Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

That Dog! is an extraordinary sleuth!

That Dog!, by Emma Lazell, (Apr. 2020, Pavilion), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843654476

Ages 4-7

Emma Lazell’s follow-up to last year’s Big Cat is just as hilarious! Penny is a lady who loves dogs, and her assistant, Pat, is charged with getting them. But THEY’RE DOGNAPPERS! Penny tells Pat about the latest dog on her mind: he’s spotty all over. The thing is, Pat isn’t too bright; he brings back a spotty.. snake. Pat doles out a different character trait, and each time, Pat brings back the wrong animal! But That Dog is on the case, because the police are on the hunt for these kidnappers and the dogs they’ve stolen; and That Dog is putting together lots and lots of clues!

Loaded with sight gags and moments just begging for kids to call out, “THAT’S NOT A DOG!”, That Dog! is a comic story of observation and following directions. The watercolor artwork is cartoony and silly, with clues not-so-hidden around the spreads: Penny’s Wanted! poster is framed on her wall; That Dog reads a newspaper where Pat is the cover story; he even completes a crossword puzzle that lets readers know that he’s no ordinary mutt!

Originally published earlier this year in the UK, That Dog! is here on U.S. shores, and I can’t wait to see what Emma Lazell has for us next. In the meantime, publisher Pavilion has some great free That Dog! downloads: a free weekly planner, an activity kit, and a how to draw That Dog! sheet.

Posted in Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Detectives Fox and Goat are on the case!

The Missing Bouncy Ball, by Misti Kenison, (Oct. 2018, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764356001

Ages 1-4

A little girl’s ball bounces out of her backpack! Luckily, Detectives Fox and Goat are on the case. They search through spreads, identifying different balls, and eliminating them from consideration by identifying properties that set them apart from the bouncy ball: color, size, shape, texture. When they reunite the bouncy ball with Emma, its owner, they congratulate one another and get ready for their next adventure.

I’ve been a fan of Misty Kenison’s Young Historians series, so when I saw her name on the Fox and Goat books, I knew I was in for something fun. I love the question and answer pattern her books take, letting readers learn to spot clues as they go. The end Bouncy Ball recaps the clues used to find the bouncy ball, reminding kids of the steps they took to arrive at the conclusion. Sharp-eyed readers will notice the bouncy ball’s location a few times through the book, too.


The Lost Race Car, by Misti Kenison, (Oct. 2018, Schiffer Publishing), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764355998

Ages 1-4

Detectives Fox and Goat return for their next great mystery: a little boy’s race car disappears! Using concept clues, the two sleuths sniff out the details to solve the case: colors, number of wheels, weight, length, and slightly more complex characteristics, like roads traveled. When they reunite Jayden with his car, they share a congratulatory fist bump and share their clues, at the end, to remind readers of the concepts used to solve the mystery.

These are such great books! The digital artwork is bright, bold, and eye-catching. The question and answer pattern to each spread invites kids to think, explore, and solve the mysteries as they go, and offers the chance to talk about other colors/textures/sizes/shapes on the pages. Once again, sharp-eyed readers will notice the race car lingering around as they get closer to solving the case.

I just read these in a Saturday storytime with a mixed group of kids: two toddlers, a first grader, and three middle graders, all of whom got a kick out of the story. The toddlers loved pointing to the cars and balls on each page; the first grader was my sharp-eyed reader who spotted the missing items as they popped up in spreads, and the first and middle graders all loved pointing out the characteristics that set them apart from the item in question. I’m looking forward to more Fox and Goat Mysteries for my toddlers and preschoolers, for sure. A nice add to concept and board book collections.


Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Heads and Tails – an animal who’s who guessing game

Heads and Tails, by John Canty, (Oct. 2018, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536200331

Ages 2-6

Ready for a guessing game? Heads and Tails gives readers clues, plus a rendering of an animal’s hindquarters, to help them figure it out. Every spread offers a watercolor rendering of an animal’s rear end, with three typewriter-font clues (emphasized with color), to help them guess. On the following page, the animal’s front end is revealed! The clues are descriptive: “I have long furry ears and a small nose. I live in a burrow in the ground. I have a white fluffy tail. I am a…” The reveal and the “I am a…” phrase is set in a handwritten, large black font, making this a good storytime read that clues kids in and follow along. The artwork is done is subdued watercolors, and all illustrations are adapated from 19th-century artwork. The tails are more opaque, less detailed, than the heads, almost like a fade-in to the animal reveal. There are two curve balls thrown in, which left my first grader and I scratching our heads, but it seems like it was a chance to draw out the mystery. The final mystery guest is the reader himself or herself: “I love to play. I learn new things every day. I am growing. I am… ME!”

This one’s a nice choice for toddler storytimes; there are few words, short sentences, and the chance to let kids call and act out their favorite animals. It’s a nice additional add for the artwork, which is lovely. I’d pair this one with Simms Taback’s fold-out animals books, which provide similar clues and reveal each animal through vertical and horizontal page unfolding. My toddler times love a dramatic reveal! Display with other fun Who-Am-I books, like my old reliable, Katie Davis’ Who Hops?, another guessing game story, albeit with a lot more laughs and a similar reveal at the end. And there’s always Steve Jenkins’ Who Am I?