Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Review: Theo (smiley dog hunts for. . . . )

Theo at the Park (The little dog who has lost his sense of smell), by Jaclyn Crupi (Sandy Creek Publishing, 2013, 24 pages)

Simply Theodorable Theo!

Ah, Theo! What an adorable dog.

We had to read Theo three times the first time. At first, I merely thought he was a cutie-pie. The second time through I realized Theo was a sort–of Scottie, albeit a brown Scottie. Now I realize Theo is EveryDog.

Theo, though unlike the Theo I know in appearance except for color,
A Real Theo (credit: TLoehr)
is simply the smiliest dog I have ever seen gazing out from a book cover with his bevy of friends – a flutterby (butterfly to the rest of the world) and a pair of bees, perhaps portending what we will see inside?

The Plot

We see and read about Theo’s likes and his toys, but one day he wakes up, and, gulp! cannot smell any smell at all. Being a wise little pupster, he decides to retrace his steps from yesterday when he went to the park, to see if he left his smell there.

Can he smell the honey in the beehive when he sniffs and whiffs, the roses’ perfume, his favorite strawberry ice-cream? Nope. He heads along on home, hoping for a scrumptious dinner then falls asleep, snuggling in his bed.

Other Plots

Read Theo at the Seaside and Theo at the Supermarket. I wonder if he ever finds his sense of smell!

Lovely Lively Illustrations

Theo’s illustrator, Aurelia Verdoux, watercolored simple, yet fun and colorful pages for little ones to follow along with a cute little story.

Expanding Vocabulary

And now, back to our story: Theo strides into the park. He sniffs and whiffs.

My little reader and I love the perfect combination of repetitive phrases that little ones soon come to anticipate (which helps a pre-reader).


Is something missing? I looked up a couple of Theo reviews and discovered that there should be smells embedded in some illustrations – the beehive, the rose garden, the strawberry ice-cream cone, dinner perhaps. We only smelled a dusty musty book, but then I looked more closely and thought I could see a circle –shadow on a couple of those pages and imagined I smelled at least the strawberry ice-cream. Perhaps the smell has dissipated with storage and with time. Nevertheless, I have a call in to the publisher. (Sometimes, I have been told, it will take weeks to get a response.)


Little ones can imagine the smells (or you can put a drop of honey or strawberry ice cream strategically on a page, and a spray of rose perfume perhaps). And if your copy of Theo actually has the wonderful smells embedded, read this book many times before they evaporate. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Review: Worms for Breakfast (recipes for zoos and fun for kis)

Worms for Breakfast: How to feed a zoo, by Helaine Becker (OwlKids, 2016, 40 pages, $17.95, ages 7-10, grades 1-5)

The Subtitle Did It

The subtitle grabbed my attention more than the front cover did but then the sub-subtitle helped, too: “Real Recipes Included.”

I simply couldn’t imagine what was in store for the kids. I certainly hoped it was more personally enticing than the front cover, which showed a platypus (OK), worms (yuck), larva of some sort (yuck), and some crustaceans of some sort in a short low blue bowl (pan?).

This book was weird! (to me) But just the sort of book a young boy would love to show his mom pictures of while she is cooking dinner! (Let me warn you in advance. Prevent this: the kitchen is off-limits for Worms for Breakfast!)

We read every single page, countless times. Worms begins with Platypus Party Mix, as shown on the cover with two sets of question-puzzles even this Biology instructor couldn’t answer, and a glossary of definitions that are worded better than even I could do.

All the Animals

The entire animal kingdom is represented: from hungry hippos to flamingoes (white).

But it’s not only about food for the animals. Maybe your child, after reading this book, would like to become a zoo nutritionist or help raise baby foxes or leopards. Kids will learn about conservation, which animals are nocturnal, and about some of the myriad problems of captivity.


Enrichment is huge nowadays in zoos and aquariums and even in human homes that have pet dogs. Learn how to make a Predator Popsicle or Tiger Cupcake (and modify it for you canine). Learn how to put an elephant on a diet: that is sure to come in handy.

Did you know the Easter Bunny visits the Honolulu Zoo and primates have a Pumpkin Toss (and then eat their prizes, the pumpkins) in Tampa for Halloween?

Educational, too!

Each page is full of full-color photos to find gems in, plus the recipes and fun facts about bio-life.

Kids won’t be able to make all of these recipes at home (thank goodness they don’t have all these critters as pets) but why not help them scoop out an apple, make some holes in the sides, and insert a dozen or so mealworms – for the birds, of course!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Book Review: Hannah and Sugar (picture book, girl afraid of a dog)

Hannah and Sugar, words and pictures by Kate Berube (Abrams, 2016, 32 pages, $16.95, picture book, 32 pages, ages 5-7)

Let’s not forget the little ones!

Often dogs and their people resemble each other but Sugar doesn’t belong to Hannah: instead, Sugar belongs to Violet P., and all the kids love Sugar, except for Hannah – Hannah is afraid of Sugar.

The Sugar-Dog

Sugar is a good little girl-dog. She wears a pink collar, a pink leash and, in the winter, a pink snow coat. She keeps looking at Hannah, as if wanting to make friends. And Hannah keeps sneaking glances at Sugar. . . . unsure, perhaps, or on guard.

And Then, . . . .

One day, instead of Hannah’s dad meeting the bus after school and Violet P.’s Sugar meeting the bus after school, Sugar is gone. Nobody knows where. Everyone looks. And looks. And looks.

Hannah thought how she would feel if she were lost: perhaps cold, and lonely, and hungry, and scared, and afraid.

And then, at nightfall, Hannah hears a whimper from the bushes. What will she do?

What would you do?

But, Wait!

There is more to this tale than meets the eye, at first glance.

The simple watercolor illustrations by our first-time author seem to perfectly reflect what Hannah is feeling - and Sugar, too.  

Then Ms. Berube gives the reader an entire season of kids getting off the school bus in one full-page spread, from autumn to snow to rain and spring flowers. Then, she does it again, once more in a full-page spread as everyone searches for the missing Sugar – from daylight through dusk through nightfall to a starry sky when you turn the page.


Hannah and Sugar is unforgettable for the story, for the watercolor illustrations that mirror the emotions, for the creativity of picture placement. It is a keeper and comes in hardcover and Kindle versions. In French, Chinese, Korean, and, of course, in English.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: Dozer's Run (half-marathon, Maryland dog)

Dozer’s Run: The Story of a Dog and His Race, by Debbie Levy and Rosana Panza (Sleeping Bear Press, 2014, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 6-9, grades 1-4 [especially grade 3])

What do we like best about Dozer’s Run? Is it the lovely story or the cute and curvy alliterations on trees and grass or the wrap-around cover illustration or the fact that it’s true and you can find Dozer in our county library AND that it actually happened in the next town over to us? Maybe it is all of that.

Just maybe this is a case where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts – though the sum of the parts is a pretty high number all on its own!

Unlikely Runner, Last-Minute ‘Entrant’ – An Accidental Race Debut

Dozer’s Run is the story of how an underdog became a wonderdog. Dozer was the last of his litter to leave home but became world-known – all because he was curious and liked running. And playing Follow the Leader. And clapping. And cheering. And new friends - lots of new friends.

Dozer lived near Mile 5 of the Maryland Half-Marathon in 2011 when he saw many of the 2000 runners running past his house in the country. Playing outside with his canine buddy, Chica, Dozer thought the runners were having more fun so he ran through his electronic invisible fence (“Ouch!”) and joined the race for over two hours of running – and, on the way, managed to raise more money than any other runner for cancer research!

Dozer Running the Half-Marathon
Outrunning Cancer in Two Hours and Fourteen Minutes: Dozer’s Dash

He had run, and played tag with new friends, and chased others to a personal best. He encouraged all who ran with him and they gave him smiles (and took selfies) in return.

Dozer somehow found his way back home the next morning, very tired but very happy to see his family who had been frantically searching for him. At the vet’s, he was diagnosed with exhaustion and four sore paws. He ate a big breakfast and slept for two days!

Goldendoodle Becomes Worldwide Local Celebrity Fundraiser

Dozer is a dog. Of course!

That day, Dozer took a step to help others. And then another. And another until he finished the half marathon with 2000 new friends and worldwide recognition. Watch him on ABC News here, crossing the Finish Line with four muddy paws, and receiving his medal.
One Proud Dozer Dog Receiving his Finisher's Medal!

Since his first (and last) race, Dozer has become a super canine cheerleader for cancer patients and runners alike. Although our favorite dog was at the race in 2012 he played the role of a cheerleader with his own Dozer’s Dog House. If he runs again, he will have his own bib number: K9.

And More

DogEvals also loves the soft watercolor-like illustrations with dog and runners literally running off the page and when they aren’t, we see what’s important – running feet and a whole dog, tail a flyin’

Dozer Says,

Dozer says if he can run a half-marathon, you too can do anything! If you chase something wonderful, you, too can win it, whether it’s a medal or breakfast.

Dozer invites you to like his Facebook page, Dozer The Dog’s Fan Page.

Caveat: You can check out Dozer’s Run at the Howard County, MD, public libraries.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review: Dogs are People, Too (dogs, cartoons)

Dogs are People, Too (A Collection of Cartoons to make Your Tail Wagl), by Dave Coverly (Henry Holt Publishing, 2015, 214 pages, $12.99)

Great Canine Cartoons

Oh, my gosh! Where have we been, not to have seen these great canine cartoons? How have we survived without knowing about Dave Coverly of Speed Bump* fame?

The cover will draw you in. And keep you there.

The top picture shows a dog smelling another dog’s butt but the first dog is wearing a cone: the caption (in case you can’t read the small print) says, “Sorry. Forgot about the cone.”

Below is a black lab on the left and a white amateurish childish stick-figure drawing of a dog on the right with the captions: on the left, “Labrador” – on the right, “Labradoodle.”

Bark Box, too!

The author-cartoonist, Michiganer Dave Coverly, is someone whose work you already know if you are a subscriber to that monthly goody-box for dogs, Bark Box. Coverly’s drawings adorn each box, the Facebook pages and the newsletter. Would you believe his dog depictions are called ‘doodles’? Bark Box even interviewed Coverly here and included several of his doodlings.

Visual Jokes

Two hundred fourteen pages of smiles in 10 chapters such as Dogs Behaving Badly; All Dogs Go To Heaven (Even the Ones Who Behaved Badly); Sniffing, Barking, Eating, Pooping (You Know, Stuff Dogs are Good At); and Dogs are (Smarter Than) People. Too.

Coverly also shows us the dogs of his life: from Shag to Tigger to Steve to Kenzi and the current Macy, thay all have their stories told in a couple of pages of prose with photos. Coverly loves mutts!

And Your Favorite Is. . . . .?

The staff here at DogEvals has too many favorites! What I like best about Coverly is that I understand most of his visual jokes (unlike Bob Hope and Jack Benny whom I had to try to laugh at). Unfortunately, Coverly only has one book of canine cartoons. So far. 

Read More About it: Here is an interview by Bark Post about Coverly being the Bark Box illustrator. So you-all are really familiar with my new favorite cartoonist but didn’t know it!

 *Speed Bump is a single-panel comic that has appeared in newspapers since 1994. It now appears in more than 400 papers and sites including the Washington Post, the Toronto Globe & Mail, the Chicago Tribune and the Indianapolis Star.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Dog Book Review: Julia Gillian (and the Dream of the Dog) (girl, St. Bernard, Minneapolis)

Julia Gillian (and the Dream* of the Dog), by Alison McGhee (Scholastic Press, 2010, 328 pages, $16.99, ages 8-12, grades 3-7)

Julia Gillian has Grown Up! (A Little Bit)

Julia Gillian is now a Sixlet (in sixth grade) and goes to middle school with the bigger, more suave (and scary) Sevvies and Crazy Eights (seventh and eighth graders).

It is often hard to grow up because we do so at different rates in different directions. Fortunately Julia Gillian has her wonderful hippie-like teacher-parents, babysitter Enzo and Enzo’s older brother Zap­ living in a downstairs apartment, and her three school buddies, along with several rock-steady adults in her Minneapolis neighborhood.

And, of course, Bigfoot, her St. Bernard and best friend who is exactly the same age, 11. And being 11 means that Julia Gillian can now walk anywhere within an 11-block square, if Bigfoot is with her, and he loves to be. But 11 is rather old for a dog, especially a big one like Bigfoot. Bigfoot is slowing down.

What this means is that Julia Gillian’s beloved St. Bernard Bigfoot is also two years older than in the original book in the series, Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing) but Bigfoot remains the Dog of her Dreams and still sleeps on the magenta pillow next to Julia Gillian’s bed.

Other Stars of a Kind

Book two in the trilogy
Also starring with Julia Gillian are illustrator Drazen Kozjan and – Minneapolis! Readers living in the Twin Cities will know Lake Harriet and Dunwoody and Lake Calhoun and Bryant and Emerson and Dupont and Fremont and Girard Street.

The Plots Thicken

Julia Gillian is practicing to increase the number of free-throws (basketball) she can shoot in a row (over 100 so far), she is trying to figure out how to help her third-grade Reading Buddy read more – like Julia Giliian herself, he hates to read.

And then, beloved Bigfoot develops cardiomyopathy, an enlarged heart. Of course, our hero believes the Dog of her Dreams has always had the biggest heart ever in the canine world!

But she learns to take care of Bigfoot (or take over-care of him) with her new Bigfoot parameters – including no long walks and plenty of rest: these are ways of “controlling the variables.”

Just like in real life, many plots develop at different rates at the same time. The reader follows Julia Gillian through middle school daily life but, more so than in the Wimpy books, this series tackles some tough issues. We can’t wait for the next one! (We skipped the second title in the trilogy, Julia Gillian (and the Quest for Joy).

*Parents, you may want to read this book before your child does and determine if she can handle it alone or if perhaps read it on a weekend. This is that nowadays-rare book in which the dog dies with many pages devoted to the family’s remembrances and reminiscences and also to friends’, neighbors’ and buddies’ reactions in helping Julia Gillian.

Yesterday: Julia Gillan (and the Art of Knowing)

Caveat: This title was first observed in a bookstore and then checked out from the county library.