Posted in Animal Fiction, Preschool Reads

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring – A buddy tale of imagination!

Two friends – a hedgehog and a dog – settle down for the night. When the house is asleep, Earl, the hedgehog, announces that he’s leaving – much to his best friend, Buddy’s, chagrin. But wait! After running and running on his exercise wheel, Earl arrives at his destination and discovers that Buddy is there after all! Buddy’s confused, but goes with the flow, and the two go on an adventure that will have parents and kids alike laughing and wondering what their own pets get up to when everyone’s asleep.

buddy and earl

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring, by Maureen Fergus/Illustrated by Carey Sookocheff (March 2016, Groundwood Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781554987146. Recommended for ages 4-8

The second book in the Buddy and Earl series is just as much fun as the first book, and loaded with imagination. Earl sees things differently, through fantastic eyes – Buddy’s water dish becomes a lake; Dad’s referred to as a “hideous ogre”; Mom’s hairbrush is a lovely lady hedgehog – and Buddy is drawn into this wonderful world of adventure. We know that poor Buddy is the fall guy – he’s the Pinky to Earl’s Brain, the dopey friend that blunders along – but we love it. The friends care for each other and watch out for each other, with Buddy providing the muscle and Earl bringing the fantastic.

The art is sweet and appealing, done in acryl gouache on watercolor paper, then assembled in Photoshop, to bring it all together. The story begins with the endpapers, gently drawing readers into the story and giving them one final giggle at the story’s end. Plain black font is unintrusive and makes for an easy read-aloud, and this is a great book for read-alouds. I’d add this to a bedtime story read-aloud or a pet storytime and let the kids tell me what they think their pets do at night!

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring is out in March, but you can pick up the first book in the series, Buddy and Earl, to keep the kids entertained while you wait.


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Posted in Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Bug in a Vacuum takes an interesting look at the five stages of grief

bugBug in a Vacuum, by Mélanie Watt (Aug. 2015, Tundra), $21.99, ISBN: 9781770496453

Recommended for ages 4-8

A bug flies through a window and through a house. He settles on a globe, only to be sucked into a vacuum cleaner! He moves through the five stages of grief, as postulated by Elizabeth Kübler-Ross: denial, bargaining, anger, despair, and eventually, acceptance. In a parallel story, we follow the family dog, whose stuffed toy has also become trapped in the vacuum cleaner; the dog moves through its own stages of grief.

I have to admit, at first, I was a little confused by the book’s message – it’s adorable, and the material is presented in fun manner – but the content is about moving through grief, so how would I position this to kids? After a second reading, I realized that it’s not necessarily about death – it’s about loss, and what better than a lost toy, or a bug’s exaggerated reactions, to explain that to children? My toddler goes through the five stages of grief every night when it’s bedtime, so I really need to open up my thinking when I approach new material.

This is an interesting way of explaining the blues, the grief process, however you term it, to young children. The mixed media artwork gives the art texture and depth, really drawing the reader into the story. Retro advertisements for household products introduce each new stage. The bug’s word balloons and gestures equal the intensity of each stage – anger is big and bold; acceptance is smaller, thinner.

This would provide an interesting read-aloud. Let the kids tell you what’s going on and how they think the bug and the dog are feeling. Ask the kids, when did you feel sad? What made you feel that way? What makes you angry? Phrase each stage as a chance for exploring feelings. This would pair really well with a book on feelings or emotions.

Melanie Watt is the author of the award-winning children’s book series, Scaredy Squirrel, which is also a television show on Cartoon Network.