Showing posts with label dog. Show all posts
Showing posts with label dog. Show all posts

Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Tales of Mr Walker

The Tales of Mr Walker by Jess Black, illustrated by Sara Acton (Puffin Books) HB RRP $24.99 ISBN 9780143793076

Reviewed by Dianne Bates

Sub-titled ‘a hotel dog with a nose for adventure’, this is a beautifully designed and presented book which would suit children aged 8 to 11 years who enjoy chapter books. There are four mini books between the covers: Mr Walker at the Park, Mr Walker and the Mystery Guest, Mr Walker and the Garden Surprise and Mr Walker Finds a Home.

At the start of the first story, Mr Walker, a golden Labrador dog, is being driven by Tracy to the Park Hyatt Hotel where he is to take up the position of Guide Dog ambassador of a park. The dog has no idea what an ambassador is, but he is welcomed to the hotel first by Thomas then by Henry Reeves whose family lives in a hotel apartment and who befriend him.

All four books are told from Mr Walker’s point of view as he gets to know guests – all wealthy and privileged, some famous -- and embarks upon adventures within the hotel whose employees include Chef Remy, housekeeper Meraj and Omid on the front desk. Always eager to help, Mr Walker always identifies people by their smells, including a mysterious man who is discriminated against but who turns out to be quite different from what he first appears.

This is a gently-told story with much charm and no real dramas which is likely to appeal to readers who prefer a ‘quiet’ story. Mr Walker is lovable even though he acts in typical dog fashion at times which gets him into scrapes.

The watercolour illustrations fit the mood of the story while the text is in large font which makes for easy reading. Royalties from sales of this book go to Guide Dogs Victoria.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Reena’s Rainbow

Reena’s Rainbow by Dee White, illustrated by Tracie Grimwood (EK Books) HB RRP $19.99 ISBN: 9781925335491

Reviewed by Anne Helen Donnelly

Reena is deaf but highly observant. She finds Dog at the park and immediately likes his playful nature. They both play hide-and-seek in the playground with the other kids. But when Reena finds herself alone in the park after not hearing the other children leave and calling out to her, she is sad. Her mother explains to her that we are all different, just like each colour of the rainbow. But, just like in a rainbow, despite our differences, we all have a place. Reena is not convinced: she feels that she does not belong, like the brown dog that does not have a home.

Then one day, Reena, with her keen eye, notices a tree branch about to fall onto one of the boys in the park. She calls out, but no-one hears her. Luckily, Dog leaps in and saves the day. The children at the park are shaken and nobody notices that Dog’s paw has been hurt from his heroic efforts. Reena takes Dog home and the pair finds they are perfect for each other. Dog is joyful with his new home and best friend and Reena’s heart is happy again. She finds her place in life’s rainbow.

Reena’s Rainbow is a picture book ideal for children 5 to 7 years old, beautifully finished with soft illustrations and a hard cover to couple with this gentle story of diversity and acceptance. Children will identify with Reena’s need to belong and to find their place.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Complete Adventures of Figaro and Rumba

The Complete Adventures of Figaro and Rumba written by Anna Fienberg and illustrated by Stephen Michael King (Allen and Unwin)
PB RRP $16.99   ISBN 9781760292997

Reviewed by Daniela Andrews

The highly imaginative tales of Figaro and Rumba are written by Anna Fienberg, author of the Tashi books, and accompanied with full colour pictures by the talented Stephen Michael King. Both books in the series have been published together for the first time in a colourful, eye-catching paperback.

Figaro (an excitable, adventure-seeking dog) and Rumba (a sensible, musical cat) have been the best of friends since they met in Cuba. The first story, Figaro and Rumba and the Crocodile CafĂ©, is driven by the characters’ desire to get on ‘the Very Fast Train’. They seem destined to keep missing it though, with one zany adventure after another. The story is fast-paced, enticing readers to keep turning the pages to find out whether Figaro and Rumba ever do get on the train. Eventually, they meet a sly, Cuban crocodile who gains Rumba’s trust. It’s a good thing Figaro’s instincts are on high alert though, because something just doesn’t seem right.

The second story, Figaro and Rumba and the Cool Cats, is far more musical in nature. (You might find yourself tapping along to an imaginary Cuban beat!) Rumba seems quite at home singing with the Cool Cats, but Figaro is bored. The cats just want to sing all day and he can’t join in because their leader, Marta, does not like his singing. Plus, he’s feeling disturbed about that grey monster he keeps seeing. When he meets another like-minded adventurer, Dora, they sneakily take Marta’s car and go exploring. Their adventure doesn’t go smoothly though and, in trying to fix things, Figaro winds up meeting the ‘monster’, joining forces with Rumba again, and discovering a musical talent he never knew he had.

These entertaining stories about friendship are great for 5–8 year-olds. The chapters are short, with lots of dialogue. Much humour is provided in Figaro and Rumba’s banter, along with their dog and cat-like differences. King’s comical illustrations are naturally complementary, appearing on almost every single page. Fienberg’s writing is superb. The Cuban accents are perfectly portrayed, and there are some great alliterative lines like: ‘Isn’t he a rascal, a ruffian, a rogue and a reptile?’ The ending is terrific, both closing the stories and alluding to further adventures.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

When Friendship Followed Me Home

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin (Text Publishing)
RRP $16.99
ISBN 978-192535549-9

Reviewed by Wendy Fitzgerald

Every now and then I read a book that I know I will not forget. When Friendship Followed Me Home is special.

Young Ben Coffin is a foster child. At age 10 he is adopted by a loving mum, Tess- a kind-hearted speech therapist. For the first time Ben feels loved and starts to hope that things will go well for him.

But at school he’s the target for a bully named Rayburn. Ben avoids Rayburn by taking refuge in the library with the kind librarian, Mrs Lorentz. It’s in the library that Ben befriends Mrs Lorentz’s daughter, Hayley (like the comet). And it’s in an alleyway beside the library where Ben finds a small abandoned dog he calls Flip.

Ben and Flip have a strong connection. They embark on a training program to make Flip into an assistance dog. Ben and Hayley start a fabulous reading program called ‘Read to Rufus’ where kids who struggle with reading can read to a trained companion dog- in this case Flip.

There is a beautiful scene on Page 131 where Ben is encouraging a young reluctant reader, Brian, to read to Flip. The interaction between Flip and Brian is precious. I think Flip is the real hero in this story.

I have not heard of a program like this in Australia. Maybe we should try it?

When Friendship Followed Me Home explores some tough issues- abandonment, domestic violence, homelessness, illness, grief, family, friendship, first love, acceptance, loss, pets, imagination and magic.

But all the way there is a wonderful innocence about Ben. In spite of all the terrible things that happen to him and Hayley- I was left with an overwhelming feeling of hope.

I also loved the idea that Ben and Hayley were writing a story together. It is called ‘The Magic Box’ - a time-slip story set in Luna Park in 1905. Often this story mirrors what’s happening in their lives and ties beautifully into the ending.

I like that there are many literary references throughout the book. In particular Griffin refers to ‘Feathers’ by Jacqueline Woodson. I want to read this ‘Feathers’ and I think kids would like to as well.

Paul Griffin is a talented writer. He is a teacher and a devoted helper of at risk and special needs teens. He works with organisations like ‘Behind the Book’ and ‘Literacy for Incarcerated teens’. 

Griffin is the author of several novels for YA – Ten Mile River, Stay with me, Burning Blue and Adrift. Paul lives in Manhattan.

When Friendship Follows Me Home - published in 2016 is Griffin’s first middle-grade novel. His next middle-grade novel, Marty comes out in 2017.

I strongly recommend When Friendship Follows Me Home to kids 11 and older. It will spark terrific discussion with parents and teachers. I loved it.

Thursday, 18 February 2016


Ralf by Jean Jullien (Walker Books)
HC RRP $19.99
ISBN 9781847808189

Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Although Ralf the dog is small, he is quite long. At times this causes problems and his owners get a bit cross with him for taking up so much space. He gets upset when they tell him to get out from under their feet. The only place that seems to be safe is stretched out in his kennel. But it’s lonely being alone. It’s harder being a long sausage dog.

On one of the days when Ralf’s in his kennel stretched out and in nobody’s way, with thoughts flooding his mind, he smells smoke. He rushes to the house to investigate but gets his backside stuck in the dog door.  He pulls and pulls. An amazing thing happens. Ralf stretches and stretches himself through the gap. He must get help. But no one wakes although he licks and barks.

Luckily the fireman understands what he’s trying to communicate. Can Ralf, now a much stretched out dog, be the family’s saviour?

This delightful book is about the unswerving loyalty and dedication of animals for humans, even when they are chided for getting underfoot. It will resonate with readers who have pets that demand attention and love being constantly close to humans.

The illustrations in bold lines, strong colours and simple drawings resembling children’s art, will draw readers of the 3+ age. Beautifully presented, it’s another publication from Frances Lincoln, famous for their outstanding children’s books.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Lily and the Magic Wall

Lily and the Magic Wall by Stefanie Godinho, illustrated by Grace Chen (Little Steps Publishing)

PB RRP $16.95
ISBN: 9781925117332

Reviewed by Anne Hamilton

This is an unusual book with an apparently high language level for its young target audience. (‘Ecstatic’, for instance, is not a word I’d expect a pre-schooler or first year to know.) Both the occasional word of this nature and the length of the book seemed to suggest it would be more suitable to an older age group.

The story is equally unusual. It’s hard to classify. Not quite fantasy, not quite magic realism or fairy tale, not quite adventure.

Lily, a white terrier, is taken by her mother (eventually revealed to be human and not doggy in a late illustration) on a walk to the beach for her birthday. She loses sight of her mum and finds a delicious-smelling magic wall. Behind it are six different shaped doors. The silver star shape attracts Lily but she tries the others first, exploring them one by one and finding different places behind them all. In one, she finds animals of the Australian outback. In another, she finds a celebrity dressing room. Eventually she finds a surprise party for herself.

Delicate pastel illustrations bring this sweet story to life. Grace Chen has superbly captured Lily’s moods. Her illustrations of the haughty cats are a real treat.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Annie and Simon

Annie and Simon by Catharine O’Neill (Walker Books)
PB RRP $11.95
ISBN 9780763668778
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis

Annie is a curious, talkative child, and Simon is her big brother (a lot older than Annie).She talks about what she wants to be when she grows up, about loons, falling stars, bee stings and standing in the rain under an umbrella - even on a sunny day. Simon is kind and patient. He accommodates her interests most of the time, but loves it when he has some quiet time.

This delightful and humorous chapter book for the 5-9 age groups touches on each of Annie’s interests. To train for her adult hairdressing life Annie practises on Hazel the dog, then Simon, then herself - with bizarre results.

In chapter two the siblings decide to go on a loon hunt in their little boat. But no tipping is the precondition Simon sets. They see turtles, a muskrat, water lilies, a heron and an old bird’s nest which Simon tries to get for Annie. Guess what happens?

Annie gets stung by a bee while out in the garden. She still believes it’s going to rain although the sun is out. She wants to use her umbrella so Simon makes sure there’s rain.

Newspaper reports predict a meteor shower. Annie wants to stay up late and see it. They pack a blanket and a drink in the thermos which Annie mixes, and go to the park late. Things don’t always turn out the way Annie wants.

Beautifully illustrated by the author in watercolour, the characters shine. The stories are full of warmth, sharing and companionship. Part of the SPARKS series of books, there are twelve other titles for new readers to enjoy.