A Dog Wearing Shoes

Mini learns a valuable lesson when she discovers a lost dog wearing yellow shoes.

Picture book, fiction
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 2.0
4 out of 5 stars

I love this story about a little girl and her mom who find a lost dog who happens to be wearing a yellow pair of shoes. Mini is delighted and wants to keep the dog. During a walk in the park, the dog gets away again, and Mini is extremely distraught. Her mom takes her to the animal shelter where they find the dog, and Mini realizes that as worried and upset as she was when the dog was missing, that must mean that the dog’s original owner feels the same way.

This is a wonderful story that helps children understand that lost dogs are being missed by someone, and as much as you may want to keep one, you should try to reunite them with their owner. The added bonus is that Mini and her mom return to the animal shelter and find a dog that needs a home and is just right for them.

In the back of the book, the author includes information about adopting an animal from an animal shelter, and includes links to some national organizations.
The pictures are black and white sketches, with splashes of color coming from the dog’s yellow shoes and the red leash Mini and her mom buy. The dog is absolutely adorable with her floppy, fuzzy ears and it’s easy to see why Mini and her mom fall in love. Some of the illustrations are rather small, so this would not be ideal for a large read-aloud group.

A Dog Wearing Shoes
by Sangmi Ko
schwartz & wade books, 2015

Shark lady: The true story of how Eugenie Clark became the ocean’s most fearless scientist

Jess Keating has written another outstanding nonfiction picture book for young readers. This one tells the story of Eugenie Clark, who fell in love with sharks as a young girl and pursued her dream to study them.

Picture book, biography, nonfiction
Dewey: 597.3
Interest Level: K-3; Reading Level: 3.7
4 out of 5 stars

Keating starts the book with young Eugenie Clark visiting an aquarium and seeing her favorite animals, the sharks. Eugenie loves to fantasize that she is swimming with sharks, or that she herself has a fin on her back and is a shark. She reads all the books she can find about sharks, and her mother buys her a fish tank so she can study and understand more about fish.

As she pursues her interest in college by studying zoology, we learn that people tried to discourage her because “some of her professors thought women weren’t smart enough to be scientists or brave enough to explore the oceans. And they said sharks were mindless monsters.” Clark went on to prove all those theories were incorrect — she was smart and brave enough, and through her research and studies she proved that sharks were smart and could be trained the way a dog was trained.

Keating wraps up Clark’s story when she was able to prove that she could train a shark. More details are provided in a timeline at the back of the book. An Author’s Note and Bibliography is also provided to give more interesting details and for further reading.

I read in another review that Keating left out key information about Clark’s mother being of Japanese descent and her father an “American” and how this mixed heritage meant she encountered prejudice. While I was interested in this information when it was presented in the Author’s Note, I did not feel that its absence detracted from the author’s purpose.

The tone of the book is clearly for younger children, I would say from age 4 through 8 primarily. I see this book as being more about encouraging children to pursue their dreams and not to let anyone stand in their way. This is especially true for girls in the field of science. Other books are mentioned in her bibliography that would be more appropriate for older readers who are more able to tackle multiple agendas in a story. For the length of a picture book, Keating has focused on the message that she wanted to share.
The illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens really match the tone of the text. The sharks in the story have round eyes, giving the animals an innocent look that matches Clark’s feelings towards them. I also love how the illustrator shows Clark as a child always surrounded by sharks. The scne where Clark is reading books about sharks i the library, includes sharks floating through the book stacks, showing the reader that they were always on Clark’s mind.

The illustrations, combined with the text make this a good introduction to a little known scientist in the field of sharks. There are some additional shark facts that are presented in the back of the book that children will also find fascinating.

Shark lady: The true story of how Eugenie Clark became the ocean’s most fearless scientist
written by Jess Keating; illustrations by Marta Alvarez Miguens
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, 2017

Ada’s Ideas: the story of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer

This is a picture book biography of Ada Lovelace, who could be called the world’s first computer programmer.

Picture book, biography, nonfiction
Dewey: 510.92
Interest Level: 3 and up; Reading Level: 4.3
4 out of 5 stars

Ada has a fascinating background. Her father was Lord Byron, the poet and her mother was a wealthy woman who was a mathematician. Ada’s mother was very controlling, and didn’t want Lord Byron and his “wild ways” to influence their child, so she took Ada away at a month old and never allowed her to see her father.

Young Ada’s days were filled with structured learning and lots of studying numbers. After contracting the measles, she spent three years doing nothing but studying because she was too weak to walk. Ada grew up with almost no friends and was not allowed to pursue her own interests.
When she was 17, Ada met Charles Babbage, an engineer, mathematician, and inventor. Ada was enthralled with Babbage and his inventions of engines that would do mathematical calculations. Ada worked on complicated algorithms that would work in the Analytical Engine, and envisioned that eventually the Engine could be programmed to do more than just math, but also create pictures, music, and words. In other words, she envisioned the computer.

Ada’s story is one that inspires people to never give up their dreams and to not be held back by the limits society or other people place on your life. This book would have meaning for older students, grades 5 and up. There is a biography in the back of the book. It is rather small, which could be why the book is fairly vague and reads in a general manner.

Ada’s ideas: The story of Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer
by Fiona Robinson
Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2016

BIG CAT, little cat

A deceptively simple book that tackles the short life span of pets.

Picture book
Interest Level: Pre-K through grade 3; Reading Level: 2.0
5 out of 5 stars

Using mostly black and white line illustrations, Elisha Cooper has crafted a beautiful story that perfectly portrays cats and the joy and meaning they bring to our lives. The story begins with a white cat enjoying life as an only pet. One day a black kitten joins the family, and the big cat shows the kitten what to do — “When to eat, when to drink, where to go, how to be, when to rest.”
Time passes and the reader sees the black kitten grow bigger than the white cat, and then watches as the white cat ages. Cooper does not specifically address that the old cat died, but states that one day he left the house and “didn’t come back.” I think the death of the cat is handled very well. The next page shows the black cat sitting all alone and states, “And that was hard.”

Cooper doesn’t dwell on the death of the pet and friend, but does validate the feelings of sorrow and loss that happen. The story is perfect for young children with pets. They need to understand that our beloved pets do not live as long as humans do and that death and grief are part of life. Cooper provides a book that will not overwhelm young readers, yet he doesn’t whitewash the facts and doesn’t talk down to young children.

The story ends on a happy note as the family gets another kitten and the black cat now assumes the role of “big cat.”
The illustrations manage to be very simple and expressive at the same time. Like the story itself, they balance the line between providing the reader with enough information and not overwhelming the text.

The entire story is very well-done!

Big Cat, Little Cat
by Elisha Cooper
Roaring Book Press, 2017
ISBN 978-1-62672-371-9

This is My Book!

This is a fun interactive story featuring a frustrated author/illustrator and a fun-loving panda named Spike.

Picture book, interactive
Interest Level: Pre-K through grade 3; Reading Level: 1.7
4 out of 5 stars

This picture book can be enjoyed on several different levels. First, and probably the most important, is that it is a fun interactive story featuring a frustrated author/illustrator and a fun-loving panda named Spike.

The author, Mark Pett, is featured as the main character of the book. He breaks through the literary fourth wall and begins the story by addressing the readers directly. He lets us know that he is the author and illustrator who is in control of everything that appears in his book. Which certainly seems true, until he draws a picture of a panda. His panda has a mind of his own, and begins to take over the story.
Quite frankly, Spike has a much better idea of what appeals to young readers than the author! He adds color to the boring white pages, and creates other characters to make the story more interesting. He adds flaps and pull-tabs, and best of all….pop-ups!! As the author has a meltdown, the panda imparts some literary wisdom, “But it’s not just your book. It’s ours, too…And it’s their book, too,” he adds as he points to the readers.

For young readers, this book is just plain fun! The mischievous panda and the interaction with the reader is very appealing. This would make a fun read-aloud experience. For adults, especially teachers and librarians, this book could be used as a mentor text to remind young writers that when they write they need to bring their characters to life. In This is My Book! that happens literally and would make a fun intro to a writing lesson.

Additionally, I love how the story reminds writers that the readers are integral to the story. Basically, once a story is written and published, it becomes the property and story of whoever is reading it. We all bring different viewpoints and experiences that influence how we receive a story. Authors need to be able to let go of their stories and allow readers to experience it how they will.

Overall, the illustrations are fun, the interactive components work well with the story, especially the pop-up page, and this book will make you smile.

This is My Book!
by Mark Pett (and no one else)
Alfred A. Knopf, 2016
ISBN 978-1-101-93790-7


It’s the game of Frogger in a picture book!

Picture book, beginning reader
Interest level: Pre-K through K
3 out of 5 stars

Jane Yolen has a subscription service where every day you can receive a poem that she has written. All that she asks is that you don’t publish any of her poems with out her permission (she does need to make a living!) and that at the end of a month of poems, you either buy or check out one of her books.

For my first month, I decided to select the lesser-known Hoptoad. This is a relatively simple story. A frog is crossing a fairly deserted road when a truck looms in the distance. The reader urges “hop toad, fast, faster,” but the frog has frozen in the middle. Because this book is intended for very young readers, there is of course a happy ending.

The toad starts and ends his journey with two friends — a turtle and a lizard. It is fun to speculate how they got to be friends, and why were they crossing the road? The text is minimal, repetitious, and at a basic beginning reading level. Young readers just beginning to sound out words and tackle reading on their own will be able to access this story.
The illustrations are a good fit for the tone of the text. I especially love hos Schmidt has rendered the clouds in the sky.

Any adult who has ever played the video game Frogger will make a connection with this story. It’s impossible not to!

If you are interested in receiving poems from Yolen, you can sign up here: <a href="http://janeyolen.us11.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=a0bd30aee37968984ea4490ff&id=27c649c616"http://janeyolen.us11.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=a0bd30aee37968984ea4490ff&id=27c649c616

by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Karen Lee Schmidt
Silver Whistle, Harcourt, 2003
ISBN 0-15-216352-2

Sea Monkey & Bob

Two friends conquer their fears together.

Picture book
Interest Level: Pre-K through grade 2; Reading Level: 1.3
4 out of 5 stars

In this fun story, the reader is introduced to two friends — Bob, a puffer fish and his friend, Sea Monkey. Bob is bright yellow with green spots and orange fins that look like spiky hair. Sea Monkey is red and white striped and wears a very fashionable bow tie. Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s illustrations really make these two friends stand out in the underwater world she illustrates.

Their personalities stand out as different as well. Sea Monkey is afraid that he is going to sink to the bottom of the ocean. It’s dark down there and he is also afraid of the dark. Bob tries to make him feel better by declaring, “You will not sink,” to which Sea Monkey replies, “I could sink Bob. I am much heavier than I look. Heavy things sink.” As Sea Monkey’s argument starts to convince Bob that sinking could be a real fear, Bob realizes that he is afraid of floating.

The text that Aaron Reynolds have crafted is perfect for these two unlikely friends. The style of conversation is very formal sounding, which is a funny contrast to the silly look of the characters. This would make a very fun read-aloud if the reader utilizes different voices for the two characters.
Ohi has done a great job illustrating the text so that readers can clearly tell which character is speaking. The text floats in the water and the color of the letters match each character. Bob’s words are yellow with a green outline, and Sea Monkey speaks with white letters that are outlined in red. It is also fun to notice some of the secondary characters as they give the two worrying friends strange and questioning looks.

This is a fun story that shows that sticking together can be a good way to conquer your fears. The text is accessible to young  independent readers, or this would be a great read-aloud.

Sea Monkey & Bob
by Aaron Reynolds; illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017
ISBN 978-1-4814-0676-5