‘Tis the season, and there’s a plethora of perfectly pet-a-licious picture books to share with the young animal lovers on your shopping list. The choices range from silly to serious, and everything in between.
“My Favorite Pet: By Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class” by Jeanne Birdsall and illustrated by Harry Bliss (Knopf Books for Young Readers) is a perfect example of a fiction book that includes lots of nonfiction information. When a class assignment is to write about your favorite pet, Gus doesn’t hesitate. His family has 17 sheep, so they are the perfect favorite pet. The text is cleverly designed to look like elementary school handwriting on lines — like the good old days before Chromebooks for students. Gus provides helpful information like “Seventeen sheep are still sheep, not sheeps” and “A boy sheep is a ram. He has horns. The horns do not come off.” The latter is on a page with an illustration of Gus trying to take the horns off by pulling on them with rope. The book is filled with informational text, always accompanied by illustrations showing Gus interacting with the sheep in non-parent- approved ways. His parents’ comments are included in text bubbles. Kids will laugh at the antics of Gus and the sheep, and maybe — just maybe — they’ll remember some of the facts.
“The Perfect Dog” by Kevin O’Malley (Crown Books for Young Readers) is charming and very touching. It’s about trying to pick the perfect pet — what kind of dog is the right dog? The abundant use of comparative and superlative language makes this a great book for having young children make predictions. The book begins, “The perfect dog should be big, bigger, biggest!” The illustrations show progressively larger dogs. Then, the fourth page reads, “Maybe not this big.” The illustration is of a horse-sized great dane standing on the hapless child. The words big, bigger, biggest are all progressively larger. The language continues making it a predictable book that children will love. Small, long hair, fancy, fast, and more descriptions are used to describe what the perfect dog should be like. But the ending will touch everyone’s heart — because the perfect dog is the right dog for you, no matter what it looks like!
“Dewey Bob” is by Judy Schachner (Dial Children’s Books), the author of the wildly popular “SkippyJon Jones” series. Dewey Bob is a strange character, a raccoon who lives alone and collects all kinds of objects. He starts life by collecting buttons, but moves on to hanging out at the dump with his shopping cart. He speaks in charming, folksy rhyme. “Some folks’ trash is a raccoon’s treasure, and Dewey Bob Crockett will pick it all for pleasure!” Dewey caught some fireflies, but he didn’t have the heart to keep them. He realized that he needed friends. But other animals didn’t take kindly to being crammed into his shopping cart, and when they fled, there was only a small ball of fur left. That ball of fur was a small kitten whose back legs didn’t work. Dewey Bob was great at fixing things, and he took his buttons and his odds and ends, and he gave that kitten a set of wheels. And Dewey Bob had a friend for life! Quirky but also extremely touching at the end, this book will surely become a favorite nighttime read.
“Maggi and Milo Make New Friends” by Juli Brenning and illustrated by Priscilla Burris (Dial) tells the story of Maggi and her best friend, a border collie named Milo. They are inseparable companions as they explore the world together. In this story, Maggi’s mother takes her to the park to make new friends. She is dismayed by the sign at the entrance, “No dogs allowed.” At first she doesn’t want to go in, but her mother convinces her to give it a try. Soon Maggi is playing with some new friends. Like any loyal friend, she soon brings them to meet Milo, and together, with her very best friend, all the friends play happily. Be careful: dog-less children reading this book will be demanding a Milo of their very own!
“Otis and the Kittens” by Loren Long (Philomel) is about a loyal tractor, Otis, who manages to save the day in each of the charming “Otis” books. Every book has a message for young readers about inclusion, caring, sacrifice, and helping others. This story is no different. The dedication is: “For the brave who run toward danger instead of away.” The story starts, as they all do, with Otis playing with his farmyard friends. The bull, the horse, the cow, even the ducks play tug-of-war. When Otis looks at the field, he notices a tabby cat heading for the barn. As they approach the barn, they see smoke coming from inside, and the tabby cat is in the window. Otis goes inside to get her, but she won’t leave. Otis manages to save her kittens, but Otis himself doesn’t make it out in time. His friends run to help him and by working together with the help of the fire fighters, they manage to save Otis. The Fire Chief says that the mama and her kittens will be a perfect addition to the firehouse family. And it’s a happy ending for all. Just like all the Otis stories. Important notice to parents: children and adults alike will get hooked on these heartwarming books.
Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover books provided by the publishers for review purposes.