Abby and Jack Review Two New Children’s Books

Abigail is back, this time with her friend Jack to review two new children’s picture books. Jack tackles Zachariah Ohora’s latest fuzzy caper involving a pair of apartment-dwelling felines, while Abby looks at a canine compare-and-contrast board book by French illustrator Élo. Both are great choices for early readers to enjoy during the dog (and cat) days of summer.

Niblet & Ralph, by Zachariah Ohora, Dial Books for Young Readers; $17.99, 32 pages, ages 2-6. 

Niblet and Ralph is about two cats and their kid owners. The four of them live in the same building, but only two of them know it. A tragic mystery happens that brings the humans together–be sure to read the book to find out! The cover shows a cat wearing headphones–how adorable!


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Images reproduced with permission from Dial Books.

Contrary Dogs, by Élo, Candlewick Studio; $12.00, 20 pages, ages 0-6. 

Contrary Dogs is a funny book about all different types of dogs–opposites, really. For example, one has spots, another doesn’t. Plus, it’s a book where you can lift the tabs–who doesn’t like those? Your child will love exploring the tabs and reading all about these amazing dogs!

contrary dogs

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CONTRARY DOGS. Copyright © 2016 by Éditions Sarbacane. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA on behalf of Walker Books, London.

Lucy, by Randy Cecil

LUCY. Copyright 2016 by Randy Cecil. Reproduced by permission of Candlewick Press, Somerville, MA. 

Lucy, by Randy Cecil; Candlewick Press, $19.99, 144 pages, ages 4-8.

Lucy is a homeless dog living on the streets of Bloomville, and every morning she trots to an apartment building where she waits on the stoop for little Eleanor to drop a piece of string from her window to play with the pup. Meanwhile, Eleanor’s father, a juggler, heads off to work, where he never makes it to the end of a show without a hook prematurely pulling him under the curtains. And so the stage is set for this charming tale in four acts that chronicles how the lives of these three characters intersect. Each “act” reveals slight derivations in the narrative’s internal repetition, encouraging readers to be diligent about noticing details. Randy Cecil’s round black and while oil illustrations give the impression of watching an old-time film through a lens. Weighing in at a surprising 144 pages, this picture book targets five to eight year olds; a group often recently weaned from big-format children’s picture books and anxious to move into short chapter books and graphic novels–in short, a demographic that doesn’t want baby books but still enjoys full-page illustration.

Cecil’s smart, sensitively crafted picture book hits all the right marks. 

@hmhco  @lorimortensen 

Batwings and Bicycles at Home on the Prairie

Cowpoke Clyde Rides the Range, by Lori Mortensen, illustrated by Michael Allen Austin; Clarion Books, $16.99, 32 pages, ages 3-7.

In this

follow-up to Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg, an advertisement for a shiny Springer bicycle convinces Clyde to trade in his spurs for a ten-speed. The cowboy rides his “steel machine” across the prairie, coming perilously close to smashing
to smithereens

a toad, a porcupine, and a herd of Bighorn sheep. After taking a nasty spill, Clyde is ready to pack it in. Will he remember the wisdom of what to do when you fall off a horse? Veteran storyteller Lori Mortensen’s jumpy, funny rhyming couplets are carefree and good-humored, while Michael Allen Austin’s acrylic and colored pencil illustrations of a cowboy and his faithful hound are bright and full of excitement. Don’t miss this read-aloud roundup!

Gone to the Dogs
Two middle-grade readers for kids who know that dogs are loyal to the end. 

A Handful of Stars, by Cynthia Lord; Scholastic Press, $16.99, 184 pages, ages 10-13.

Every summer, migrant families travel from as far as Mexico to harvest blueberries in a remote part of Downeast Maine, and local residents generally don’t interact with them. That is, until one afternoon, when Lily’s blind retriever Lucky runs away and into the blueberry fields. Salma Santiago lures the dog back with her peanut butter sandwich, and from that moment on, Lily and Salma become friends. Salma wants to enter the Blueberry Queen pageant, but does she have the courage to do it? Newbery Honor Author Cynthia Lord (Rules) tackles such themes as prejudice, courage, and friendship with compassion and grace, and as a Maine resident herself, descriptions of this wild and wonderful area of New England are wonderfully accurate.

Finder, Coal Mine Dog, by Alison Hart, illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery; Peachtree Publishers, $12.95, 181 pages, ages 7-10.

In 1909, 259 coal miners died in a tunnel fire in Cherry, Illinois, becoming the third most deadly mine disaster in U.S. history. In this fictionalized thriller, readers meet Finder, a dog who pulls a cart in those dangerous mines. His young owner Thomas works too, trying to pay off his deceased parents’ debts. Soon enough, fire breaks out, and the unlikely duo find themselves in a race against time to save fellow miners. Told from the point of view of the dog, Alison Hart’s latest canine thriller in her Dog Chronicles series is action-packed, while also offering children a look at what life was like for children and their pets in America a century ago. Michael G. Montgomery’s pen and ink illustrations capture the fast pace of the tale. A map of the mine, notes about the actual fire, mining, child and animal labor bring this poignant moment in American history to life.