Monday, December 28, 2020

Book Review: A Home for Goddesses and Dogs (new girl, two dogs, Connecticut farm, fitting in)

 A Home for Goddesses and Dogs, by Leslie Connor (Harper Collins, 385 pages, 2020, $16.99, ages 10-12, grades 5-6)

An intriguing title and cover of the new book by the award-winning author of The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle, A Home for Goddesses and Dogs made for a book we didn't want to miss. We love the cover - a house on a hill (Pinnacle Hill Farm) with silhouettes of two women and a dog, trees, a car and shed, with several moons above as they change phase day by day, and, in the foreground, a young blond girl kneeling and petting a yellow dog. So much to tell!

A long book and slow-reading but, fortunately, with fairly large print.


What are goddesses anyway - are they really the photos that Lydia and her mom 'improve'? Are they Aunt Brat, her wife and Lydia? Maybe Lydia's two new girl friends? 

The Plot?

Rather plotless until way way into the book, but, nonetheless, the story of a young girl whose father left the family years ago and whose mother recently died goes to live with Aunt Brat and the aunt's wife - and a grandfatherly person and an old dog. Chelmsford is a small town in Connecticut with only a dozen students in Lydia's 8th grade class. Within a week, they get a yellow dog but our hero, Lydia, is not a dog person.

She brings a box of goddesses with her to the farm in Connecticut. Goddesses are cut-out photos of women that Lydia and her mother improved with paint and crayons and lace and names like the Goddess of Three Hearts and the Goddess of Spring Planting.

The Meaning of Family

Lydia enlarges a mouse hole in the wall of her upstairs bedroom and then falls through the floor. The new dog has to undergo expensive surgery. Both incidents, and more, show family values in action.

And, with dogs in the picture, DogEvals must comment on how they are depicted. Housetraining is drawn out unnecessarily and not correctly but, otherwise, the dogs are real dogs.

And Secrets

"I hadn't hidden it from her. . . Was not telling her the same thing as keeping it from her? Or was it choosing not to share? Was there a difference?" (page 257)

Writing Style

Like many books for elementary and junior high students, this book is very slow from chapter to chapter; however, author Leslie Connor writes very well on a micro level and every once in a while the reader comes across a gem of a sentence or paragraph. It is a long book and we would have preferred more action or a shorter read. 

Caveat: This book is available in the Howard County public library system.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

DogEvals' Book of the Year, 2020 Style

 And the winner is. . . . (actually we picked it in July!)

Once a year, along comes a (dog) book we simply love. We keep it. We turn to it often and, if it is a coffee table book, even more often. Sometimes it is an inspiring book that goads us into action, whether it is to volunteer at our local shelter or to write to our representatives. 

This year, it was Dogversations.

Dogversations: Conversations with my Dog

If these dogs could's precisely what Eva, the Brittany spaniel; Bruno, the golden retriever; and Agnes, the genetically diverse rescue dog, would say. Photographer David Leswick flawlessly captures the fun, quirky, clever, curious, and witty personalities of his family's three canine companions in this collection of heartwarming photography - plus the hilarious 'dogalogue' that comes along with it. 

The perfect literary and photographic treat for the eyes, heart, and sense of humor of any animal lover, Dogversations is a laugh-out-loud hysterical glimpse at how this canine crew tries to make heads or tails out of their daily lives with the human family that loves them....From

From Lovely photos, creative conversations between man and dog, great coffee table book

5.0 out of 5 stars
Dogversations is DogEvals "Book of the Year for 2020" and we read it way back in July! I would call it simply delightful!
The author-photographer dearly loves his dogs (and kids) and includes the reader in the conversations they have, each of which is totally believable and cutely entertaining.

Ever wonder what your dog is thinking? David Leswick tells us with the help of dog number one (Eva, a Brittany), dog number two (Bruno the golden) and dog number three (Aggie, 'All-American'). Dogs explain what they are thinking in canine conversations and ask questions about what humans do and why they do them. And we meet the author's dogs first as cute little puppies then watch them grow through pictures and words.

Eva Pup: Dave, Why is this cardboard keeping me in the kitchen?

I think my favorite two-page spread is the one of Puppy Bruno climbing out of his X-pen - "Can't talk - busy escaping!" And, of course, rules (to Bruno the dog) are merely loose guidelines!
"Dave, can't talk now. Busy escaping."

You will love Dogversations to read, to keep, and to gift!
(Photos courtesy of DLeswick)

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Book Review: Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs

Another Good Dog: One Family and Fifty Foster Dogs, by Cara Sue Achterberg (Pegasus Books Ltd., 256 pages, 2018, $25.95) Listen to a sampler here.

Not Just Another Dog Memoir

The cute puppy cover and title, Another Good Dog, had attracted my notice a few times. I had seen the book cover in my friendly neighborhood independent bookstore (lucky me) but I always passed it by, thinking it was just another dog memoir, memorable, but still I needed to review a more serious dog book this week, I kept saying to myself. Many of my dog trainer colleagues do not read dog memoirs but I dearly love them and I also love reading books 'written' by dogs (also in the minority there) so I passed it by for a couple of years. Until now, when I happened to read the subtitle and - glad I did!

Once or twice a year, I read a book that is truly remarkable and, what I like to call, a 24-hour book - so good that I read it in nearly one sitting although you can easily put it down and pick it up again without losing the flow (if you carry the book with you because you won't be able to wait to get back to it).

Another Good Dog is just such a book: funny, sensitive and, about dogs!

I didn't want this book to end. I want to meet the author and read her other books*. I even took the time to peruse the website of the dog rescue she fosters for, Operation Paws for Homes**, and am considering becoming a volunteer trainer for the organization: it certainly sounds like a great organization making a difference for dogs. And, to find she only lives about 50 miles from me!

Addicted to Fostering Rescue Dogs?

Our author was ready for another dog - almost. So, she and her family decided to foster until the right dog came along. Two years and 50 dogs later. . . they were all the 'right' dogs for them but the family kept finding other perfect families for the dogs (besides them, of course). And they slowly realized they were meant to foster. They also came to realize that if they adopted one of their foster dogs, then they would not be able to foster any more (after all, their house was only so big). And they were meant to foster. Author Cara Achterberg soon became addicted to dogs. Or was it addicted to puppies? Or maybe addicted to dogs needing a temporary home?

Operation Paws for Homes brings dogs (and cats) up north to Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and DC from an underfunded and overpopulated shelter in South Carolina (among others) on a weekly basis. View the 13-minute documentary here - "600 Miles Home".

About Another Good Dog

Along with her stories and photos of her 50 foster dogs over two years***, Achterberg welcomes us into her small village, her six country acres replete with chickens and horses, her traveling patient husband whom she dearly loves, and three rambunctious teens who cry along with Mom every time they have to say goodbye to a dog. "We're running low on puppies," said the youngest teen (page 242). Thankfully, they have a resident dog who stays.

There is the dog they have less than 24 hours before he is adopted out. There is the dog who stays with them for six weeks - until the scared, shy dog comes out of his shell, and finds his forever family. There is the dog who is 'theirs' for four months. There is the dog who ate a baseball, the dog who is afraid to go outside, to eat, or to drink for the first two days. 

Love Means Never Having to Say You're. . . . 

Fostering rescue dogs means loving them and then letting them go, watching them leave. It never gets any easier but the light at the end of the tunnel is knowing you have made another family inordinately happy and another dog deliriously happy even if the dogs generally undergo a name change once they leave you behind. An email with photos from the forever family in the following few days seems to settle the deal and put you at ease, that you have done your best. And on to the next foster dog or two (or litter).

Style (Writing, that is)

A great book has a great storyline plus great writing, writing that shows you rather than tells you. Writing that puts you in the story so it is happening to you and around you. I call that, magic.

Achterberg has that magical writing style apparent with the first page. Although one word seems to flow effortlessly after another, I'm sure each paragraph was written and rewritten and rewritten once again. The end product is a book that will endear you to the author and her foibles and perhaps even inspire you to become involved in dog rescue.

"I loved the both. How could I not? And the risk was part of that love. It's unavoidable when you open your heart to anyone - dog or human." (page 97)

Achterberg even uses footnotes! Plus, she sneaks in bits and pieces of canine husbandry facts and other information about man's best friend, but she does this so skillfully you don't realize you are being subtly educated.

A Great Book Review

Every once in a while, a book review seems to almost write itself - this one didn't even wait until I had finished reading! It just "grow'd" like Topsy from Uncle Tom's Cabin as I read. I simply couldn't wait for the review, even as I didn't want the book to end. Fifty stories about dogs is just the right number to read in one sitting.

You Can Do It, Too!

Yup, you too can foster with a good sound organization behind you, like Operation Paws for Homes. The author includes FAQs from her years of fostering experience and the critical need to transport dogs from the American south to points up north: different cultures, different weather which may perhaps account for part of the culture differences, different ideas of spaying nd neutering (or not). . . but Achterberg also writes that "dogs are pretty understanding and more than patient with us. We offer them stability, food, safe shelter, medical treatment, and most of all - love. That's five things they may never have experienced in their lives. (page 250) And then she goes on to reveal what dogs give us in return (you'll have to read the book to find out).

To Foster or Not To Foster. . . . 

Achterberg debunks the reasons for not fostering. Fostering will be the hardest, most fulfilling job you will ever do for free (all expenses paid and assistance freely given). Just do it!

And finally, Achterberg won my little old dog trainer's heart when she talks about what you need to do before fostering a litter: "Get a crate. Find a trainer. Clear your schedule." (page 242) Puppies could "easily takeover [sic] a life" [ibid] but you will love them for it.


I wish I had read Another Good Dog the year it came out: it would probably have been my Book of the Year for 2018. My only suggestion would be for photos to accompany each dog-story rather than be stuck together in the middle of the book.

Read More About It: Operation Paws for Homes sounded familiar plus the logo was one I had seen somewhere so I thought and thought, then, on a whim, searched through my seven years of weekly blogs at - and found not just one but two blogs I had published about Operation Paws for Homes and their logo.

* Blind Turn (2021)

One Hundred Dogs and Counting (2020)

Another Good Dog (2018)

Practicing Normal (2017)

Girls' Weekend (2016)

I'm Not Her (2015)

Live Intentionally (2014)

**Operation Paws for Homes has a plethora of BLMs (black Labrador mixes) but also numerous hounds and even a chihuahua-dachshund mix and a bloodhound on occasion. "Lab mix was the default breed for rescue dogs with short hair, ears that didn't stick up, a curving tail and a medium-large size." (p. 181)

***more than 25 foster dogs a year at one location in Pennsylvania requires more paperwork, licenses, inspections and headaches.

Caveat: I found this book at my local county library since the copy I had purchased long ago has disappeared.

(photos from Achterberg's website)

Friday, December 11, 2020

The COVID Cough (Part 2 of 'C is for Coronavirus')(OT)

Our previous post (20 November), "C is for Coronavirus," covered terms to help you remember how to act safely in the COVID Era: Closed Spaces, Crowds, Close Contact, and Clean Hands. Of course, as soon as I posted it, another C-word immediately popped into my head - Cough!

C is for Cough

An infected person breathes out viral particles that travel a bit horizontally before falling to the ground. When we talk, our breath and viral particles leave our mouth and nose with more force so they travel farther horizontally. When we talk loudly, even farther. When we shout, even farther. When we sing, even farther. When we cough, the farthest yet.

Distance traveled is a function of how much force is used to expel the air.

Therefore, stay away from someone with a cold, especially indoors. Remember to use your 'indoor voice.' Listen to others with care and respect so they don't have to shout when masked. 

In Summary

Photo: zhangshuang/Getty Images

C is for Coronavirus.

C is for Closed spaces. Avoid them unless for less than 10-15 minutes or in a well-ventilated room.

C is for Crowds. Avoid them, especially indoors. Remain at least 6-20 feet from others, especially indoors. Better yet, stay home! If you must go out, remember that 6 feet is the length of a dog leash or two golden retrievers.

C is for Close Contact with people you don't live with. Be prepared - have extra masks by the door when a delivery arrives, in your car when you forget to wear or bring one or someone else does or you sneeze or. . . . 

C is for Contact with objects and for Clean hands. Wash those hands well - with warm (or cold) water and soap (or sanitizer with 60%+ alcohol) at least 20 seconds before and after doing just about anything. Then put on some hand lotion!


Finally, if you live in Maryland (or Maine or Massachusetts or Mississippi or Montana or Missouri or Minnesota or Michigan), don’t forget your mother – MOM: Mask up, Maryland! Mask up, Maine! Mask up, Massachusetts! etc.) 

Read More About It: 
How to Determine if You Will Contact COVID-19 (a light-hearted look with some seriousness) 

Friday, November 20, 2020


C is also for Closed Spaces, Crowds, Close Contact, and Clean Hands – things we all have incorporated into our living style since March to combat that little virus. 

We are encouraged to remember three things: 1.) stay home and stay safe, 2.) mask up when you do have to go out, and 3.) wash your hands often. To help remember this, think “C is for Coronavirus.” 

Closed Spaces 

When you must be inside (outside of your home), try to have it be in a large room with open windows and doors, and fans (dress for winter!) or upgraded ventilation (continual exchange of air from the outside at a minimum). Remain in this environment for as few minutes as possible. 

And, mask up!

Crowds (Party or Protest – or Business Meeting) 

Crowds can form indoors or outdoors. Avoid indoor crowds. 

Plan your grocery shopping for early (or late) hours and don’t go twice a week like you used to – try to shop once a week or even less often. Make out your grocery list at home and arrange the items in one route around the store, up and down the aisles. Be efficient. 

When ‘caught’ in a crowd outdoors, ensure you can keep at least six feet from people you do not live with and limit your time being exposed to this situation. 

And, mask up! 

Close Contact 

We miss our friends but if they do stop by, put your mask on before opening the door (keep clean masks in a drawer by the door, or on a hook so they are handy to grab when opening the door and so you don’t forget when you open the door or go out – you don’t want to be caught somewhere without a mask and have to return home or ask someone if they have an extra clean one). 

And, since so many more items are now being delivered (groceries, packages, pizza, etc.), having an extra mask handy is only being polite to the other person, too. 

Carry an extra mask in your purse and in your car – even a child-sized mask. Stay at least six feet away (some studies say the virus can ‘travel’ 20 feet!). 

And, mask up! 

Clean Hands 

Wash your hands – when you get up, before making breakfast (and after), before brushing your teeth, whenever you think of it, whenever you walk past the kitchen or bathroom. 

And, if washing our hands with warm water, isn’t using hot water even better? Nope. If you can’t wait for warm water, cold water is fine. Hot water can open pores or little scratches to let in bacterial or viruses. 

And, mask up! 


Finally, if you live in Maryland (or Maine or Massachusetts or Mississippi or Montana or Missouri or Minnesota or Michigan), don’t forget your mother – MOM: Mask up, Maryland! Mask up, Maine! Mask up, Massachusetts! etc.) 

Read More About It: 
How to Determine if You Will Contact COVID-19 (a light-hearted look with some seriousness) 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Book Review (OT): When GOD Says NO: Revealing YES When Loss and Adversity are Present

When GOD Says NO: Revealing YES When Loss and Adversity are Present, by Judith Briles (Mile High Press, 2019, $27, 254 pages)

A mesmerizing little book that packs a whopping big story and hopeful message. . . .

Author Dr. Judith Briles has experienced it all many times over, yet has come out the other side of adversities with even more hope and belief in God and mankind. She has survived the death of two sons, a business betrayal, a grossly unfair divorce settlement, cancer, an abusive marriage (at 16, she was a high school graduate, married, pregnant and moving to Montana, . . . . )

The accidental death of teenage son Frank appears front and center throughout every chapter and leads Briles' growth in her strong belief and her emotional recovery over and over again. Frank 'leaves' his mother four gifts, one of which is resiliency. This is a book you will tear up during or at least get all misty-eyed over in spots while reading more than once.

Christian blackmail, God's sense of humor, and suggestions about what to say to the grieving person (p. 126) as well as poetic quotations* are splashed throughout When GOD Says NO: Revealing YES When Loss and Adversity are Present. The Ten Commandments for Overcoming Adversity begin on page 159.

And yet, Briles' humor shines through, making this almost a book to read in one setting: her life story (plot) is mesmerizing, making it a quick little read.     

Caveat: This book was sent to me for review.

*Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, "When it is dark enough, men see the stars." (p. 67)

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Book Review: Buckeye Believer: 40 days of Devotions for the Ohio State Faithful

Buckeye Believer: 40 days of Devotions for the Ohio State Faithful, by Del Duduit (Burnett Young Books, 2017, 127 pages, $12.95)

Ah, that perennial powerhouse of college football, Ohio State, deserves a book all its own and here it is. Forty daily devotions devoted to special moments in Buckeye football from 1950 to 2015.

Each short chapter gives us the date and score of a memorable moment in sports history from season openers to the Rose Bowl to the Cotton Bowl to the Sugar Bowl and even the Fiesta Bowl, including a Heisman Trophy winner.

What can we learn from Woody Hayes' temper and the two unsportsmanlike calls in one game that culminated in his being fired? What can a losing team teach us? Author Del Duduit ties it all together again, just like in his more recent Dugout Devotions.

With a couple of passages from the Bible pertaining to each story followed by 4th and 1and then Goal Line Stand, the reader is challenged to see the lessons football and sports in general, even life can teach us.

Although I am not a football fan, I grew up with football in the background and hope the author will next tackle devotions from the University of Washington or from the University of Minnesota!

By the way, what is a buckeye anyway?

Caveat: This book was sent to me for review.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Book Review: Wolf at the Window (kids, Scotland, wolves, veterinarian parents, holiday)

Wolf at the Window: A Ghostly Warning, by Ben Baglio (Scholastic, 133 pages, 2000, $3.99, grades 2-7, ages 7 and up) 

We have read and reviewed several* of author Ben Baglio's animal books for kids starring Mandy Hope, her best friend James, and her mom and dad, both veterinarians in  a small English village. Mandy loves animals and knows a lot about them: she seems to always find animals who need a home - or they find her - so she has her work cut out for her with James in on the adventures.

Wolf at the Window, however, is a bit different from the very beginning. It was not until we had finished reading that we discovered it is number 7 in the Animal Ark Hauntings series! But it's not that scary.

Holiday in Scotland

Mandy and her mom and dad are invited to Scotland one winter for a vacation (the Brits call vacations, holidays). They bring friend James along and stay in a cabin adjacent to a new wildlife park just in time for a huge gala at their friend's house.

But, the very first night Mandy looks up from the game they are playing in the living room of the cabin and sees an old wolf! The wolf suddenly disappears from sight and leaves no paw prints in the snow. 

This was only the beginning of strange things happening to Mandy: it takes her the whole book to figure things out and even then the reader is not convinced of what seems to have happened.

Along the way, we learn about Scottish history, music and dancing, and root for Mandy, James and their new friend against the bad guys. 

Read this book with a grain of salt, however, not only for the surreal happenings but also for Mandy's 'way with animals.'

Caveat: This book was purchased for review.

* Cub in the Cupboard  (number 8 in the original series) 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Book Review: Cub in the Cupboard (fox, kids and a kit, Cub Scout auction)

Cub in the Cupboard: As Sly As a Fox . . . , by Ben Baglio (Scholastic, 147 pages, 1994, $3.99, Grades 2-7, ages 7 and up) An Animal Ark book.

Mandy lives with her mom, Dr. Emily, and dad, Dr. Adam, in a house attached to Animal Ark, a veterinary clinic in England. Mandy's best friend is James, who adopted Blackie, a black lab who shares their adventures.

One day when Mandy and James were out riding their bikes, they heard a whimper that turned out to be a fox caught in a trap with her little kit (baby fox) nearby. Dr. Emily manages to help the fox and both she and her kit are brought back to Animal Ark for rehabilitation (but the cute little kit keeps escaping her crate so the two friends have to find another temporary home for him).

But that's not all!

The cub scouts are planning an auction so they can purchase some tents (pup tents, of course!): Grandma is donating the furniture that Mandy dearly loves: and the two friends find out who has been setting traps for foxes - can they do anything about it safely? But that's not all.

We also meet the dog obedience instructor, two little old ladies, Grandma and Grandpa, of course, then watch Mandy and James sneak into a house.

These two kids change the lives of everyone they meet in their little country town while saving animals and educating young readers.

One of more than 50 books by Ben Baglio and 8th in the series, Cub in the Cupboard is full of surprises and even suspense. Read another book about how adult-like kids can be!

Caveat: This book was purchased for review.

Also by the same author and number 25 in the series, Dog at the Door.

Next: Wolf at the Window

Friday, October 30, 2020

Book Review: Dugout Devotions (devotions by Major League Baseball's best)

Dugout Devotions, Inspirational Hits form MLB's Best, by Del Duduit (Iron Stream Books, 2019, 146 pages. $12.99)

Dugout Devotions is a handy little book if you are not a follower of professional baseball. If you are a follower of professional baseball, this may very well be a very handy little book to carry with you - it's just the right size, too.

What is it?

Thirty days of devotions by MVPs and Cy Young Award winners, All-Star players, World Series champions, coaches, managers, scouts, and just plain old major league baseball players telling of their personal challenges and how they overcame them with the help of their belief in God. Each day begins with a verse, a story, and a scripture reading followed by On Deck, a section that compares your life to that of the baseball 'guy' with questions you can answer.

Finally, each chapter ends with a number of steps you can take to study specific passages in the Bible, who to talk to and what to bring up, and just plain ol' common sense, bringing us back to the day's author for a final word.

What's Next?

Award-winning sports writer and author Del Duduit has put together a unique book. I just hope he continues the series with golfers and tennis players and. . . . 

Caveat: This book was sent to me for review.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Book Review: Good Night, Fireflies

Good Night, Fireflies, by Janet Christensen (Little Lamb Books, 2019, 34 pages, $15.95, Grades K-4) (Juvenile Christian Fiction)

We have all read Good Night, Moon countless times - and love it. Some of us have even memorized it or read other Good Night books like Good Night, Zoom; Good Night, Scranton; or Good Night, Monsters. Some Good Night books mirror the original story and illustrations while others merely do a take on the title and perhaps the cover illustration.

Good Night, Fireflies has an adorable watercolor cover, by a very talented undergraduate, don't you think? With a young boy in his jammies and cute little bear slippers, in his backyard at night saying "Good Night" to a firefly in a jar before letting her go.

The Lesson of the Fireflies

Little Landon doesn't want to go to bed so, after one excuse after another that do not work, he finally admits there are spookies and creepies in his bedroom at night when he is alone, even though he knows God is always with him (so he is never really alone). His wonderful dad takes him outside to see the fireflies and the lesson they can teach.

Another wonderful watercolor artist who makes a lovely bedtime story come to life.

Caveat: This book was sent to me for review.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Book Review: (OT) Uniquely You (little red-haired girl, lesson from Mom)

Uniquely You, by Michelle Lazurek (Elk Lake Publishing, 2018, 24 pages, $9.99)

Plain Jane?

"Plain Jane lived in a plain white house in a plain neighborhood."

And so begins the saga of a beautiful little red-haired girl who believes she has no talents that there is nothing special about her, nothing unique like all her friends who are all so different in their own ways, each with their own special talent or gift.

The Value of a Snowflake, Fleeting but Unique

Jane is feeling down in the dumps. Not only is she picked last in gym class but all her friends are extremely good at something different - gymnastics or singing or guitar or soccer or. . . .but her mother loves her very much and shows her a snowflake. When Jane realizes each snowflake is different, she also realizes that each person is unique and has different gifts and talents. Read on to find out what Jane's gifts are!

Plain Jane No More!

Uniquely You is a special little book that your own little girl will love to read on a day when she needs to feel special - and to re-read later whenever she needs a reminder of her specialness.

Caveat: This book was sent to me for review.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Book Review: (OT) Flutterfly (children, comforting)

Flutterfly, by Carolyn Hughes (self-published, 20 pages, 2020, $9.99) 

Flutterfly is the lovely story of a caterpillar who becomes a butterfly, an allegory of life, comforting those who have lost someone, perhaps for the first time. 

Our little butterfly starts out as a playful 'pillar with her fellow 'pillars, helping them learn and grow with a good heart, but then, for unknown reasons and suddenly when her work is done, one day spins a cocoon where she can sleep - with time to think. 

One day she wakens as, in her words,  "a brand new me." She again meets friends and family (other butterflies) and looks down upon caterpillars having fun and growing and learning.

Love Never Ends

She speaks to the reader and the caterpillars below, telling them with a smile in her voice that she will always be looking over them even when they cannot see her. She will always listen and care and she ends with: "Do not worry about me, everything here is OK. After all your work is done, you'll see me again some day. Love never ends, it only changes."

Beautiful Cover!

The cover is especially lovely with part of half a butterfly showing (Monarch, most likely) on the front cover and continuing on with the other butterfly half on the back cover. Each watercolored page background is similar to the one preceding and the one following, until they change with each change in life from caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly.

Flutterfly will comfort a grieving child and spark age-appropriate conversations.

Caveat: This book was sent to me for review.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Book Review: Jon and the Toymakers of Toymakerville: Another American Christmas Story

Jon and the Toymakers of Toymakerville: Another American Christmas Story, by Arthur Morton (September Writer, 2018, $19.95, 102 pages, ages 3-12)

Jon and the Toymakers is two books in one: first, we follow Jon and his perfect family as they find and chop down the perfect Christmas tree, bring it home and decorate it. Secondly, we follow Jon as he sneakily opens a gift early (that he was not supposed to), is transported on a scary midnight adventure then returns home to try to make up for his misdeed in order to save Christmas. Lessons learned are obvious yet stated and re-stated many times.

The finding-the-Christmas tree half reads like a middle-schooler's report about how he spent his summer vacation - chronologically to the nth degree, with missing literary magic.

The second part of the book reads a bit more interesting but again is told as it happens (perhaps the author has a day job writing how-to instructions?) with way too much detail and repetitive repetition. The reader can easily guess what comes next.

The two morals of Jon and the Toymakers are exceedingly obvious and I fear the readership will be exceedingly bored. The reader will re-learn about the value of family, love, obedience and being kind to others.

However, some of the illustrations are intricately wondrous - those of scenery rather than of people. They are lovely watercolor depictions of the season.

We were interested in this book because our family has both a Jon and a Harper (but our Harper is a boy not the girl).

Caveat: We were sent a paperback copy for review and found the large size just a bit too unwieldy to easily read by one (aged 12) or even two together (aged 3 and someone older). It would, however, be fine in hardback or, even better, as a very short Golden Book.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Book Review: The Poetical Institute's Peculiar Powers of Vegetables & Fruits (OT)

The Poetical Institute's Peculiar Powers of Vegetables & Fruits, by Sharada Keats and Jiajia Hamner (Tiny Tree Children's Books, 91 pages, 2019, $25.52)

How to Get Your Child to Eat Veggies? Have Him Read This Book!

Do you have an anti-veggie child or two? This book of mostly veggie-inspired poetry will not only entertain him/her but humorously educate him and have him eating out of your hand, so to speak. Young readers will focus on the wonderfully intricate pictures and fun, rhyming words and phrases: they will quickly commit several to memory and increase their vocabulary.

The combination of veggies and animals makes for a priceless chapter with fennel flamingoes, mushroom monkeys, pomegranate pronghorns and more. You can even take this book to the zoo or aquarium and get double your money's worth in education as you search for a few good exotic animals - or to the supermarket looking for kale kraken or passionfruit or paw-paw or dragonfruit dreams. 

With references to Alan Turing even, the authors also include words that the average adult will have to look up (aubergine, vermillion, prehensile, gossamer)

"Fig fairies have sparkle and pizzazz galore. . . They can transform a newt to an ichthyosaur."

Detailed illustrations are worth of keeping if they had been posters - beautiful watercolors of very imaginative accompaniments to veggies of all colors and sizes (even their insides).

More Power to the Veggies! (and those who eat them)

The juxtaposition of veggies (or some fruits) with superpowers that one imbibes or ingests upon eating makes for a fun collection of 50 poems easy to digest and remember. The crowded front cover drawing does not do justice to those inside, but I bet your child will be able to identify each fruit and vegetable depicted plus name all the varieties of tomatoes and mushrooms (cherry, plum, beefsteak - canned, sweet, sour and portobello, oyster, shiitake, button).

It's a good thing Peculiar Powers is a hardback - it will be well-read - and often.

Caveat: This book was sent to me for review and I have only one question: where is the artichoke?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Book Review: Dogtripping (25 dogs on a move from California to Maine)

Dogtripping: 25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers, and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure, by David Rosenfelt (St. Martin's Press, 278 pages, 2013, $25.95)

Cookies be Damned, Full Read Ahead!

Oh, my, how I didn't really want to stoop to Dogtripping but, oh, my, how glad i am that I did! It was a quick read. I call these books, "24-hour books" - books I just can't put down. 

The Backstory

David Rosenfelt has led an enviable life: motion picture executive turned author (his wife, a retired fast-food chain executive turned dog rescuer and vegetarian).

Rosenfelt then wrote a golden retriever into one of his mysteries (Play Dead in 2007) and became an overnight bestseller sensation. Having read all these Andy Carpenter books so far (2011), I was a bit disappointed though the covers feature golden retrievers who  play only a very minor role in each crime story, which I found misleading to be the least since I live, work and breathe dogs - goldens in particular. Friends, however love the Andy Carpenter books and some of my friends have even met him! And they are great mysteries.

The Hook

So, with trepidation, I looked into Daytripping, and when I spied the subtitle (25 Rescues, 11 Volunteers and 3 RVs on Our Canine Cross-Country Adventure), I was hooked.

Smiling Out Loud

Most of Daytripping thoroughly entertains the reader with the life of Rosenfelt and his rescue, the Tara Foundation (named after his first golden), as well as how he and his wife came to relocate from California to Maine in a short period of time plus the trials and tribulations of planning the trip. And, yes, they lived with 25 rescued dogs at the time so they needed help - how I wish I had known! I would have jumped on the chance to help on this trip.

Photographic Tributes

Many memoirs nowadays include photographs and Dogtripping is no exception. I eventually turned to those pages and saw probably a photo and sentence about each of their 25 dogs - and wondered why. Reading the book gave me the explanation: each dog has its own story and its own well-deserved chapter.

Alternating Chapters

Interspersed with these dogstory chapter are the chapters about how to plan (and how not to plan) a cross-country expedition with dogs, vehicles and drivers garnered from the internet (mostly his mysstery fans). One of the volunteer drivers did most of the planning which suited Rosenfelt just fine (planning is not his forte, to say the least), to the point of making a list of everything that could possibly go wrong (risks), their consequences, probability of occurrence, and impact.

Wow! Just writing that is exhausting!

Rosenfelt Knows Dogs

With the wisdom of canines and their best friends comes an excellent chapter, Time To Let Go: ". . . try your best to think only of the dog and its quality of life. In most cases, if  loving dog owner is struggling with the decision, then it's probably time to let the dog go. Because those are the kinds of owners that look for reasons to delay and deny. It's human nature.

Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong. All you can is to do your best.

The End

Rosenfelt is married to a woman who goes shopping for dogs at the shelters: hence, the number of canines, though the last words in the book lead you to believe Rosenfelt would like to downsize his canine family - maybe to fifteen!

Well Worth the Trip

To top it all off, this may jut be the funniest book you read all year. If it doesn't make you giggle out loud, it will at least make you smile out loud!

"Dogs Bridge Gaps Between People"

Don't we all know it! Get this book! Read it and keep it. Enjoy a dogtrip! Vicariously, of course.


Read more about it: New Tricks

Other golden Rosenfelt titles:

Dog Tags was more dog-centric (2011)

Leader of the Pack was much less dog-centered (2012)

Play Dead (sorry, I just don't remember this one)(2007)

Monday, September 28, 2020

Book Review: New Tricks (Golden Retriever? murder mystery, New Jersey)

New Tricks, by David Rosenfelt (Grand Central Publishing, 384 pp, 2010, $8.00 at BooksAMillion)

A Golden Cover for Dog People
New Tricks has a glorious Golden Retriever (Tara) on the cover, along with a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, gazing up at Tara in absolute reverence.

The Author
A multi-millionaire from the film industry, author Rosenfelt has now turned to writing murder mysteries with a Golden in them. He and his wife currently live with 37 dogs and have established a dog rescue organization, The Tara Foundation, which has successfully placed more than 4000 dogs. All this wonderful data appears, along with a few words about the book’s plot, wherever we looked.

Who wouldn’t want to read this inspired book?
I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! Should I write the publisher for a review copy, should I go right out and buy it, should I see if my library has the book? (It did, so I saved both time and money. Well, not exactly time, as it turned out.)

But, . . .
Unfortunately, misled by the incredible unforgettable cover, I naturally thought a Golden would be a major character. Since my expectations were unabashedly dashed, I’m not sure I can comment rationally on the quality of the mystery. It was probably good but I’m not sure I want to read another ‘golden’ mystery by Rosenfelt that turns out not to be so golden, just to be certain if it is good or not.

I wanted the Golden or Berner mentioned more often and to play more than just a minor accessory role. Days of text would go by without mention of either dog, it seems.

In addition, the Berner, conformation material, was several months old at the beginning of the book, and even older at the end, and hadn’t yet started his ‘training’ to become a dog show dog (whatever that training was).

Covers to Drool Over, or Hug Vicariously
However, I will continue to drool over Rosenfelt covers and will probably check out often just to look at them. Who knows, perhaps I will break down and read another Rosenfelt ‘golden’ mystery. If I do, I’ll let you know how I like it. Or don’t.

Update: 2016. Dogtripping and Lessons from Tara are excellent, excellent books!

Dogtripping tells the cross-country move from California to Maine of the author and his entourage, including rescue dogs – a fun read.

Books in the series (in order): Open and Shut, First Degree, Bury the Lead, Sudden Death, Dead Center, Play Dead (sorry, but I just don't remember this book)
Sixth of 23

New Tricks, Dog Tags (more dog-centric than New Tricks),

Book 8

One Dog Night, Leader of the Pack (much less dog-centered),

Book 10

Unleashed, Hounded, Who Let the Dog Out, Outfoxed, The Twelve Dogs of Christmas
, . . . .

Caveat: This review was written in 2011, then promptly lost somewhere in the computer, only to be found by a glorious mistake.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Book Review: Halo, Disaster Response Dog (Dutch Shepherd pup, FEMA, dog training)

Superpower Dogs (True Stories of Real Heroes): Halo: Disaster Response Dog, text by Stephanie Peters (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2019, 144 pages, $7.99PB, grades 3-7, ages 8-12)
Dogs with superpowers. Real dogs with superpowers. 

How cool is that? 

The IMAX film “Superpower Dogs” comes to the pages of your child’s soon-to-be favorite books. 

One Pup is Chosen 

Three Michigan pups audition to be trained as a disaster response dog but only one is chosen – Halo, a Dutch Shepherd. Captain Cat, Halo’s new person, lives in Florida, as far from the winter snows of Michigan that one can be, so off they go for two years of daily training which, to Halo, is all fun and games, but a bit challenging. 

Other Superpower Dogs 

Earthquakes. Tornadoes. Hurricanes. Floods. 

Haiti. Oklahoma City. New York. The Pentagon. 

Published the same day as Halo’s story is Superpower Dogs, the stories of five special dogs, one of whom is Halo and one, a smaller dog, Border Collie Henry, who grows up to be an avalanche rescue dog in Whistler, BC.
The Book 

Halo’s story, told in 10 chapters leads up to her final test to become an Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) dog with FEMA as part of a team with her person, Cat. Will they pass? 

Between each chapter is a mini-chapter of real stories of dogs who rescue people (to show the variety of situations they can be used for). Starting on page 37, the reader will find nine pages of nine dog breeds – from the Belgian Malinois to the Siberian Husky, along with their ideal jobs and superpowers. 

Stephanie Peters, who wrote the text, includes Halo’s timeline from birth through training milestones to her final certification test on April 30, 2018. Young readers also learn how super a dog’s sense of smell and hearing are, plus read a page of translating dog body language into English, helpful for your own dog. 

But, maybe best of all are the eight pages of color photos at the end – photos of Cat and Halo both at work and at play. And remember, it’s all play, to the dog! And challenging. 
Caveat: This book was purchased for review. 
Also read about Henry, an avalanche response dog plus the picture book, Superpower Dogs, a picture book with Halo and other superpower dogs.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Book Review: Stick Dog Tries to Take the Donuts (apples, donuts, thinking, dogs)

Stick Dog Tries to Take the Donuts (Book 5 of 11), by Tom Watson (Harper, 2016, 208+ pages, $12.99HB, grades 3-7) 

The. Longest. ShortStory. Ever.


Written on lined paper like the tablets elementary school students use (or used, in the olden days, with a fat pencil), Stick Dog is unique. The best thing, in the eyes of parents and teachers, is the size of the words: some are long (and advanced) so your third grade reader will expand his vocabulary exponentially and include you in the reading often (to ask what a certain word means, after you have successfully figured out your child’s pronunciation attempts!)*


“. . . provide Stick Dog a little more time to figure out what his instincts were trying to tell him. He considered* this choice when something happened. And then something else happened.” (p. 123)


Five dog friends surviving on their own, their pictures as if drawn by a little kid. A Dalmatian named Stripes, a Karen doxey, a Mutt, Poo-Poo the Poodle, and Stick Dog, of course, their leader with brains. And the dogs are getting hungry and hungrier.


“There are nine more donuts in here,” Stick Dog said [to his four canine friends}. “That works out perfectly You all get two each.” (p. 145)


On their hunt for food like apples, they discover donuts! And Karen finds she loves, loves, loves coffee and what it does to her. Now, how to get more donuts and coffee. . . .


If you liked Hank Zipzer, you’ll like the Stick Dog books: Mutt stores things in his fur, Karen discovers she likes coffee, the reader will read about friendship and may, must may guess at the next exciting thing to happen to our group of canines!


“And that’s when Stick Dog got his idea. Do you know what it was? Sorry. I can’t tell you everything. I’ll just have to show you in the story.” (p. 124)



Caveat: This book was purchased for review.


*verification, fierce, manipulated, etc.