My Dog Socks by Robyn Osborne ill Sadami Konchi

Most people think Socks is an ordinary dog,
but when we hike through the forest,
he turns into a … black bear!
Scraping at tree trunks and sniffing the air,
clawing and gnawing, scrabbling and dabbling.

A boy introduces the reader to his dog, explaining that he might look like an ordinary dog, but he is in fact much more than that. He then offers examples of his dog transforming in different situations/environments, rhythmically detailing his actions. Finally, the boy shares the most transformative dog trait of all. Illustrations in pencil and watercolour fill each opening, each scene. Look out for the shadows.

‘My Dog Socks’ is a story of the love between a boy and his dog. His dog is by turns brave, intrepid, greedy and mischievous – mirroring his own behaviour. While different behaviours are attributed to many other animals, they also showcase the many facets of dog (and child?) behaviour. Animal shadows give the young reader the opportunity to guess what animal Socks has become. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers and perhaps also for families considering a pet of the canine variety.

My Dog Socks, Robyn Osborne ill Sadami Konchi
Ford Street Publishing 2017
ISBN: 9781925272826

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller
www.clairesaxby.com

The Cat Wants Cuddles, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford

Kevin doesn’t want a pat.
He doesn’t want a tickle.
And he definitely does
NOT want a cuddle.

When Kevin the cat’s nap is disturbed by his owner, wanting to give him some attention, he is not impressed. His owner wants to pat him, tickle him and even cuddle him. But Kevin is not all impressed. He just wants some space. Until he sees the dog getting attention instead. Now he thinks he might quite like some cuddles. For a while.

The Cat Wants Cuddles is a humorous picture book which cat owners will find especially relatable. Kevin seems to think the world revolves around him – and is really contrary. Yet somehow, he is also likable.

The text includes no narration or tags. The owner’s words are presented in bold in the opening pages, with Kevin’s responses (not understood by the human, of course) are in thought bubbles. For the majority of the book, the only text is these thought bubbles. The illustrations focus squarely on Kevin’s expressions and actions, with the human only shown as shoes, hands and a lap. Dog (who remains unnamed, seemingly because Kevin doesn’t dignify him with one) is shown on several spreads, looking slightly confused and long-suffering.

Kids will love the humour of this one.

The Cat Wants Cuddles, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford
Scholastic, 2017
ISBN 9781743811412

Jinny & Cooper: My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret and Revenge of the Stone Witch, by Tania Ingram

‘Eat the carrot, Fuzzy.’
The scruffy ball of fur gave a little cough as though clearing his throat. then he looked directly at Tyrone and in a clear voice said, ‘My name is NOT Fuzzy, it’s Cooper. I don’t like carrots and if you keep poking one in my face I may be forced to do something that you will regret!’
Tyrone fell off the bed with a scream.

Jinny has always dreamt of owning a beautiful, golden guinea pig. But the pet shop owner has a deal Jinny’s mum can’t resist, and now Jinny owns the scruffiest, messiest guinea pig ever. Still, at least she has a guinea pg. But Fuzzy has a secret. He can talk – and the first thing he makes clear is that his name isn’t Fuzzy. Jinny and her brother Tyrone decide to keep Cooper’s skills a secret, but it isn’t easy when cooper’s other skills – such as invisibility – become apparent. And Cooper doesn’t always do what he’s told.Still, Jinny soon finds that having Cooper around can be very helpful when trouble turns up.

In My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret, it is Cooper who realises Jinny’s seemingly kind old teacher, Miss Bunney is actually a witch, and in Revenge of the Stone Witch, Jinny and Cooper combine to figure out what is causing the strange goings on in their neighbourhood. Both books blend fantasy, humour and action for an entertaining blend perfectly suited for middle primary aged readers.

The premise of a talking, magical guinea pig with connections to the fantastical world will leave readers eager for more adventures from Jinny and Cooper.

Jinny & Cooper: My Teacher’s Big Bad Secret
Jinny & Cooper: Revenge of the Stone Witch
both by Tania Ingram
Puffin Books, 2016

My Dog Dash by Nicki Greenberg

My dog Dash wasn’t very well-behaved at puppy school.

I think the teacher could have been a bit more patient with him.

My dog Dash wasn’t very well-behaved at puppy school.

I think the teacher could have been a bit more patient with him.

Dash’s story is told by a young girl who loves him. Dash attends puppy school, but although he does many of the same things as other puppies, the teacher is unimpressed. He’s great at ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ but is still working on other tasks. Walking Dash is slow because he’s interested in everything he sees. But he is her pet, and she loves him, despite what others might see as his failures or peccadillos. Illustrations are full page and provide plenty of humour.

Dash is an unusual dog, but there are plenty of those in the world. This young girl is caring and responsible with her pet, despite the reactions of others. ‘My Dog Dash’ is hilarious and will be fun to share with one reader or many. Recommended for pre- and early-schoolers.

My Dog Dash, Nicki Greenberg Allen & Unwin 2016 ISBN: 9781760110673

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

The Cat Wants Custard, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford

Waiter, fetch me a bowl of your best custard.
Well, what are you waiting for?
Haven’t I made myself clear?

Kevin the cat is very hungry, but his human doesn’t seem to understand what he wants. He is offered chicken, sardines, beef and even pigs ears. But what Kevin wants is a big bowl of custard. His efforts to be understood include begging, spelling out custard with his body, and staring at the fridge hungrily. But nothing works. Then, in the middle of the night, the fridge is left open, and Kevin helps himself to what he wants. Or what he thought he wants.

The Cat Wants Custard is a funny picture book, which kids will want again and again. The owner’s voice features only in the first few spreads and in the illustrations appears as just a pair of legs or a hand, so that for most of the book Kevin is the sole voice, facing the reader even as he speaks to the owner. Little kids will love that they know what Kevin is saying, even when his owner doesn’t. Cat lovers will also relate well to Kevin’s actions.

The Cat Wants Custard, by P. Crumble & Lucinda Gifford
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781760155780

The Pocket Dogs and the Lost Kitten, by Margaret Wild & Stephen Michael King

But one day they noticed that Mr Pockets was spending a lot of time playing with the kitten.
He laughed when she sat on his head.
He laughed when she scampered away with his ball of wool.
He laughed when she tip-toed around the bath.
And he looked contented when she fell asleep on his chest.

Biff and Buff love living with Mr Pockets – and riding in the pockets of his very big coat. But when a lost kitten arrives on their doorstep, they are at first concerned and help to look after the kitten. Until they notice how much Mr Pockets loves the kitten, and start to worry that Mr Pockets might neglect them. When clever Mr Pockets realises this, he reassures them, but in the meantime the kitten has run away, and it’s up to the Pocket Dogs to get her to come back.

ThePocket Dogs and the Lost Kitten is the third wonderful story featuring the wise and whimsical Mr Pockets and his two adorable canine companions. It is a tale about companionship, and friendship and, of course, the idea that there is no limit on how many people (or animals) a person can love. It could also be used as preparation for the arrival of a new sibling. Mostly, though, it is a joyous book about a man and his animal companions.

With the whimsy and quirky detail of the previous books, the illustrations, in ink and pencil, are divine.

The Pocket Dogs and the Lost Kitten, by Margaret Wild & Stephen Michael King
Scholastic, 2016
ISBN 9781742991054

Sad, The Dog by Sandy Fussell, ill Tull Suwannakit

Mr and Mrs Cripps owned a little dog,

an unwanted Christmas present from a friend.

They fed the dog, and washed him,

even cleaned inside his ears.

But they didn’t give him a name.

Mr and Mrs Cripps owned a little dog,

an unwanted Christmas present from a friend.

They fed the dog, and washed him,

even cleaned inside his ears.

But they didn’t give him a name.

Sad ‘s owners, Mr and Mrs Cripps, feed him and wash him, but they certainly don’t love him. They disapprove of almost all his behaviours, until he is too sad to do anything much at all. When his owners move out and leave him behind, he is so lonely he howls. Then new owners move in and Sad is not sure how to interact with them or their boy, Jack. Jack, however, is happy to include Sad in everything he does, to love and to play with him. Under Jack’s care, Sad abandons his old name, his old life and happily accepts a new one. Watercolour illustrations fill every spread and depict the Cripps with sad, pinched faces. In contrast, Jack and his parents are constantly smiling. Spreads are full of tiny details for young readers to discover.

Sad, the Dog is a lovely story, sensitively told, beautifully illustrated about a dog and his family, and the power of love. Sad’s life is very limited with the Cripps. They are not cruel, but they are really not interested in having a pet. And Sad knows it. He is wary of the newcomers, having known only functional not emotional care. But he is soon won over by the simple love and care and companionship Jack and his family offer. Readers will boo the Cripps’ and cheer Jack as ‘Sad’ becomes ‘Lucky’. Highly recommended for pre- and early schoolers, and junior year levels.

Sad, the Dog, Sandy Fussell ill Tull Suwannakit
Walker Books Australia, 2015
ISBN: 9781921529641

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com

My Dog Bigsy, by Alison Lester

Book Cover:  My Dog BigsyThis is my dog, Bigsy.
He sleeps on my bed every night
and he hardly makes a sound.
But when Dad lets him out in the morning,
I hear him barking all around the farm.

Most of the time Bigsy the dog is quiett, but first thing in the morning he runs around the farm and barks at everything. He chases the cockatoos out of the orchard. They squawk and screech as they flee. Then he sends the kangaroos bouncing away from the farm, before greeting the horses, cows, ducks and more. Finally, though, he heads home for breakfast, and – exhausted from all that action – another sleep.

My Dog Bigsy is a delightful celebration of playful dogs, farm life, and noise. Youngsters will soon be joining in with the squawks, neighs and quacks, and everyone will fall in love with orange and white Bigsy. The design of the book is also to love, with the tactile canvas feel cover echoed in the green linen hills of the outside scenes, against which Bigsy and the other animals are collaged.

Perfect for early childhood readers and dog lovers of all ages, My Dog Bigsy is adorable.

My Dog Bigsy, by Alison Lester
Penguin, 2015
ISBN 9780670078936

Remarkably Rexy, by Craig Smith

9781760113940.jpgHe’s been the most dazzling cat on Serengeti Street for years and years. He’s majestic, proud, maybe brave as well.

Rex is a very handsome cat, and everybody loves him. Every morning he grooms himself, and warms up ready for the kids on their way to school to stop and admire him. All is well with the world – until Pretty Pamela, the perfect siamese from down the street, prances into view just as the kids arrive, and steals the attention. As Rex pretends he doesn’t care, pandemominum breaks loose, when Towser the dog escapes, a magpie family gets cranky, and Rex ends up in a muddy puddle. Will the kids love him anyway?

Remarkably Rexy is a humorous tale of cats and their self-obsession. Rexy is likeable, though very vain, and his misadventures will delight young readers, as will the other animal characters – Pamela, Towser the dog, and the Magpie family.

Illustrator Craig Smith is well known for his warm, rich and often humorous illustrations, but in Remarkably Rexy he makes his debut as author, too.

Remarkably Rexy will be loved, just as he deserves.

Remarkably Rexy, by Craig Smith
Allen & Unwin, 2015
ISBN 9781760113940

Poppy Cat by Sara Acton

Poppy Cat is a copy cat.

She follows me wherever I go.

She does whatever I do.

 

A small girl shares stories of life with her loved cat, Poppy Cat. Poppy Cat follows her around and shares many of her daily activities. But each of them likes to do things by themselves too, with varying levels of success. Poppy Cat begins with early morning happiness and ends with bedtime happiness, shared with a pet. Illustrations are loose watercolours with black outline. Images sit in white space.

Poppy Cat is a gentle story of a child and her pet, the two of them learning and sharing throughout an ordinary day. The mischief Poppy Cat gets to is seen as humourous rather than troublesome and there appears to be an understanding that everyone needs time on their own. The white space in which the simple text and images are set allows the reader to make this story their own. It’s a slow-down-and-live-in-the-moment story, revelling in the simplicity of everyday. Recommended for pre- and early schoolers.

 

Poppy Cat, Sara Acton Scholastic Press 2014 ISBN: 9781743620168

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s author and bookseller

www.clairesaxby.com