For instructional, therapeutic reading, with a dog narrator as the spoonful of sugar.


From the Helper Hounds series

A child who can’t safely return to in-person schooling learns focus from a well-trained Lakeland terrier.

Despite all his “zoomies” and “wiggles,” Brisket is an excellent Helper Hound. After he was adopted by Luke, a White American man then living in London, Brisket became a medal-winning pup in his obedience drills. Now he and Luke live in America and work in animal-assisted therapy. Wearing his Helper Hounds vest, Brisket demonstrates his focus and attention for Miryam, an immunocompromised child who can’t return to normal school yet. In the illustrations—which depict adults rather like tall children—Miryam and her father, Malik, have pale skin and straight, dark hair. Luke explains to them how the skills that make Brisket excel at obedience drills might also help Miryam with remote schooling. Frequent breaks for Miryam and Brisket to run and play (getting their “zooooooomies out”) keep this story from becoming a lesson in how a child should behave like an obedient pet. Illustrations of Luke, Miryam, and Malik wearing masks, together with discussion of both children with health concerns and the difficulties of remote schooling, provide value for readers whose early education has been so utterly strange. One major continuity problem and some indifferent prose aside, reading about Miryam’s problems could comfort readers who’ve experienced the strangeness of pandemic school and medical fears. Tips on focusing and further facts about Lakeland terriers follow the story. Series companion Louis Helps Ajani Fight Racism publishes simultaneously.

For instructional, therapeutic reading, with a dog narrator as the spoonful of sugar. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64371-080-8

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Red Chair Press

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Young environmentalists will appreciate seeing how facts can defy frenzy.


From the Orca Echoes series

Through the investigations of young Cricket and her friends, readers learn how to distinguish evidence of a cougar from other animals—and are briefed on cougar conservation and monitoring.

When Cricket and her friend Shilo notice a foul smell coming from piled-up snow and branches under a bush, Cricket suspects that a cougar has hidden its dinner. Her father, Warden McKay, proves her right when he shows up at her school, giving an emergency presentation about cougars. A cougar has been seen in their village, which is located inside Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. After Cricket’s dad informs kids about some cougar facts, Principal Singh gives students a rare week off from school. It’s odd, then, that the warden’s children proceed to wander the village. However, McDowell’s books about Cricket typically favor facts about wildlife above all else, and, also typically, this one does not disappoint. It even clarifies one statistic as specifically Canadian. Overall, the dialogue is more natural than in Salamander Rescue (2016), if equally packed with information. The nine chapters and epilogue are accessible, entertaining, and empowering for young naturalists. The compelling plot twist: Anxious villagers are accusing cougars of a series of large-mammal crimes. Cricket, knowing that cougar relocation can be fatal, wants to ensure continued, occasional village visits by a family of tracked cougars. She devises a scheme to trap the real culprit. Illustrations are pleasant enough, depicting a largely white cast, though at least three characters have Asian surnames.

Young environmentalists will appreciate seeing how facts can defy frenzy. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2064-7

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

In the end, it’s hard not to love a main character who wears a one-man-band outfit to the library, in case he finds a very...


From the Claude series , Vol. 4

It’s difficult to describe the Claude books without using the word surreal. The new book in the series may be the sweetest surrealist children’s book ever published.

Claude’s best friend is a sock. Sir Bobblysock is very nattily dressed, and Smith gets a lot of mileage out of one joke, putting the sock in ever more absurd outfits. Sir Bobblysock wears pajamas, then earmuffs, and there’s a reference to a “glitzy leotard” he puts on before aerobics class. Most of the humor in the book comes from one basic premise: This would never, ever happen in real life. Sometimes the joke works. It’s very funny when a girl suggests Claude use a tea tray as a sled, and readers learn that “He always kept one in his beret—with a full tea set just in case there was a tea-based emergency.” It’s less funny to read about Sir Bobblysock’s bunion and his session in a heated foot spa. Instead of laughing, kids may say, “What’s a bunion?” or, “That would never, ever happen in real life.” Much too often, the book is perplexing instead of amusing. But there’s no denying that Claude is sweet and charming, and Sir Bobblysock looks fantastic in his checkered nightcap.  

In the end, it’s hard not to love a main character who wears a one-man-band outfit to the library, in case he finds a very exciting book. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-56145-805-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet