A doggone encouraging manual.


From the Helper Hounds series

In this new series outing, energetic dog Sparkplug takes his helper mission seriously.

Half border collie and half Bernese mountain dog, Sparky meets human Tasha after being surrendered to an animal shelter. She enrolls him in obedience classes, where Sparky proudly excels. His mission as a new, “world-famous, card-carrying Helper Hound” is to provide “love and encouragement” to people in need. His current assignment is Mary, who, after a recent family separation and move across the country, is nervous about attending a new school. Sparky models for Mary how to “settle” by performing his good behaviors and is determined to show Mary that making friends is possible, no matter what—even with her bristly cat! Sparky’s first-dog narration is exuberant, humbly confident, and playful, mirroring his personality. The text is interwoven with encouraging suggestions and dog facts, and the backmatter includes “Tried-and-True Tricks for Making Friends” (being a good listener, bonding over laughter, etc.) as well as some facts on Sparky’s heritage breeds. The text contains no references to race, but illustrations cast trainer Tasha with dark skin and Mary with light. Most of the text is Sparky-centric, which tends to overshadow Mary’s struggles; what should be a pivotal scene in which Mary meets her new classmates is short and accomplished with surprising ease. Regardless, the story, with an appropriate decoding level text for an early chapter book, should appeal to dog lovers and anyone who needs reassurances of their own. Companion title Penny Helps Portia Face Her Fears focuses on another Helper Hound, a pit bull who helps a white girl with Down syndrome overcome her fear of dogs.

A doggone encouraging manual. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63440-774-8

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Red Chair Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...


A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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