Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Mr. Scruff pairs perfect dogs with their perfect humans

Mr. Scruff, by Simon James, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536209358

Ages 3-7

Every dog has a human companion that’s just perfect for them: Polly and Molly have matching hairdos; Minnie and Vinnie are laid-back, with floppy ‘dos to match. But Mr. Scruff, sitting alone in a shelter, waits for the day when his person walks in the door. When a young boy named Jim walks in and sees Mr. Scruff, the two bond quickly; despite his parents’ protestations that “he’s so big, and you’re so small!”, Jim takes Mr. Scruff home. Meanwhile, Mr. Gruff arrives at the shelter and finds a pup that he decides to bring home, too. He names the pup Tim, and as the story notes, “and though it doesn’t rhyme, it’s all worked out just fine”. A sweet, heart-warming story about the relationship between humans and their dogs, Mr. Scruff is a rhyming storytime hit.

Simon James’ watercolor illustrations give readers cuddly dogs and smiling, friendly human counterparts strolling through cities and parks. The warm colors are comforting and add to this “adopt-don’t-shop” story. Mr. Scruff is a big, scruffy mutt and steals the reader’s heart with his facial expressions; first, tentative, later, with a smile as he heads out toward his forever home. Mr. Gruff is a scruffy human whose heart is stolen by teeny tiny Tim, who he tucks into the crook of his arm and brings home. Adorable, cuddly, and easy to read aloud, Mr. Scruff is a good choice for your dog fans.

Posted in Preschool Reads

Hanukkah picture books for holiday storytime!

I realized that my winter holiday reading has been somewhat narrow in scope, so I’m looking for Hanukkah and Kwanzaa books to read deeper and stronger. Here are some adorable Hanukkah books I’ve just read; I hope you enjoy them, too!

Latke, the Lucky Dog, by Ellen Fischer/Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke,
(Aug. 2014, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.95, ISBN: 978-0761390398
Good for readers 4-8

Narrated by Latke, a shelter dog that’s rescued on the first night of Hanukkah, this is an adorable story about pet adoption and Hanukkah. As he gets used to his new home, Latke manages to get in trouble every single night of Hanukkah! He’s eating the sufganiyot, chewing up dreidels, and slobbering all over the gelt. Yikes! Luckily for Latke, his family is very forgiving, and gives him his very own present on the eighth night. As Latke repeats throughout the book, he is “one lucky dog”. Latke the Lucky Dog has soft illustrations and changes in font color to note when Latke is narrating (blue) versus when someone else speaks (black). Anyone who has lived with a puppy will recognize Latke doing what dogs do; the forgiving family makes this a story of compassion and empathy while also giving kids a look into what life with a pet can be like. The story touches on the foods and activities that are part of the Hanukkah celebration.


Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah, by Sylvia A. Rouss/Illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn,
(Oct. 1993, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.99, ISBN: 978-0929371467
Good for readers 4-7

Sammy Spider and his mom watch from their web as their family, the Shapiros, light their menorah on the first night of Hanukkah. Sammy is intrigued, and drops down a bit. He loves the way the menorah keeps his feet warm, and he enjoys hearing the story of Hanukkah, but what he really loves are the dreidels that Josh, the young boy, receives from his parents each night! He asks his mother if he can have a dreidel, but Mom tells him spiders spin webs, not dreidels… but on the last night of Hanukkah, Mom has a wonderful surprise for Sammy. I really enjoyed this book, because it provided a nice background on the holiday itself – the story of the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil – and incorporated family traditions. It’s also a concept book, with illustrations reinforcing numbers and colors. The artwork is reminiscent of Eric Carle, with a collage feel. There is a whole library of Sammy the Spider books, where he learns about different aspects of Jewish life, from holidays, to traveling to Israel.

Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf, by Greg Wolfe/Illustrated by Howard McWilliam,
(Sept. 2016, Bloomsbury), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1619635210
Good for readers 4-8

This story is adorable, and handles that whole Elf on the Shelf business (Shmelf on the Shelf, maybe?) while we’re at it. Shmelf is a new elf, working on Santa’s List, checking it twice, when he notices something really distressing: there are a whole bunch of kids that aren’t on the naughty list, yet they’re not receiving presents! When he asks the head elf what the deal is, he finds out that the kids on the list are Jewish, and have their own holiday, where they receive gifts from their parents. This still doesn’t sit right with Shmelf, who goes investigating and sees a family celebrating Hanukkah: they’re spinning dreidels, they’re snacking on gelt, and yes, they’re getting presents! One for each night! He hears the story of Hanukkah and is so excited, he races back to the North Pole, where Santa gives him a special task: he’s going to travel the world, spreading Hanukkah magic! He gets a snazzy blue and white outfit, a sleigh and reindeer of his own, and heads out every year – sometimes November, sometimes December – to make sure your latkes are crispy and think, your menorahs burn bright, and your dreidels win. You want to thank Shmelf and his reindeer, Asher? No cookies – they like gelt and kosher dill! How can you not love this story? It’s a great way to explain Hanukkah – I love how Mom’s story takes shape in word bubbles  – and adds a fun spin to the holiday.

That was my first foray into Hanukkah reading, and now I plan to request more!

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate

Big love for My First Puppy/My First Kitten!

my_first_puppyMy First Puppy, by Dr. Lisa Chimes/Illustrated by Tina Burke, (2016, Kane Miller), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1610675161

My First Kitten, by by Dr. Lisa Chimes/Illustrated by Tina Burke, (2016, Kane Miller), $9.99, ISBN: 978-1610675178

Recommended for ages 4-8

Getting a pet is so exciting! Most kids love the soft purr of a new kitten, or the excited kisses from a new puppy, and this new picture book duo, written by veterinarian, Dr. Lisa Chimes, is great for  younger kids – and their parents – who are about to embark on pet parenthood.

My First Puppy and My First Kitten follow two kids – Sam and Fran – as they adopt their new pets. Each family takes this very seriously, looking into what breeds of dogs and cats would fit well with their respective families; what each pet needs when they first join the family (bowls for food and water, places to sleep, toys); and the importance of veterinary care, including great checklists of things to watch out for or talk to your vet about during a routine pet checkup.

my-first-kittenWhat I love most about the My First books? Dr. Chimes having her characters explore shelters and veterinarian offices for pets that need homes, rather than having the families to buy a cat or dog at a pet store. I loved that she drew attention to these great options, where families can find their newest member and really provide a loving home to a pet who needs it.

The art is sweet and loving, realistically rendered and brightly colored to attract a reader’s attention. Each cover stars the adopted pet and its loving new human on the cover, with little paw prints set into the background. While most of my pet books tend to run a little older, a good picture book series like this (will we be getting books for fish, birds, and lizards, too?) is great for my younger readers. Encourage families to read this one together, and pair it with books like Dr. Seuss’ What Pet Should I Get?, Mo Willems’ The Pigeon Wants a Puppy!, and Alexandra Day’s Carl series. I also love Emma Jackson’s A Home for Dixie, the true story of a rescue dog.