Tag Archives: dogs

Catvinkle and the Missing Tulips – Elliot Perlman

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Penguin Australia 29 September 2020

ISBN: 9781760894382

Imprint: Puffin

RRP: $19.99

If you, like me, loved the first Catvinkle book and couldn’t wait to share it with your kiddos, you will also love this new hilarious episode with all the crazy animal characters of the first plus some equally quirky new ones!

Catvinkle and Ula love their human children friends, Anja and Ferdi, and are very excited that the children are visiting the cosy home they share with Mr Sabatini but the kidsare distracted and unable to fully enjoy their catch-up with their animal besties. The two sheep who live at Aunt Beehive’s place are suspected of eating prize tulips and under threat of being sent away out of Amsterdam.

The children and the animals, of course with help from their other wise friend Lobbus the brave dog, are able to establish that the two sheep might be quite silly but cannot possibly have eaten the tulips.

The evidence they secure is no help however when nasty Twinkiepaws, still madly jealous of Catvinkle, incites the cats and kittens of Amsterdam to put the sheep on trial for ruining the beauty of the city.

It’s going to take more than the information the group has gained from the human scientists and certainly more than Catvinkle’s dubious skills as a defense lawyer so it’s a quick trip to Russia to seek out the legally-minded bears, Grisha and Sivka, to help out. In an adventure that involves a very powerful and rather cranky wolf, some visiting Australian koalas, the glamorous Ketzington D. Kitten and some fancy footwork side-stepping various problems the trial reaches a very satisfactory conclusion for all – well, except for Twinkiepaws.

Aside from the humour there is a lot to think about around fairness and justice, compassion and loyalty and the critical endangered status of riverine rabbits (gotta love a story with bunnies in it!).

Catvinkle continues to delight with her very obvious self-admiration but her innate compassionate nature, ably encouraged by the far more placid and sensible Ula.

Don’t miss out on this one – and of course pick up the first if you missed it – your kids from around 10 years upwards will love the introduction!

Where’s Spot? 40th Anniversary edition – Eric Hill

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Penguin Australia

ISBN: 9780241446850

May 2020

$16.99

The cover image does not do this beauty justice – you need to see it for yourself in all its shiny ruby glory!!

It’s almost my Jen’s birthday – she would have been turning 40 on 22nd of this month and how apt it is to be able to review this as it was the first book I ever bought her (and later on all the subsequent titles).

Spot’s charm is timeless and all little people love to follow the playful pup as they search through the ‘lift-the-flaps’. It is arguably the favourite of its kind for all little readers over so many years.

Perfect for sharing and encouraging curiosity and imagination it will be the seed of a whole Spot collection for many of a new generation.

I don’t have any little ones in the family any more but not surprisingly I’m pretty sure for special reasons this one will stay on my own shelf – perhaps our girl will grow up and have a little one of her own and she can give her Mum’s favourite to her own child.

It doesn’t need any recommendation from me but of course you must have it in your collection – your littlest readers will love to get their hands on it!

Good Dog – Kate Leaver

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Harper Collins Australia

April 2020

  • ISBN: 9781460758892
  • ISBN 10: 1460758897
  • RRP: 29.99 AUD

Well, no….it’s not the usual type of book I review and to be honest I’m more of a cat person than a dog one (though it’s not that I dislike dogs or anything!) but this is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading simply because it was both fascinating and heart-warming.

Journalist and editor Kate Leaver not only brings mental illness to a broader mainstream audience but celebrates the joyous and truly amazing bond that is between humans and dogs, particularly those dogs who can truly be called canine therapists.

Kicking off with some background of the domestication of dogs – which is fascinating and informative – Kate goes on to describe her special relationship with her rescue dog Bertie – a Shih tzu of quirky and endearing qualities.

The following chapters describe the intriguing and revelatory stories of ten different dogs who have transformed their owners’ lives: Missy the pug who has completely engaged with her eleven year old autistic owner helping him to make huge differences in his interactions with the world and people, Jingles the prisoners’ friend, Pip whose young owner has severe diabetes which is incredibly helped with her canine’s interventions and more.

Although clearly written for an adult audience, I know that I will have many of my teen dog aficionado readers who will thoroughly enjoy this read.

I found it inspiring and moving and highly recommend it to you and your readers for a non-fiction read with a real difference.

Evie and Pog: Party Perfect! [#3] – Tania McCartney

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Harper Collins Australia

April 2020

  • ISBN: 9781460757956
  • ISBN 10: 1460757955
  • Imprint: HarperCollins – AU
  • List Price: 12.99 AUD

The absolutely cute-as-buttons Evie and Pog are back in their third set of adventures ready to delight all those newly independent readers who are already in love with them.

Once again your little readers will love the familiar pattern which starts off each new adventure and in this book there are another three fun stories: Book Parade, Art Show Muddle and Party Time!

As we already know from their previous escapades Evie, Pog, Granny along with Noah, Mr Pooch and Miss Footlights often have extravagant plans which usually go somewhat awry but are always salvaged by the quick resourcefulness of the team, knitting and creative thinking.

First of all there’s the annual Book Parade, always such an exciting event, but Pog is not at all happy. He ALWAYS wins the Best Dressed Dog for his costumes but how can he possibly compete with all the new competitors from the Puppy School? Luckily Evie, Noah & co come up with the perfect costume and though, to Granny’s distress, it involves lots of messy making including GLITTER the competition is a triumph for Pog.

Next up is the Art Show and Evie is creating a huge artwork that represents their daisy-spot grass while Pog busies himself making a plan of the art show. It’s all going to be a huge success – well, that is until seven tiny kittens turn up unexpectedly and mayhem results with a tangle of wool, colour, fluffiness and little beady eyes. When Mr Arty Farty (don’t you just love it?!) arrives to judge the entries, Evie is so upset because her grand design looks completely and utterly ruined after a kitten-attack. You can imagine her surprise then when the snooty judge decides on a winner – and yes! Daisy-Spot Grass is the best of the show!

Finally the Puppy School is one year old and has been such a huge success for all that a party is definitely in order. But it’s not just a celebration for the puppies, it’s also Granny’s birthday so there is much excited preparation to be done. Pink lamingtons, gift baskets, a special trophy for the star doggy pupil and the return visit of Mr Arty Farty accompanied by the seven little kittens all make for a hilarious and rather chaotic village party.

Your little readers will laugh so much at the antics of this quirky crew of characters but there is also much to be gained in other ways such as thinking about solving problems, getting along with others, self-confidence and diverse friendships.

We just love Evie and Pog in our junior library and can’t wait to have the children back at school to see the great display that’s in the making. Tania McCartney’s talents as both writer and illustrator are always such a joy in any of her works and this new series is no exception.

Highly recommended for little humans from around six years upwards.

 

Click to access Evie-and-Pog-Teachers-Notes.pdf

Evie and Pog (series)– Tania McCartney

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Evie and Pog Take Off FINAL COVER

Harper Collins Australia

January 2020

I’ve said before that Tania McCartney is uber-talented (as well as being one of the very nicest humans I know) and I for one am tremendously excited about this new series pitched at newly independent readers. It’s just fabulous to see a few new series to add to these collections!

 High in a tree house live two very best friends. One is a girl and one is a dog. And everyone knows them as Evie and Pog.

So starts each book and just like ‘Once upon a time..’ the pattern will signal to children that the fun and adventures are about to begin. These stories absolutely ooze exuberance with their characters and antics. Evie is six years old and lives with Pog in a slightly eccentric tree house alongside Granny Gladys who lives in a rather large, though no less eccentric, house. Evie loves crashing her cymbals, rolling in the daisy spot lawn, reading, cakes and knitting. Pog loves reading too but he prefers to sit at the table with a large cup of tea and his newspaper. He also loves vegetables – in any shape or form. Granny is a tidier and a rampant cleaner who is almost permanently attached to her dust buster. She also loves knitting and baking cakes (though not the mess that always seems to arise from cooking!).

They have some good friends like Noah and Mr Pooch and Miss Footlights and the adventures often include these characters.

Each book contains three separate stories and the uniform format with the double page spread of the tree house plan as the frontispiece and the cast of characters and the map of the village on the final pages gives readers that sense of continuity and familiarity they love.

Each is chockers with Tania’s humorous and always endearing  illustrations and loaded with onomatopoeia and a wonderful variety of fonts giving each an even more lively feel.

Evie and Pog: Take Off! [Evie and Pog #1]

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ISBN: 9781460757932

ISBN 10: 1460757939

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 12.99 AUD

  •  Puppy School Mess
  •  School Play Drama
  •  Cake Stall Chaos

 

I’m pretty sure you can surmise from the story titles that there is a continuing theme of incidents filled with rambunctiousness and hilarity which generally involve lots of  knitting yarn (usually in tangles), cakes and unexpected happenings.

For example, when Granny decides Pog must go to Puppy School with Mr Pooch it is not the dogs who win the Puppy Challenge  – and certainly not Pog who is completely and utterly against such demeaning activities – but Evie who aces the challenge course and becomes the first ‘girl’ winner.

 

 

Evie and Pog: Puppy Playtime! [Evie and Pog #2]

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ISBN: 9781460757949

ISBN 10: 1460757947

Imprint: HarperCollins – AU

List Price: 12.99 AUD

  • Reno Rumble
  • Classroom Contraption
  • Puppy Park

The tree house is freezing and Evie, Pog and Granny decide it’s time to renovate and what better way to do so than with knitting. They could really use some help though and when Noah comes to visit they know he will be the perfect person to assist – even only they can work out how to get him up into the tree house, Noah being too heavy for the basket which is the general method of entry.

Of course throughout each of these is again the signature knitting, cakes, often surprising accidental events which are always resolved happily (and with the aid of the aforementioned knitting and cakes).

These are truly hilarious and quirky almost to a point of outlandishly silly which little readers will absolutely love. The belly laughs will be plentiful I predict!

 

Highly recommended for younger readers from around six years upwards. What a joy they are!

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Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein [Young Readers Adaptation]

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Harper Collins Australia

August 2019

ISBN: 9780062935076

ISBN 10: 0062935070

Imprint: HarperCollins – US

List Price: 14.99 AUD

For everyone who has loved the series of A Dog’s Purpose (which definitely includes me and K) this book will bring much joy though at times it is both poignant and tense.

It is the story of a family in essence. Beginning with the adoption of the smart and funny Enzo by Denny, amateur (but yearning to be professional) racing car enthusiast and following the often difficult trials that ensue after Denny’s marriage to Eve and the subsequent birth of Zoe, their daughter. At first Eve and Enzo are rather in a stalemate situation, neither thinking very highly of the other but after Zoe’s arrival and Enzo’s slavish devotion to and unfailing protection of her their relationship changes.

However family life can often be fraught, indeed heartbreaking, and at times can be under serious threat of falling apart and so it is in this instance. But throughout all it is Enzo who is ever present and faithful to the preservation of the fragility of his humans. He may be a canine but he is intelligent and understands everything that is happening around him and is determined to do anything he can to support Denny and Zoe.

Funny and tender, insightful and courageous, mute but definitely expressive Enzo’s observations, humour and loyalty will make you laugh and cry. It is truly delightful.

This special edition of the best-selling novel The Art of Racing in the Rain is timed to tie-in with the upcoming movie version. I can highly recommend it for readers from around 12 years upwards.

Animal Crackers

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Now that the pile of review novels is finally getting to a stage that could be described as semi-tamed, it’s time to get stuck into plethora picture books. So here are some animal-focused ones to get into – because we all know that our little readers just love a great animal story and we love them because so often they send such positive messages.

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Flat Cat – Hiawyn Oram/Gwen Millard

Walker Books Australia

January 2019

ISBN: 9781406371543
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

“If you love something, set it free” – that was my first thought on reading this book. My second thought was the memory of buying my beloved Burmese cat, Possum, many years ago. I was determined that he would be an ‘inside’ cat but after two weeks of completely shredded flyscreens, I realised that was not in his nature and so he became an inside/outside cat and was my best friend for the eight years of his life.

Sophie loves Jimi-My-Jim and gives him everything you might think a cat could desire – toys, special food, sparkly collars, beds and even clothes. The one thing that Jimi-My-Jim is missing is freedom. He is never allowed outside and gradually he becomes ‘Flat Cat’ because he so morose at seeing the outside world only through a window. When one day by accident, Flat Cat manages to get hold of the front door keys, he is off and away and discovers a world full of other cats, life, excitement, joy and another very special cat – Blanche.  While at first the consequences prove to be difficult for both Flat Cat and Sophie, they are overcome and Flat Cat is able to pursue his new life – with the joy of the freedom plus the joy of being Sophie’s special friend.

This offers a serious point of discussion about when, if ever, it’s acceptable to reject the rules in place and certainly gives ‘helicopter’ parents an opportunity to examine their practices.

I certainly recommend it for young readers from around six years upwards – but would suggest that it could also be a valuable addition to parent information nights!

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Good Rosie! – Kate de Camillo. Pictures by Harry Bliss

Walker Books Australia

October 2018

ISBN: 9781406383577
Australian RRP: $24.99
New Zealand RRP: $27.99

 

I really meant to get to this one sooner rather than later because I truly adore Kate di Camillo’s work. This is such a departure from her novels but is truly enchanting and endearing.

We all need friends and Rosie is no exception. She has a good life with her human, George, but is lonely without doggy companions. Sometimes it seems that she and George don’t have much in common, for example, an intense interest in squirrels. When George takes Rosie to the dog park for the first time, she is somewhat overwhelmed. She has never seen so many dogs before and she feels confronted and scared. She is even more so when Maurice, a very large St Bernard approaches shaking his toy bunny with such vigour it’s a wonder the toy’s extremities still exist. But then the tiny Fifi with her sparkly collar doesn’t seem a kindred spirit either.

It takes an unfortunate incident between Maurice and Fifi to help Rosie realise that sometimes friends come in different shapes and sizes and that we don’t all ‘click’ at first sight.

Formatted in a graphic novel style, this is a lovely reminder about unlikely friendships but moreover about overcoming prejudices and feeling anxious.

A fabulous book for sharing with young readers to kick-start conversations about acceptance and building relationships.

 

Saying Goodbye to Barkley – Devon Sillett/Nicky Johnston

barkley

EK Books

978-1-925335-96-5

$24.99

Losing our furbabies is difficult. For children who have grown up with a special pet it is arguably even moreso. Super Olivia and her trusty sidekick, Barkley, have always been a team. As Olivia carries out her amazing super-hero deeds, Barkley is always right by her giving his all. When Barkley is no longer there, Olivia feels her zest for super-sleuthing and action-heroism has also gone. But after her grieving she realises that Barkley would not want her to give up her passion in life, nor forget his extraordinary assistance. Olivia knows what she must do as a true super-hero for whom rescues are a daily event. She must rescue a new sidekick.

Spud is white, fluffy and adorable – and absolutely useless at fighting crime and uncovering dastardly plots but Olivia loves her anyway.

This is not a story about replacing one pet for another but a beautiful way of describing that eventually we can heal from our losses and find joy in other ways, events and companions.

Highly recommended for readers from around six years upwards.

 

 

Pippa’s Island #5: Puppy Pandemonium – Belinda Murrell

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pippa

Penguin Random House

9780143793267

December 3, 2018

Random House Australia Children’s

 

RRP: $14.99

The many young fans who have embraced this series with much enthusiasm will be delighted with the latest – and it’s just in time for Christmas too!

It’s been almost a year since Pippa and her mum, Jenna, and brother and sister – Harry and Bella – relocated from London to Kirra Island and their Beach Shack Café has become an established meeting place for many island regulars. Slowly their apartment above the café has been taking shape and they will be able to move out of their cramped caravan, unpack forgotten treasures from their old life and really begin their new one.

Not surprisingly money has been tight with every spare cent going to the apartment’s refurbishment and Pippa has been feeling some twinges of envy as she observes her Sassy Sister friends with their pretty swimsuits, bikes and lovely homes. When the local surf shop puts some super cute bikinis on sale Pippa is determined to buy one and comes up with her best plan ever. Pippa’s Perfect Pooch Pampering is born and soon Pippa has as many dog walking/caring jobs as she can handle – and more! Lucky she has such a great group of friends to help out and a lot of kind customers.

There is something completely joyous about these stories. Each resonates with themes of friendship, kindness, positivity and simple pleasures. No wonder they have been such a hit with readers. Let’s hope we see many more in the series!

Highly recommended for readers from around eight years upwards.

The Tales of Mr Walker – Jess Black. Illustrated by Sara Acton

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Penguin Random House

ISBN 9780143793076

October 29, 2018

Imprint: Puffin

RRP $24.99

 

Some readers of this blog will have seen photos of my Pippin – a toy poodle of extraordinary personality but neurotic (apparently a poodle thing). I love him – truly I do! – but seriously if he could be more like Mr Walker I would a very happy dog owner!

 

Mr Walker is a gorgeous, placid and friendly golden Labrador who has been trained as a companion dog via the Guide Dogs. His new job involves him being the Ambassador of a very tasty Melbourne hotel, the Park Hyatt.

 

If you are a traveller for whatever reason (as I was in a dispiriting corporate job) hotels can be dismal places away from home. I’m not saying that the staff or amenities are sub-standard but there is a definite sense of discombobulating associated with staying repeatedly in such places.

 

How marvellous to be greeted by a loving and friendly canine companion!

 

Jess Black’s stories of Mr Walker are based on a reality that should be a part of every big and often impersonal hotel. Mr Walker becomes the special ambassador for the Park Hyatt and though there a few contretemps as he settles into his new role, his reception is so warm and loving by all, that he has no doubt he is in exactly the right place.

 

This book consists of four stories of Mr Walker after his arrival at his new home and I do hope there will be more as they are charming and heart-warming.

 

Beautifully illustrated the stories follow Mr Walker’s experiences as he learns to interact with both his new family and the various guests he encounters.

 

Royalties from this book go to support the Guide Dogs of Victoria which is a truly lovely bonus.

 

Young readers from around eight years up will fall in love with Mr Walker (and no doubt request their own Labrador as a result!).

 

Highly recommended for newly independent readers and also as a read-aloud for classes.

 

 

The Adventures of Catvinkle – Elliot Perlman

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catvinkle

Penguin Random House

9780143786368

October 1, 2018

Puffin

RRP $19.99

 

Well regarded author of adult books Elliot Perlman has ably proven that he can turn his hand just as easily to writing for children with this first book for younger readers. It is delightfully whimsical and carries a literary flavour of its Amsterdam setting within its text with an enviable ease (very reminiscent of Annie M. G. Schmidt’s beautiful classics).

 

Catvinkle is a much pampered only pet of a charming barber in Amsterdam. She is exceedingly beautiful and certainly talented in some ways but also very definitely selfish and rather casual with the truth. When her owner Mr Sabatini brings home a rather forlorn and neglected Dalmation named Ula, Catvinkle is extremely unimpressed to say the least. An intruder into her cosy parlour and water bowl and a dog to boot is the last thing with which she wants to contend. It will completely ruin her social standing in Kittens Anonymous for one thing!

 

Ula’s sweet nature and compliant personality win Catvinkle over slowly (of course her delicious musky smell which acts intoxicatingly on the cat helps) but it also endears her to others as she breaks down barriers between not only cats and dogs but dogs and dogs!

 

The subtle themes of anti-racism, anti-bullying, acceptance, tolerance, friendship and loyalty are delivered in a wonderfully funny story where cats who baby-shoe dance, fly with tail propellers and llamas who play backgammon are quite the norm.

 

Readers from around eight years upwards will delight in this magical story of animals whose lives seem to mirror those of humans.