Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: The Great Dog Disaster (girls, big dog, England)

The Great Dog Disaster (Companion to The Great Hamster Massacre) (one of The Great Critter Capers*), by Katie Davies (Simon and Schuster, 200 pp, 2013, $13, grades 3-7, ages 8-12)

Everything’s Big About Beatrice
Best friends in England, Anna and Suzanne, live next door to each other. When Suzanne inherits a dog from her great aunt Deidre, the girls are ecstatic, planning on training and fetch and fun and games like agility!
That is, until they meet old Beatrice, a big big black dog with big big problems.
Beatrice, Suzanne’s mom’s dead aunt Deidre’s dog, doesn’t like to move very much so the girls have to “lever her up” to go for the slow walks that she doesn’t like very much either.
Beatrice smells, has bad breath, abscesses, brown teeth and cavities. Beatrice smells and has sores so she has to wear an Elizabethan collar so she won’t make them worse by scratching. Beatrice smells and has lumps and bumps and matted fur in between the bald spots. Beatrice has arthritis and fleabites and. . . . Beatrice smells.
And with a big dog comes big poo, too.

. . . and not just because it’s about girls, rather than boys!
The Great Dog Disaster is similar to the Wimpy series except for location, main character, plot, style, theme, lessons learned – just about everything - but the two books are similar: both books are about kids (Anna and Suzanne are 9 years old) and both books have kid-type illustrations on every page.
Reading The Great Dog Disaster will turn your daughter (and son) into a vocabulary whiz, thanks to the “big word” definitions that are so much a part of the story, seemingly cut out of the dictionary and glued onto the pages – words like depression, disaster, and incontinent.
And the lists go on, oh my! Daily schedules and things to do for Beatrice and things to stock up on for Beatrice’s escape and plans and secrets and codes and locks and passwords.
Read About. . .
Attack ducks and wellies and Blu Tack and Spy Club and the truth about Barney. Find out why Beatrice is rejuvenated when the girls give her a bath.
And find out how Beatrice saves the day by saving someone and thereby saving herself!
PS - I think Big Beatrice is rather adorable – at least the drawings of her are cute (but then the book is rather small).
PPS – Although the book finally accelerates to the exciting climax, I didn’t want it to end (and I’m not even a 9 year-old girl)
*Other great critter capers: Great Animal Antics, The Great Cat Conspiracy, The Great Rabbit Rescue
Dog Evaluation (from a dog's point of view): This book is fiction. It takes place in a different country so it doesn’t have to be “right.” People don’t love Beatrice or treat her nicely, at least in the beginning when everyone makes fun of her, but everyone comes to love her in the end. Beatrice, however, still lives in the garage. . . .

Sunday, March 26, 2017

EverythingDogBlog Book Review: Finley Finds Heaven (boy, dog)

Finley Finds Heaven*, by Jackson and Janie Smith (Dementi Milestone Publishing, 36 pages, 2015, $18.99) with illustrations by Gail Butler

We never really recover from the death of a loved one. The hole in our hearts never closes: it becomes smaller but never totally goes away.

Every once in a while, we need a book to cherish, keep and learn from, especially if we have children and pets, and especially when a pet dies.

A book like Finley Finds Heaven helps the child in all of us because it really happened to a young boy. That young boy is author Jackson Smith who loved Finley, his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in life and after. Finley will always be part of Jackson just as your dog (or cat) will always have a place in your heart.

The Story Behind the Story

Would you believe Finley Finds Heaven is a true story?

Picture a family of three, with a dog for each. Picture a story written by one of the dogs, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Finley. (The official author, however, is Jackson Smith, aged 8, Finley’s boy on earth.)

When Finley’s young heart gives out, even the house he lived in seems to miss him. But young Jackson has a dream and then another, where he sees Finley in heaven,
healthy and having fun. Jackson can't wait to bring that hope and joy to his family so they, too, can believe. He wrote this book to bring hope and joy to you, too.

Many dog people see a special star in the sky after a beloved pet passes away: others feel a breeze at an odd time (even odder - indoors) on their face (a kiss, perhaps?).  Jackson saw his dog Finley in his dreams and once even felt Finley sitting on his lap.

Butterflies Abound

Finley’s book is not just for boys, however: the butterflies bring girls into the story, too. Cavaliers love to chase butterflies here on earth and in heaven, too.

You will be charmed by this story of Finley having a simply heavenly time and by the real-to-life illustrations of Cavaliers by Gail Butler.

Bonus after bonus after bonus after bonus: Find out what a “shath” is. Learn why Finley’s bed in heaven is a triple-decker bunkbed. Discover who the ‘three amigos’ are. Watch this adorable video of Jackson reading his Finley book to some of his canine friends. (Jackson is in his pj’s and the dogs are on their dog beds. Look closely to see how one of the dogs thanks Jackson!)
Barnes & Noble, Richmond, VA

*Available at bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Amazon, and in libraries. Check out Finley’s website, too. And Finley is even on Facebook! (One of the other books in this photo, Underwater Dogs, is reviewed here.)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

EverythingDogBlog: Book Review, Diary of a Wimpy Kid - Hard Luck (#8)(middle school boy, dog)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (number 8), by Jeff Kinney (Abrams Publishing, 217 pp, 2013, about $8.00, ages 8-12, grades 3-7)

Dear Author, . . . .
There are so many Dear Author letters that need to be written by dog trainers about potentially dangerous or just unwise dog situations in books for children: this is one.
I am a dog trainer but not just a dog trainer. I’m a positive-reinforcement dog trainer. That means I don’t use force, or any methods or equipment that are not gentle and dog-friendly (I have no need to use choke collars or electric fences, etc.).
So, imagine how my interest was tweaked when I read a FaceBook post about dogs who help kids read better by being good listeners: a trainer friend posted that she takes her dogs to libraries and schools for this wonderful service, and one day a book was being read aloud to her dog that mentioned electric fences and shock collars. Fortunately, the trainer-volunteer was listening and managed to have a conversation with the child about equipment that can hurt dogs.
So, I simply had to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Third Wheel (number 7 in the series).
I managed to make it through the entire book only to realize I had been given the wrong title. I should have been reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (number 8)!

So, back to the library I went to check out and wade through another Wimpy book.
Hard Luck
Yup, Hard Luck was the book in question - the title refers to not only a certain period in character Greg Heffley’s middle school life but also refers in the early pages (page 11) to the bad luck of one poor dog.
This dog, Rebel the Rottweiler, is misunderstood. In earlier books, I guess, he would get out of his yard and chase our “hero” to school, so “Rebel’s owner had to install an electric fence to make sure he couldn’t get loose. Now Rebel can’t chase us, because if he takes one step out of his yard, he’ll get a shock from his collar. (illustration of dog showing teeth, caption: “BEEP, BEEP, BEEP”)
“Ever since me and Rowley [friend] found out about Rebel’s electric collar, we’ve been having some fun with him. (illustration of two boys: one saying “OOPS! LOOKS LIKE I DROPPED MY SANDWICH” while the other boy is on all fours saying “MEOW! MEOW!”)
“But Rebel figured out that as long as his COLLAR doesn’t cross over the property line, he won’t get shocked.”
A Teachable Moment
Is it too much to ask parents, teachers and librarians to engage their young readers in a discussion about electric shock, about teasing animals who can’t respond, about ways to ‘have fun’ that aren’t at the expense of others? It’s too late to ask the author to include a better lesson about how to treat animals, unfortunately.
However, DogEvals did write the author about this. We hope to print his reply in the near future. If we don’t receive a reply, we will post that information, too.
Who Doesn’t Remember Middle School? (or junior high school)
I believe that inside each of us is a wimpy kid that explains the success of the series.
The Wimpy Books
Jeff Kinney, author, has struck a gold mine in his series starting in 2007 about a ‘wimpy’ kid in middle school: each page looks like a kid really printed it by hand and drew a couple of stick figures on every page to illustrate the story.
An Unlikely Story
Kinney, a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Book was also named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World. He currently owns a bookstore in Plainville, MA, named An Unlikely Story.
Other Wimpy Kid books:
The first one

Number Four, Dog Days, which I tried to read a couple of years ago but I guess I was just too old at the time. I’ll try again.

Number Six, Cabin Fever – snow days. Can’t wait to check this one out.

Number Seven, The Third Wheel, the book that got me hooked on the Wimpy Kid! (see cover above, in article)

Number Nine, The Long Haul – family vacation by car. This should bring back memories!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

EverythingDogBlog: Cut This Out!

And put it on your fridge.

Thanks to dog trainer Sue Brown of Colorado of The Light of Dog, you now have a handy-dandy pictorial list of what NOT to let your dog eat.

Cut it out and stick it on the fridge! You'll be glad you did.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Book Review: 101 Dalmatians! For Adults and Big Kids.

101 Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith (Penguin, 184 pages, 1957, $5.95)

You’ve Seen the Disney Movie, But Have you Read the Book?

You have probably seen the movie countless times since 1961 if you have kids, but did you know 101 Dalmatians was first a book by playwright Dodie Smith (Dorothy Smith 1896-1990) who also wrote I Capture the Castle (a movie in 2003) and numerous other books*?

And the movie is in DVD. See a few DogEvals blogs about it here (Draw Cruella, take a quiz on the movie, adopt the Disney DVD, how many spots?

Delightfully Enthralling

We at DogEvals picked up the 1996 reprint and were we ever glad we did! It was delightfully entertaining even though we knew the story. And even though we knew the story, it was exciting – a bit different from the movie but only a slight bit. (The beginning starts out slightly differently and the return of the pups to London may have differed slightly with perhaps a couple more adventures along the way, but children who know the Disney movie will not be disappointed).

When Television was New

With 18 short chapters, you can read one chapter a night to the kids and the pups or they can read one a night to you (the kids, not the pups!)

The wonder and perhaps the enduring love for this book is revealed in how it shows us that strangers will save us, given the chance to do good. The dogs of England rally around Pongo and Missus to rescue their kidnapped pups and more, to lead them home and protect and feed them along the way. What a lovely lesson for all the children and parents who read 101 Dalmatians!

Secondarily is the canine lesson to never bite a human, especially a child, no matter what that child does. “All very young creatures are ignorantly cruel.” (p. 70) “To bite a human is the greatest crime a dog can commit. You shall not let that cruel, thoughtless child put such a sin on your conscience. Your pain and anger will pass, but the guilt would remain with you or always.”

Great food for thought and topics for discussion with growing little ones.

A Darling Family

The Dearly family, composed of Mr. and Mrs. Dearly; their two childhood nannies, Nanny Cook and Nanny Butler; and their two Dals (Dalmatians), Pongo and Missus, remind us of that other lovely London family, the Darlings of Peter Pan fame. The Darlings have a canine nanny, Nana, a Newfie (Newfoundland).

The Dearlys, “like many other much-loved humans, . . . believed they owned their dogs, instead of realizing that their dogs owned them.” (p. 4)

Remember the Twilight Barking?

Kids, did you know there is also a Nine O’clock Barking and a Midnight Barking? And even a sequel called Starlight Barking?

You will want to know (“Heads’ up, parents!”) what a Great Dane looks like, and a Pomeranian, and a Spaniel, and an English Sheepdog, and a Golden Retriever, and a Setter (‘feather-brained as well as feather-tailed” [p.146]) and a Poodle and a Boxer (aren’t you glad Dodie Smith didn’t name all 480 dogs in the barking chain that relayed the word of the kidnapped 15 Dalmatian pups? “People [even] began to count their children carefully.” [p. 95])

The Story’s for Kids, the Writing’s for Parents

The kids will remember that Dalmatian pups are born “spotless” – “lollopy creatures with clumsy feet. “ (p. 107) They will recognize Lucky, Roly Poly, the Cadpig, and Patch. They will learn that Cruella de Vil’s ear tastes like pepper and “she’s enough to frighten the spots off a pup.” (p. 37)

On the other hand, nearly every page has a phrase or sentence that will take parents for a lovely ride: “. . . usual dogs are really more unusual than unusual dogs.” (p. 28) Adults smile as they read that the dogs “put the Dearlys on their leashes and led them into the park.” (p. 43)

Ms. Smith’s writing is delightful but not contrived. When Pongo has to tell Missus some unfortunate news, he thinks “if he told her before dinner, she might lose her appetite, and if he told her afterwards, she might lose her dinner.” (p. 51)

And Who is the Hundred and Oneth Dalmatian?

Read the book to find out! And discover how Dodie Smith “Made England Safe for Dalmatians” again.

*Starlight Barking is the sequel. Did you even know there is a sequel to 101 Dalmatians?

Friday, March 3, 2017

The Cutest Darn Cowdog in the Whole Wide West

“I see by your outfit that you are a cowdog,” I remarked to the lovely golden Golden Retriever in the rakish cowboy hat.

“Yup,” he woofed (evidently a dog of few words).

If Zuma isn’t the best darn cowdog in the Whole Wide West, at least he’s the cutest!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Book Review: Hank, the Cowdog (for kids but adults love Hank, too!)

Hank, the Cowdog: It’s a Dog’s Life, by John Erickson, (1984, 5.99$, Puffin Books, 127 pages [#3 of 57 books in the series, as well as audios], ages 9-12)

Hank is the bumbling, misunderstood hero-dog all young boys would like to be!
Head of Ranch Security and leader-mentor of one (Drover the dog), Hank makes rounds of his Texas panhandle ranch at night, takes a quick bath in the green water, then snoozes throughout the day on his funky burlap sack beneath the water tank when he isn’t out solving mysteries or having adventures.
He is an outdoor dog who gets himself into scrapes and scraps that he somehow manages to get himself out of by the end of chapter 12. And Drover goes along for the ride as number one sidekick assistant who usually gets things mixed up (he is still learning).
A Boy’s Book for Girls, Too
Written for 9-12 year olds by a former cowboy who began the series 28 years ago, a Hank book can be read all through in one sitting or one chapter at a time - cliff-hangers with interlocking plots.
Written to be Read Out Loud
Hank is a fast-talking lovable mutt and if you scrunch your eyes real tight and hold the cover at arms’ distance, you might be able to see him as a golden retriever – but a golden with short hair, long ears and a menacing grin for anyone who dares trespass on HIS ranch.
Lovable characters abound from Rip and Snort the singing (howling) coyotes, to Wallace and Junior the ugly buzzards who eat only dead things, to Beulah the cute girl dog on the neighboring ranch.
And, see the movie trailer here!
You, Too, Will be a Hank Fan
I’m a Hank fan and I’m an adult!
Hank, who attacks empty cowboy boots thinking they are headless leathery-skinned creatures,
Hank - who ‘marks’ a clothesline pole that then turns into an angry woman’s leg hanging out the clothes,
Hank - who is thought to be rabid when he foams at the mouth after eating a bar of Ivory soap,   
Hank, who breaks out of the pound and breaks into houses,
Hank - you gotta love ‘im,
Hank - the accidental hero!
And only 53 Hank books left to devour!
For more fun and games, go to