Saturday, May 20, 2017

Every once in a while, we take a break from dog books. . . .

Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs (Simon & Schuster, 2013, 322 pages, $15.99, ages 8-12)

If You Liked Harry Potter, . . . . Here’s Another New York Times Bestseller Series

Spy School books grab you with their enticing covers: the silhouette of a spy in a trench coat and hat. Spy Camp’s cover spy is wearing shorts, red flip-flops and is holding a fishing pole, against a green background of trees and grass.

Even the title sounds intriguing: it turns out the plot sounds very intriguing and does not disappoint: a nerdy junior high boy attends a secret CIA spy school, so secret even his parents don’t know about it – they think their Ben was recruited to attend a nerdy science school.
Instead of having the summer off, however, our young hero is required to attend camp, a wilderness survival camp for up-and-coming young spies in training. But has it been infiltrated? Does the CIA have moles?

Spy Camp

Think swimming and campfires and shorts and mess halls and cabins or tents - and then think again. This spy camp, however, is at an undisclosed location (read: secret) and the campers are trained in activities like Advanced Eavesdropping and Blending into a Crowd.

But, even before the "fun" can begin, our hero is sent a contract to join (or else!)  the enemy spy organization SPYDER whose goals are antithetical to the CIA. So he is whisked away for his own protection (but by whom?)

A Modern Day Harry Potter

Ben lives in the Washington, DC, area – somewhere. The plots take place in current time and some of the place names are familiar: West Virginia, Winchester.

Instead of taking wizardry courses for six years, however, our spies study subjects like History of American Spying, Forensic Geology, and Disguises. But they have almost as much gadgetry as James Bond*.

Can you guess what Ben’s secret power will turn out to be? Hint: it is so secret that even he is not aware of it. It is also not quite fully developed yet.

Writing Style by an Edgar Finalist

Each chapter begins with title, location, date, and time, and rushes into explosives and missiles and even, being a book about junior high – about girl-boy and boy-girl crushes. And, of course, the kids save the day in spite of all the bumbling adults – just as a book for kids should.

There is enough in Spy Camp that makes you want to read Spy School, the first in the series, so you can fill in the gaps, and then Evil Spy School, Spy Ski School and finally Spy School Secret Service.

Be careful: your child may just beg to attend a spy camp this summer!

Caveat: This title was checked out of a public library but the series was first seen several times in bookstore.

*Why did Gibbs write the Spy School series?

This is honestly an idea I’ve had since I was around age seven. I saw my first James Bond movie and instantly started to imagine myself as James Bond’s son, Jimmy Bond (Double-O Six and a Half). I even wrote a Jimmy Bond story around that time: “The Kid With The Golden Water Pistol.” So I’ve known the idea of kid spies would be cool and funny for a very long time.”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Update on Finley Finds Heaven!

I'm sure you all read our book review of Finley Finds Heaven, published here on DogEvals on March 26.

Lo and behold, on Friday May 5, Cinco de Mayo, I turned to my Workman Page-a-Day Dog Calendar and there was Finley along with the other two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels he lived with (Buster and Raleigh), all decked out in their Mexican finest!
(Credit: ASmith)

View that Cinco de Mayo day's calendar page here.

If you would like to see your dog on a calendar perhaps as Miss May or Mr. November, you can enter one of many contests such as the weekly dog and puppy photo contest by Workman. Start here.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Book Review: Buddy (dog, Katrina, New Orleans)

Buddy, by M.H. Herlong (Puffin Books, 2012, 304 pages, $7.99 Kindle, ages 9 and up)

“How Far Will a Boy go for a Dog He Loves?”

(And the question behind this question: “How far would you go?”)

Buddy is the story of a young boy of modest means, living in both pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans, who yearns for a dog. Constantly.

The little boy, Li’l T, and his family literally run into a dog on their way to church and decide to make him theirs.

How Buddy comes to live with three legs could be a memorable book in itself.

Ah, Buddy, . . . .

I could merely tell you the story of Buddy but I won’t – because I want you to read the book and enjoy it like my entire family did. (Perhaps that is why Buddy is marked as being recommended for ages 9 and up, rather than, e.g., ages 9-12) Buddy is worth it plus you can read the book in parts which makes it so easy to just set aside a small bit of time: with 37 short chapters, you can pick it up and put it down after a few minutes of reading, without losing the momentum of the story.

Buddy is extraordinary. Each chapter could be one part of a continuing serial, in the daily newspaper, for instance. Didn’t Charles Dickens do that? And successfully so.

I started up wanting a dog the day after I was born. (p. 11)

Lil’ T and Buddy grow closer with each day of living just like your family lives. Although Buddy is not quite a coming-of-age novel, Lil’ T does experience numerous situations that he learns from – from an Iraq vet to Katrina (of course), from the death of an old lady neighbor to neighborhood kids turning bad, from saving for a bike to mowing lawns to save for dog food.

And then there’s Katrina.

“. . . could be  you’re too crazy in love to see how ugly he is.” (p. 42) said Granpa T.

Lil’ T is a real little boy with a grandfather who lives with them, a little sister and two parents – his father being strict but loving and someone to be respected.

We don’t remember what Buddy looks like or how big the dog is but the cover illustration shows a Border Collie type dog. Lil’ T is protective of Buddy and almost becomes a neighborhood hero because he has the dog everyone wants.

(p. 122) “I can’t leave Buddy. I can’t not leave Buddy.”

Hard choices. 

There are not an enormous number of Katrina books, fiction or non-fiction, currently in libraries or bookstores. Perhaps she (the storm) is too recent in our composite memory, but now may be just the right time for a Katrina book written for those too young to remember, so they live through it vicariously: the uncertainty, the not wanting to leave, the not wanting to return, the loss of a friend perhaps, having to sleep on a cot in a large auditorium that is never quiet.

Katrina comes between Lil’ T and Buddy – for a few months, and then . . . the family returns to devastation and recovery work. And Buddy was lost. And then ­– the rest of the story is for you to live through: suffice it to say that Lil’ T grows and grows.

And when he gets a new puppy for Christmas, is he happy? Would you be?­­

What if he found Buddy only to lose him. . . .? Or to give him away?

The Final Word

Buddy is about a normal family and their normal life (except for Katrina). Buddy is also the story about a boy growing up with a bratty little sister, a new baby, a grandfather, and parents who are sometimes stern but always have their children foremost in their minds.

Buddy is about yearning and loss and finding and love and growing older or growing up just a little bit, and sharing, and family, and, of course, about dogs.

Buddy is well-written with perfect pacing, very readable for families as a group after dinner or for pre-teens by themselves (girls and boys). No wonder Buddy has received so many accolades!

Friday, May 12, 2017

EverythingDogBlog: Howard County, MD, Dog Day Afternoon Postponed til 20 May

Due to the expected continued rainy weather, Dog Day Afternoon will not be held tomorrow. Instead, clear your calendars for next Saturday, May 20, 2017, from 10 - 2 pm.

Save the date: May 20 - a week from Saturday - at the Columbia Dog Park - for the 10th Dog Day Afternoon! Same time, same place.
Sponsored by the Columbia Association. Schedule and details can be found here. Dogs, big and small, welcomed!

In the meantime, check out these cute pupsters from previous years!
(Photos courtesy the Columbia Association)

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

EverythingDogBlog: Keep Calm and Bark On!

Saturday is Dog Day Afternoon at the Columbia, MD, dog park.

10 am – 2 pm, 5901 Rivendell Lane

Free, Free, Free Fun for 2- and 4-legged friends, brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Columbia Association (CA)

 Face-Painting for Human Pups

           Tail-Wagging Contest
Most Fashionable Fashion Show
Biscuit-Eating Contest
Raffles, Food, Music and more!
Microchip your dog here - for safety (nominal fee)
Dog Day Afternoon T-shirts for $10
Caricature drawings of your lovable four-legged friend are $5 for a black-and-white drawing and $10 for a color drawing.
Cash only, please.

(Photos courtesy of the Columbia Association)