. Finally, the mouse shares a story that has made it very sad. Together, they cry. Only then do the two move forward together through the night, calm and released from their overwhelming sadness.  

There is drama here; it is deftly played out in the shadows. lines and shapes chosen by Valerio Vidali to quietly keep melancholy top of mind. Blue is the mood expressed in the art, giving this tale the emotional impact it is meant to have. What a perfect way to open a talk with readers about sadness, empathy, friendship, and the use of artwork to establish a certain frame of mind. Simple gestures can make all the difference. 

Thursday, December 24, 2020

When We Are Kind, written by Monique Gray Smith and illustrated by Nicole Neidhardt. Orca Book Pulishers, 2020. $19.95 ages 3 and up

"I am kind when
I take care of myself and 
get a good night's sleep

Those are the words we would all love our excited children and grandchildren to take to heart this evening. A good night's sleep on Christmas Eve is often a dream for parents, not their children. The excitement that has been building over the past few weeks has finally truly settled into hoping to be able to sleep through Santa's visit in anticipation of what he has left for them. Will their most fervent wishes come true? Santa does his best, despite the pandemic. 

Speaking of that, this soothing book celebrates and encourages readers in many ways. First and foremost, kindness to others should be at the forefront of our thinking in these uncertain times. Showing we care about the world and the people in it is not a sacrifice. It is an apt response to Dr. Bonnie Henry, who has done her best to inspire the people of British Columbia to "Be kind. Be calm. Be safe."

In first-person voice, Ms. Smith explores ways for young readers to show kindness and generosity toward others. and then (at the centre of the book) switches to allow the speaker to emphasize personal feelings when kindness is experienced. 

"I feel loved 
when my Elders are kind to me

The rich and colorful illustrations feature Indigenous families, their activities, and their joy as they spend time together. Visually appealing at every turn and offering up details in clothing and surroundings, there is much to see here. The words inspire questions and memories about being kind in the world, and with family and friends. They fully complement the gentle tone of the words. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Neighbors, written and illustrated by Kasya Denisevich. Chronicle Books, Raincoast. 2020. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"Neighbors are really all around me. 
I wonder that they are doing right now. 
Are they going to bed, just like me?

It is daytime in the city as a moving truck drives down the street, looking for an address. The child narrator knows exactly where her new home will be ... 3 Ponds Lane, Building 2, Apartment 12. While a box marked FRAGILE, a stuffed red cat, a globe and a rolled cylinder sit outside the building's door, the child approaches the apartment. She is followed by a man carrying objects meant for the new home. 

She has her own room, now filling up with things of importance. Being in that room has her thinking about the people who live above, below and beside her. And to wonder about them. She would love to be able to reach through the wall and touch a neighbor. 

A turn of the page shows a cross-section of the four-storied building, its basement which houses an artist's studio and a small theater, and even a rodent's tunnel below that shows exactly how mice gain access to the building itself. Young readers will enjoy taking a careful look at each and every apartment, the people and animals who live there, and the surrounding neighborhood. There is much to discuss. The girl's red sweater keeps eyes fixed on her presence. 

As she considers what might be happening beyond her own home, her imagination clicks into overdrive. She is not even sure that anyone is home. She wonders: 

"What if 
there is 
nothing at all
beyond the walls 
of my room?

She will soon find out. 

Wise, and full of thoughtful contemplation, this is a quiet book that will intrigue readers. They will want to take the time to wander slowly through its pages. Be careful, don't miss the subtle changes in the endpapers from front to back. So much is in the details. Love it!                                     

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Voices of Justice: Poems About People Working for a Better World, written by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Jennifer M. Potter. Henry Holt and Company, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $26.99 ages

"That, Virginia said, 
is how men keep 
all the power!
Few women have 
ever had a chance
to be writers, scholars, 
artists. Until we have 
a room of our own, 
she declared, & money
of our own to live on, 
the genius half 
of the human race 
will be sacrificed 
to the other half.

Virginia Woolf lived at a time when giving her life over to writing was not the accepted practice for women. She paid no attention to what was expected of her; instead, she lived a life where reading and writing were at its core. Her writing was as radical as her actions, and helped lead readers to a new kind of novel they had not yet seen. 

In the poetry created by Ms. Lyon to honor the lives of those who have occasioned change in the world, readers meet people who have done, and continue to do, amazing acts of heroism. They are heroes of history, both past and present. Their stories have garnered attention to their lives and causes. Some are lesser known that others; all have done a remarkable job of bringing attention to causes near and dear to their hearts. 

Poetic forms are varied and often offer visual clues for sharing. The people represented here were born as early as the mid-nineteenth century, and as late as 2003. Their stories, and their lives, are inspiring for those who want to make a difference in the world. Their causes are as varied as they are. They have their say through writing, speaking, acting, and caring about the world they live in. It takes love, bravery, and persistence to fight for what is right. They are worthy of our admiration. Knowing more about them shows us that words and actions have a serious place in making the world better. 

The book ends with an invitation to readers:

'In these poems, you've met people
who grew into big voices.
Yours doesn't have to be big. 
It just has to be yours.

You                 so new
in this old, old world:

 Back matter includes additional information about each activist presented, a guide for parents and caregivers, a glossary, and a list of selected sources for the content.                                                                            

Monday, December 21, 2020

Who Is the Mystery Reader? By Mo Willems. Hyperion Books for Children, Hachette. 2019. $16.99 ages 3 and up


"Where is the Mystery Reader?

So fast. 

I like reading. 
It is a

I've been in my basement lately, sorting books and filling bookshelves again after a flood in the summer. In trying to make it easier for my granddaughters to access those books when they can visit again, I decided that one of the things I would do would be to make horizontal piles of books written by some of our favorite authors. Little did I know that Mo Willems would take up two whole shelves! We love his books. Now, I have another to add to the ever-growing pile. 

Who is the Mystery Reader? is the second book in the Unlimited Squirrels series. The Table of Contents tells readers that there are jokes, stories and a tale end upcoming. Readers are reminded that EMOTE-ACORNS that will pop up when the squirrels are experiencing BIG feelings. Then, on to the fun! 

A sign stymies the gathered squirrels as they are not able to read it. Inconspicuously, one leaves the frame. A turn of the page reveals a masked squirrel's approach with the suggestion that they just do their best to read it. Impressed by the costume worn, they recognize the MYSTERY READER.

What follows is another outstanding book that is full of laughs. There are four stories, separated by three sets of 'a-corny' jokes, sure to be repeated as often as they are tolerated by others. Kids will think they are brilliant in presenting them. It is perfect for readers moving up the ladder toward true independence. Mystery Reader is always there when support is needed, with wonderful physical comedy, surprising disappearances and reappearances, and recruitment of new heroes. 

As he did in the first installment in this series, Mo Willems combines fiction, fact, and all things funny in a book that will excite old fans of the Squirrels and invite new readers to the party. The speech bubbles for dialog make it perfect for shared reading, thus upping the fun. You want personality? Turn to these tiny creatures to provide a good helping. Will readers discover the identity of this new superhero? Not sure, but who cares? Isn't life better when there's some 'mystery'?

Anyway, who can resist a squirrel in underpants? 

Sunday, December 20, 2020

5 More Sleeps 'Til Christmas, written by Jimmy Fallon and illustrated by Rich Deas. Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $25.99 ages 4 and up


"It's TWO more sleeps 'til Christmas!
Why can't this day be done?! 
If I can get just one more sleep,
then we'll be down to 1!

What? After opening daily advent calendar windows and doors, those very excited little ones have only FIVE more sleeps until Christmas day. What wonder there is in the countdown to such a thrilling time!

As old as I am, I cannot remember the countdown with clarity. But, through the eyes of my grandchildren I have been experiencing it once again. This is the first year (they are 6 and 4) that the excitement has really been building with new books every day, crafts, baking, and counting down each day with great delight. Despite the restrictions of the pandemic, there is no lack of anticipation. 

Jimmy Fallon has written a book that builds on that anticipation. Endpapers show a young, bespectacled boy pacing back and forth across the spread. Pajama-clad, with floppy socks, he keeps his head down while waiting it out ... the last five sleeps! 

In first-person voice, he speaks directly to the excited children who will be hearing this book for the first time. He does his best to keep up with his chores and stay on Santa's good side. He counts sheep to help with taming the joy he is feeling as the days tick down. Preparations have all been made. All that remains is to put his on the pillow each night and get to sleep. As soon as he succumbs to slumber, something magical happens. 

Christmas Day is celebrated with joy - and an announcement. 

"Only 364 more sleeps 
'til next year!"

A bright color palette and highly expressive artwork is inviting for young readers and brings them right inside the impatient leadup to that final brilliant day. Pages are filled with Yuletide details, and the rhyming text provide a book well-suited to be read aloud on each of the five nights leading up to the 25th. Fun for all!                                                                       


Saturday, December 19, 2020

I Am The Storm, written by Jane Yolen and Heide E.Y. Stemple. Art by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell. Penguin Random House. 2020. $23.99 ages 3 and up

"When the forests cooled, 
as wildfires always do,
I brought flowers to all the neighbors
while the grown-ups swept the ashes
and washed windows.

This weather-related picture book will help our youngest readers understand four different types of storms they might experience in areas near where they live: tornado, blizzard, hurricane, and wild fires. Each are certainly part of the news cycles on television, and all are frightening if you happen to live where they happen. Climate change has certainly made such events more commonplace. 

Four families and how they cope with these formidable storms are showcased in carefully-chosen, concise text that has impact for those reading it. The first family lives where tornados are not unusual. When the wind howls, they party in the basement. Flashlights, lanterns, books, games and toys provide a distraction until the wind calms and clean-up can begin. The second family lives in a snowy world where blizzards can cause power outages, but fireplaces cook the food they love to share - hot dogs and toasted marshmallows. Children will note they are wearing hats, sweaters and blankets for warmth. Oh, the fun to be had when the blizzard leaves behind snow for shovelling, snowball fights and making snowmen. 

Next, it's family camping at a lake not far from a burned-out forest. The smoke is evident across the lake, and the clean-up will happen when the forest has cooled down. Finally, it's hurricane season, causing skies to darken, waters to rise and occasional evacuations to safer places with family away from the storm surges. The hurricane calms, as did the tornado, the blizzard, and the wild fire. Life returns to normal, until the next storm. 

"It's okay to be scared.
Nature is strong and powerful. 
But, I am strong and powerful, too.

These families have grit. When all seems lost and bleak, people pick themselves up, do what needs to be done, prepare for the next, and move on in the same way that storms tend to do. The illustrations that frame these events are boldly colored, shifting each time from the storm's power to the calm aftermath. 

In back matter, the authors add a paragraph that provides a touch more information about each type of storm.

Friday, December 18, 2020

Little Bird, written by Cynthia Voigt. Greenwillow Books, Harper. 2020. $21.00 ages 9 and up


"Flying could take you farther and faster than running along the ground. 
Too far for a squirrel was probably an easy distance for a crow. Happiness
bubbled up inside her. The happy feeling wanted to bubble out, because
of the way Toaff didn't understand the difference between traveling through
the air and traveling along the ground.

When Little Bird makes a journey that has been discouraged by older members of her crow family, she also makes a difficult but meaningful bid for independence. Up until making the decision to begin a quest for lost treasure, she has been relegated to mostly menial tasks having to do with the fledgelings. When one is dragged away from the nest, Little Bird has failed in her duties.  Along with the tiny crow, "Our Luck", their symbol of protection, is also taken. Chaos reigns.

Ashamed that she was in charge and responsible for the losses, Little Bird decides she will find "Our Luck" and bring it back. As happens in fantasy stories, Little Bird is able to understand the language of other animals. The only animal who understands crow speech is a wise goat. Little Bird takes guidance from the goat, communicates with a squirrel and lives in another community of crows. Little Bird hears what other animals say; she does not always get the full meaning of the conversation. 

As she travels further afield, she understands less about life beyond her own territory. Each new experience offers a chance to learn more about who she is and what she wants following her adventure. The knowledge she has gleaned from the animals she has met, and the difficulties she has endured help her make the decision to move beyond the limited territory of her own crow family an easy one. She will not be held back. 

This is such a great story, as Cynthia Voigt is an accomplisher writer. I have long admired her books, and am happy to share this new one with middle grade readers who love reading fantasy and stories about animals. They will enjoy the dialogue and the comforting humor found in many of its scenes. It is filled with adventure, exposes Little Bird to some terror, and offers a satisfying end to Little Bird's quest for knowledge and independence. 

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Turtle Walk, written and illustrated by Matt Phelan. Greenwillow Books, Harper. 2020. $21.99 ages 3 and up


"Turtle walk. Nice and slow.
Here we go. 
Are we there yet? 

A walk with family is just one of the joys that families can enjoy in these days of isolation and being at home. For this turtle family, the trek takes longer than the epidemic has lasted. Beginning in spring sunshine, the family - two parents and two children - set out to explore their surroundings, an unspoken destination in mind. Around the pond, across fields of flowers they walk. 

By the time spring turns to summer, they are moving ever-so-slowly forward, echoing the same refrain about being there soon. The answer continues to be NO. Patient and plodding, they continue to move forward. Passing a field of sunflowers. a lone grasshopper, children playing outdoors, and brilliant fireflies, they head toward autumn. Not there yet, they are witness to familiar fall activities. Still no end in sight. With the arrival of snow, the walk becomes more labored and even slower. A hill to climb proves difficult. When the answer to the perpetual question is YES, they are in for a big surprise! 

Little ones will love it, and want to hear it again, and for good reason. There is much to see on the quick return trip. All are reminders of their family walk and the absolute joy that ends it. Clear and simple, indeed: a perfect book. It is a 'keeper'. 

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

The Night Before Christmas, written by Clement C. Moore and illustrated by Loren Long. Harper, 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"With a little old driver so lively and quick, 
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. 
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came, 
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

The poem is familiar and beloved. It is read in homes on Christmas Eve - a family tradition for many. Loren Long's elegant artwork is what makes this new edition worthy of purchase for this holiday season. Don't throw away your older, familiar version. Add this one to your library as a special gift this year. 

St. Nick is at the reins, and his reindeer lead into the book from its front cover. Cleverly observant readers will note that the bottom edge of the cover provides a clue for of the places Santa is set to visit: an urban landscape, a rural farm, a trailer park, and a palm-treed neighborhood. Christmas happens everywhere! Endpapers present four different families as they make preparations for Santa's visit. The children are as diverse as the places they live. The title page repeats the four residences that are promised a visit from St. Nick on this particular Christmas Eve. Snow is falling on three, and not of the fourth. 

As the poem opens, readers step inside the tidy, well-furnished farmhouse. The family dog sleeps on the sofa, the room is ready for early morning exploration. A page turn shows two children asleep on a bunkbed. Their father sleeps on the sofa, next to a child-drawn paper fireplace that covers the window. A lighted creche and a small string of lights provide illumination in the room where he is sleeping. Next is an urban apartment where two boys sleep, a small Christmas tree on the table between them. The fourth shows a mother bounding out of bed to throw open the French doors, in response to a noise outside. 

There follow scenes of St. Nick's visits to each home where he is welcomed with food, by pets, and even the quiet glances of the childrens' parents. Each of these stops along the way are filled with details that are specific to the children met at the beginning of the book. As St. Nick and his reindeer finally fly away, his wish for a good night echoes across the page. The endpapers at the back of the book show the excitement of Christmas day, and the gifts given to each of the children. 

What wonder there is to be found in this new and modern take on a much-loved story! Bravo, Mr. Long. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Swish! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Don Tate. Little Brown, Hachette. 2020. $22.99 ages 10 and up

"Seven nights a week, 
the road-weary team played ball
healthy, sick, or injured
and won nearly every game.
But hometown fans
didn't like out-of-town hotshots 
skunking their team.

Only once did we see the Harlem Globetrotters play. There was a great deal of excitement as the game was about to start. Laughter, admiration, and disbelief were our reactions to the talent displayed throughout the exhibition. The players were certainly having as much fun as the audience was. It was an unforgettable night! 

After reading this accomplished story, I am even more impressed. It begins in 1922, the year all black players from Chicago's Wendell Phillips High School basketball team were kept from competing at the next level of the sport. Five years later, in order to play the game they loved, five players made the decision to travel together as the Harlem Globetrotters. Their chariot was a Model T, and they were willing to play any team wanting to play against them. 

The locals were not pleased when they beat hometown players. They met with racism as they travelled, and were not welcome in hotels or eating establishments. Wanting to entertain and have people appreciate their talents, they changed the way they played the game. Developing trick plays and fancy footwork, they soon became fan favorites. Their antics, constant chatter, and amazing talent stunned audiences. 

In 1948 they had an opportunity to play a game with the Minnesota Lakers - the top team in the all-white NBA. What a surprise when they won! That win caused the NBA to take a critical look at their recruitment policies. That, they say, changed the course of history in professional basketball. Lucky are fans today to reap the rewards of that decision. 

It is evident while reading this account that Suzanne Slade did her research. An avid Globetrotter fan, it had long been her dream to tell their story. Don Tate did the same in order to create the remarkable artwork that accompanies the engaging text. The book's design places constant movement, incredibly complex perspectives, humor and talent on almost every page. Readers will be totally immersed in learning more and more. 

Front and back endpapers include archival photographs and a very detailed timeline that begins in 1922 and ends in 2016. The author adds a note citing further information gleaned from her extensive research. The artist also provides a note about his work, and his delight at returning to study some of the heroes from his youth. 

Postponement of the Globetrotters 2020 World Tour dates back to March 12, 2020. The team remains on an extended timeout. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

Thank You, Miyuki, written by Roxane Marie Gaillez and illustrated by Seng Soun Ratanavahn. Princeton Architectural Press, Raincoast. 2020. $23.95 ages 4 and up


"Miyuki flutters away quick as a butterfly
to make some tea. 
She moves so fast she startles the sleeping 
birds on her painted porcelain tea set. 
But Grandpa doesn't hear her clatteri

Miyuki returns for a third visit with readers who have come to know the exuberant, delightful girl in earlier picture books - Time for Bed, Miyuki (2018) and Patience, Miyuki (2019). She and her grandfather are together again. 

It is early morning and Grandpa is busy with his tai chi practice. Miyuki wants to be just like him. After trying, she falls and then complains. Her grandfather continues. Miyuki has no patience for him to finish. He explains that he is doing tai chi in order to take care of himself. Miyuki offers tea; off she goes in a rush to make it. Upon returning, her grandfather is quietly sitting in meditation. Miyuki asks him to teach her to do the same. 

She is anxious. Grandpa is patient, leading her into the garden and quietly showing her the many wonders of nature as they walk. Together, they take note of all they see, even the river's water as they approach it. They lie on the ground to watch the clouds, all the while Grandpa suggesting his beloved granddaughter pay attention. 

"When little raindrops begin to fall, 
Grandpa doesn't move. Laughing, 
he opens his mouth to taste them, 
and Miyuki does, too.

There is such joy in the time they spend together. When she asks once more when they will take time to meditate, he gives a loving and eye-opening response to the little girl. Everything they have experienced throughout their afternoon together has been part of their practice. Miyuki is satisfied. 

“Grandpa, doesn’t it feel good to be here right now?” 

The gorgeous, textured artwork uses size change, light and color, and peaceful surroundings to immerse readers in the beauty of the garden and the gentle journey taken by grandfather and granddaughter. Magical and soothing, this book is a treasure to be read often. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

The Egg, written and illustrated by Geraldo Valerio. Owlkids, 2020. $19.95 ages 2 and up


"Families come 
in all shapes
and sizes!

The polka dot egg that begins this wondrous story is obviously under the protection of a settled-in-the-nest, and slumbering stork. The stork flies off; the nest is tipped during a rainstorm; the egg falls out. The distressed bird returns and spills tears when it finds its nest empty. 

During its flight away from the nest, it spots a similar egg on the ground below. Is this the egg that was lost? Readers will know that it is not. The stork seems unperturbed, carrying it quickly back to its nest. Protected and safe the egg cracks open, revealing a human baby. No matter, the stork feeds and nurtures this new being. From their nest they notice other birds flying past with wide variety in the young on their backs - a goldfish, a child, a cat, a rabbit, a pig, even another bird's identical descendant. As they join each other in flight, readers are reminded that families come in all shapes and sizes. Bedtime brings more love and cuddling as all adoptive families settle in for a good night's rest. Love is love!

 No words are needed to tell this lovely tale. Bold colors, well-constructed collage work and exceptional posing will encourage discussion. If you are impressed with this fine book, you might want to look for At The Pond, Turn on the Night, Blue Rider, and Friends by the same author. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp, written by Jonathan Auxier and illustrated by Olga Demidova. Puffin, Penguin Random House. 2020. $16.99 ages 7 and up


"Auggie opened his pack and looked for something to distract the hounds.
He reached into his Horn of Plenty and pulled out -
The most delicious, mouthwatering, chewable bone that ever was.

Auggie lives at the top of the world, where he spends his days at a job many children would love to have. There are magical and mysterious creatures living at the Fabled Stables. Auggie is their caregiver, assuring they are fed appropriate meals and snacks, while also setting the animals free for 'hurly-burly hour'. The animals are released to frolic wherever their spirit moves them, up until it is time for a snack. Auggie loves the work, but he is the only boy on the island, and he is lonely. 

Expecting a new arrival, the stables prepare a space. The arrival of Willa the Wisp provides the company Auggie needs. However, Willa is being pursued by hounds and three hunters. Auggie makes it his business to keep Willa safe. What follows is a wild ride for all, as the continual action is full of suspense and danger. Auggie does his best to provide protection. 

Artwork by Olga Demidova is filled with action and fantastic notions. It seamlessly makes Mr. Auxier's storytelling come to full and gripping life as Auggie does a superb job of what he has been tasked to do. He even manages a short trip to the moon, where he finds just what Willa needs to sustain her feisty and friendly self. 

Now that the evil Rooks are back in this magical world, protective work ahead is assured. A sequel is expected in May 2021.  

Friday, December 11, 2020

Love, Sophia on the Moon, written by Anica Mrose Rissi and illustrated by Mika Song. Disney-Hyperion, Hachette. 2020. $23.49 ages 3 and up


"Dear Mom, 
The cows say there 
are no bedtimes on 
the mooooooooon. 
We don't even need
a bed. We will stay 
up all night playing 
moonball and making 
messes, and no one 
will yell if things 
break. Love, Sophia.

Did you ever run away when you were young and disgruntled by the unfairness exhibited toward you? Many little ones have such dreams. Sophia is one of those. Made to sit in a 'thinking chair' while Mom cleans up the mess she has made, Sophia plots an escape to the moon. 

She leaves her mom a note, then blasts off (with her cat to keep her company). Notes go back and forth. Mom expresses her sadness that Sophia won't be at home to help make cookies, does send cookies to the moon for sustenance, and wonders what to do with Sophie's bed. Sophie says she doesn't need milk for the cookies as they can dunk them in moon juice, and the cows who jump over the moon don't need a bed as they don't sleep. 

When Mom asks advice for supper for a moon child who has run away to Earth, while suggesting spaghetti, Sophia is quick to pooh-pooh that idea. Instead, she suggests 'mud pies, and old soggy spinach'. Readers will very much enjoy the back-and-forth missives. It is only when Mom talks about the bedtime story she will share with Grorg that there is a hint of homesickness displayed. Maybe, Grorg is moonsick. Perhaps a visit to the moon would be welcome, suggests Sophia. 

Gently humorous, and filled with charm, this is a bedtime story that is sure to satisfy all readers and might even lead to a flurry of note-writing. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol, written by Arthur Levine and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes. Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House. 2020. $24.99 ages 5 and up


"Nate especially liked the Glaser family, who took a boat over from Europe during what should have been the Purim holiday. They'd spent every last penny buying their passage, so of course there was nothing left over for gift baskets. Mrs. Glaser had brought along her last bit of chocolate, planning to share it with the children for the holiday. But when the time neared and she looked at the small lump, wrapped carefully in a handkerchief, her heart sank, knowing it would not be enough.

This new Hanukkah tale hearkens back to the immigration of many Jewish families to America in the late 19th century. Mr. Levine uses it to introduce a bigger-than-life benefactor to Jewish families in need of a boost in spirit, or a change in their life's circumstances. Well dressed, energetic, and always benevolent, Nate helps where he sees the need for help. The Glasers get his particular attention because of who they are, and how they help anyone in need while discounting their own poverty and circumstance. 

One extremely cold winter, when there is little food to feed their family, the Glasers give what little money they have earned to help a family with a new baby who needs medicine. Nothing is left for their own children. It seems fitting that, on Christmas Eve, Nate meets up with his old friend, a disheartened Santa. Santa's sleigh magic is running low, due in part to the trouble people are having believing in him in these hard times. A trade between the two - Gadol magic for a Christmas treat - makes each much happier. 

Nate's special talent has worked previously: oil that lasted eight nights, making butter stretch for a particular cake, and keeping a dam strong when a storm threatens. It is not surprising that Santa is a friend. The two have magic in common and a wish for happier times for children and families. The two families - one Jewish and one Christian - are recipients of goodwill touched with the magic of the season.  In this way, Mr. Levine explains the tradition of Hanukkah presents for Jewish children. 

Kevin Hawkes' lush acrylic illustrations will please young readers with their shimmering gold details and hints of enchantment. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Packs: Strength in Numbers, written and illustrated by Hannah Salyer. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Raincoast. 2020. $23.99 ages 4 and up


"When we ants head underground, 
we are known as a nest. We march
miles across the forest floor, gathering 
green leaves as we go. Once we return 
to our colony, we store the leaves in our 
cellar to help grow food that we will eat

Together, we harvest!"

I am so thankful to Fernanda, Publicist at Raincoast, for taking the time to ensure that I was able to see a copy of this fascinating book! 

The front endpapers show a herd of elephants moving forward into the page turn that heralds the title page which shows a part of a colony of ants munching on a found leaf. Turn the page again to a double page spread (in a mostly gray tone) of a 'pack' of wolves moving from verso to recto. On to a 'huddle' of bold and colorful penguins, and finally to a 'pod' of dolphins. Absolutely captivating for all who will be lucky enough to share this book. Did I call it fascinating? It is that ... and so much more. 

Along the way we are reminded by Ms. Salyer that 'Together, we are better.'  

The format then changes to show a variety of species, illustrated and accompanied by informative text that names each collective noun and one of the things that make it unique. I love the following one because of the collective noun itself. I don't remember hearing it previously. 

"We are wildebeest, also know as gnus, and our herd is 
called an implausibility - often a million strong. We are the 
largest species of antelope to roam the Serengeti. Every year
we migrate and cover lots of ground; we follow the rain and 
use our numbers as a shield to keep predators at bay.

Together, we travel!"

Following those spreads, the author returns the earlier format for the final three, ending with a detailed and beautiful reminder that humans are also one of the 'packs'. In back matter, Ms. Salyer reminds readers that all species help each other survive - and thrive. Many animals need our help. These are actions that can only be taken by humans. We need to step up. A numbered display identifies each of the species included, and a list for further reading encourages additional research. 

In a Kirkus Profile published in January 2020, Hannah Salyer said this: 

As a children’s book writer and illustrator, especially, I feel it’s my duty to acknowledge what’s going on in our environment. Kids are growing up and, in different ways, witnessing these effects, whether it’s via shows and news, whether it’s in their own backyard. It is really important to me to end Packs with a note acknowledging climate change and habitat loss. We’re also living in a time where people like to draw lines in the sand and put up walls, and that’s not what this book is about at all. I wanted to make that clear. The more we find out about our Earth, the more it becomes evident how interdependent we are in every way.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Dream Within a Dream, written by Patricia MacLachlan. Margaret K. McElderry Books, Simon & Schuster. 2019. $8.99 ages 7 and up


"So here is my startling story about dance night. 
It is dark on the porch, but the music and white 
lights make it pleasant and that word "enchanted."
"Bored, remember," says Theo. 
But it turns out that it is Theo who is bored in the end.
He watches as George puts his hand on my waist and 
takes my hand.

It's summer as usual for Louisa and her younger brother Theo. Or, is it? They have come to Deer Island to spend it with their beloved grandparents, Boots and Jake. Their globe-trotting, bird-watching parents are off on another adventure; their children left to spend the summer on the island they love so much. The four have a very close relationship; all are happy to have each other. 

Louisa is averse to change. She tells her grandmother that, in no uncertain terms. Theo loves the peace and quiet of island like, happy to be free of their parents' ever-changing adventure. It is distressing for Louisa to learn that her vibrant, loving grandfather is losing his sight to macular degeneration. Although he is upbeat, Louisa knows it will greatly affect his independence. It isn't long until Jake introduces George, the son of a nearby family. Jake is teaching George to drive, even though he is too young to have a license. 

The connection between George and Louisa is immediate, and sweet ... a reflection of what had happened when Jake met Boots. They are attracted to each other, appreciating what is special about each and often able to communicate without words. Louisa begins to appreciate change as she spends time with George and his parents, and recognizes that community can be a powerful thing for all involved. 

I am ever impressed with Ms. MacLachlan's capacity for creating characters who matter to readers. She does so in spare prose that is emotional and memorable. She connects people and lives with great compassion and understanding. There is drama, presented with a soft and empathetic touch always. Louisa's first-person narration has her living in my heart, and wanting to step into a classroom to share her story. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

Bruce's Big Storm, written and illustrated by Ryan T. Higgins. Disney-Hyperion, Hachette. 2019. $$18.99 ages 4 and up


"It had been quite 
the adventure. 

Everyone take one of 
Bruce's clean towels. 

Bruce did not like adventures."

Oh, Bruce! It's great to see you again, despite your never-ending grumpiness. In this newest addition to the Bruce catalogue (that started with Mother Bruce), we see previous events have done little to improve his curmudgeonly take on life. Some things just never change, and that is good. Bruce has been entertaining young readers for the past five years. 

There's a big storm coming! As readers might expect, Bruce wants to be alone to read and to wait out the weather. The four geese who adopted him as goslings, the three mice who took up residence with him despite his obvious displeasure, and the many animal neighbors who look to him as leader, are not likely to let that happen. They have their own reasons for wanting to be at Bruce's house: fear, camaraderie, games, a pajama party. Together they gather. 

Oh, no! One neighbor has not made it to safety. Bruce feigns indifference. Tiny mouse Nibbs makes the decision to take an umbrella and bring the baby rabbit in. The storm proves too much. Soon, the tiny rodent is flying through the air, attached to Bruce's favorite umbrella. Good luck has him landing in the rabbit's path. The two small beings cannot control the umbrella. Up they go! Bruce attempts a rescue. It does not go well. 

What will it take to bring the three to safety, and what will happen next? There are complications ... and finally a happy ending. For Bruce? Readers will know the answer to that. 

As he has done in each of the Bruce books, Ryan Higgins fills the pages with characters and detailed scenes sure to make even the grumpiest adult smile as they read this book again and again to their favorite listeners. Kids will love that they are meeting up with familiar characters once more: they will also welcome the new arrivals. Can you think of a better 'den mother' than Bruce? I cannot. 

Sunday, December 6, 2020

We Learn from the Sun, written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Kristy Cameron. Medicine Wheel Education. Publishers Group Canada. 2020. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"When the Sun's South we see
We have gifts, you and me.

We're unique, every one. 
We learn that from the Sun.

In his newest book, David Bouchard creates a poem meant for young readers. It originates from his best-selling Seven Sacred Teachings (MTW, 2009), a book that offers a hopeful look at traditional values and the future. 

David reminds his readers that there is much to be learned from the sun. The seven sacred teachings are important and inspiring. They lift the spirit, and help readers understand what the sun teaches. To look to each direction offers lessons of importance for all. 

As she did in the earlier book, Kristy Cameron creates rich, colorful artwork in response to nature and the movement of the sun to all directions. They afford much appeal to the children for whom this book has been written. 

It presents a valuable lesson for each of us concerning indigenous teachings, and would be a worthy addition to all school and classroom libraries.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

EEK! Written by Julie Larios and illustrated Julie Paschkis. Peachtrre, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2020. $22.99 ages 2 and up


"This busy mouse is 
definitely on a mission,
but where is he going?

I have seen and purchased many alphabet books. It is ever-surprising that new ones are being written in highly ingenious ways! May I present this book filled with animals, both wild and domestic, that embark on an action-filled and very NOISY adventure.  

A mouse picks a flower which activates its allergies, and starts readers off with a loud achoo. The sneeze dislodges a bee from within the flower's petals, making it go buzzing away. Each turn of the page presents a new addition to the cacophony of sounds that will have young ones imitating all with great pleasure, and the ability to use a new word when the book ends - onomatopoeia! 

Action is plentiful, each affording a reaction. The story moves from a meadow to a laneway, from chaos to contentment, from happy circumstance to new disaster, finally ending with a gift and a much appreciated rest. It is the mouse's story, with various animals adding drama, humor, and energetic noise. There are surprises everywhere, much to the delight of attentive readers. Illustrations are filled with movement, bold colors, and energy. Visual storytelling abounds as readers move from one page to the next, ending with a lovely surprise. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Cubs in the Tub:The True Story of the Bronx Zoo's First Woman Zookeeper. Written by Candace Fleming with illustations by Julie Downing. Neal Porter Books, Holiday House. Penguin Random House. 2020. $24.99 ages 4 and up


"Good thing she had 
a heating pad. 
She slipped it beneath 
their tiny bodies, and 
turned it to high.
Then she mixed a batch of 
warm formula and squeezed
it into their mouths.

Fred Martini was a zookeeper at the Bronx Zoo when he brought a lion cub home to Helen, his wife. The two had been longing for a baby of their own. Despite all the hopes and dreams, there was no baby. Until that fateful day, when a rejected lion cub needed loving care. Helen proved she was up to the task, naming the cub MacArthur and spending her days pouring her heart's love into assuring he had everything he needed to survive and thrive. The Martini house was filled with the joy only a 'baby' could bring. 

After two months, zoo officials moved him to a new zoo. 

"Then she folded up the baby 
blankets; stowed tub, crib, 
and bottles; and sank into
the rocking chair with empty
arms and an empty lap.

Days filled with melancholy followed ... until the day Fred came home with three tiny tiger cubs. By now, Helen was an experienced care-giver and only too happy to begin the process all over again. Days passed, the cubs became mischievous and much bigger. They were already three months old when the time came for them to return to the zoo. Helen went with them. 

By staying quietly in the background at the zoo, she continued to nurture the tigers while also making a nursery space for them in an old storeroom. When officials caught wind of what was taking place, they arrived to put her out ... no woman had ever held a zookeeper job. Not until that very moment! 

Through Candace Fleming's captivating words and Julie Downing's constantly changing perspectives that bring the historical time period to life, readers will pay careful and cuddly attention to every facet of this story.  

In back matter, Ms. Fleming includes a note about Helen's unexpected career, and a welcome bibliography where interested readers will find more about her.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Last: The Story of a White Rhino, written and illustrated by Nicola Davies. Tiny Owl, Publishers Group Canada. 2020. $25.50 ages 4 and up


"I've looked and looked, 
but I've never found 
another like me. 

Long ago in the old place, 
there were others. 
Big ones fighting, 
little ones playing.

This is the first book that Nicola Davies has written and illustrated. It is no surprise to me that it is heartfelt and informative. She is an exemplary proponent for the environment and what must be done to protect it. 

This is the story of the last Northern White Rhino, named Sudan. He died in 2018. Telling his own story in personal and powerful words, readers learn that the hippo is housed in a very grey and bleak zoo enclosure. Alone and always searching for another animal like himself, he shares memories of an earlier life. In that life, he lived in close proximity to his mother each and every day and night. When a hunter shot her, life changed dramatically. 

Captured, boxed, and transported to the place he now inhabits ... there is no grass, no flowers. It a place filled with 'lasts'. Nothing to do, nowhere to go. 

"Where are the others for us?
What has happened to the world?

It takes someone watching and caring for the plight of the animals to make a change. That change is a game preserve where finally he meets another rhino - perhaps the two can ensure they are not the 'last'. 

The artwork is as impressive as the story told. The contrast between the gray days of captivity and the lush greens of a return to a natural habitat have tremendous impact for young readers. A note from Ms. Davies about the art introduces the story, and an endnote mentions Sudan, the inspiration for this book. 

 “I believe that the world can change for the better, but it will change one heart at a time. Change your heart, change the world."

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust, written and illustrated by Uri Shulevitz. Farrar Sraus Giroux, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2020. $26.99 ages 10 and up


"To be able to lie down and stretch out, we sometimes
had no choice but to go outside, hoping it wouldn't rain.
Lying on the cold, hard ground was far from comfortable, 
but we also had to sleep with one eye open, like wild animals, 
because of thieves and other criminals, who were looking for 
easy victims to rob and, if necessary, kill.

In an afterword, Uri Shulevitz credits his father with writing his own memories of the war years in his later life. Using that writing as guidance, Mr. Shulevitz sat to write his own memoir of the war years and how they affected him. He was only 4 when he and his parents were forced to flee Warsaw for a life in Bialystok, a Soviet-occupied city in northern Poland. The family had no standing there as they were denied citizenship. Three years later they moved to Turkestan, a new and harrowing experience for the 7-year-old. 

Always hungry and deprived of any kind of normal life, the family suffered from a lack of employment, debilitating illness, and even time spent without his father after his sudden disappearance. Uri found what comfort he could in his love of art, and his mother's storytelling which led him to his lifelong love of reading. His art offered a chance to forget his circumstance for small moments in time, and to let his imagination create a new existence. 

In his teens, the family lived in Paris where his father's brother and his family lived. His memory for the many events of that time offer a less bleak outlook. Still, he faced bullying and anti-Semitism from his classmates, who were only impressed when they recognized his artistic talents. 

The many illustrations are filled with memories that are both funny, and often scary. Such a life cannot be imagined by those who will read this absorbing memoir. Told with honesty, it will certainly make the experiences of war more personal and powerful. It is those stark images and compelling storytelling, mixed a modicum of good luck, that will carry every reader through the often dire circumstances that this family of three experienced as they persevered and survived.  It is a tribute to love of family and the power of creativity. 


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Picture Book by Dog, written and illustrated by Michael Relth. Little, Brown and Company, Hachette. 2020. $22.99 ages 4 and up


"You brought me home and gave
me many toys, a leash, a bed ... 

three tennis balls, a collar,
and a bowl to keep me fed.

In this debut storybook, readers meet Dog, who offers to share his life's story. Luckily, he is now in a place where he can do so with great happiness. It didn't start out that way. He begins by sharing that his life, at one time, was filled with loneliness, hunger, and a long search for better place ... a real home. 

By using a first-person narrative, Michael Relth ensures a strong and sympathetic connection between the reader and the story's narrator. They will be pleased when they learn that a pair of kind and caring officers find him, and take him to a shelter. It provides food, and companions. It is not his dream. 

When a little girl finds and chooses him, he finally has a true friend and a place to live. She provides all that Dog needs, including etiquette rules. His drawings of that learning curve provide laughter and much enjoyment. As his story continues, so does the relationship grow and change. It's perfect for both. 

" ... that the reason 
life has been
so sweet ...
... is because we are