Sunday, January 02, 2022

Animal Books for Young Readers

Barkley, Callie and Bishop, Tracy (illus.) 
Liz's Pie in the Sky (The Critter Club #23)
Published October 5th 2021 by Little Simon
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Liz's family are going to the cabin at Marigold Lake for a fall festival, and she invites her friends Marion, Amy, and Ellie to come with her! Liz's mother is a veterinarian, and the girls once found and rehabilitated baby mice, so they are looking forward to investigating the wild life in the area. Liz also wants to bake a special pie, since Thanksgiving is coming soon, and wants to plan other activities as well. Unfortunately, things don't go as well as she would like. Her pies don't turn out to her satisfaction, but she takes a break to go on a picnic and walk with her friends, and they find a goose who is left behind. With Dr. Purvis' help, they nurse the goose back to help, and it turns out that berry pie without sugar is just right for a hungry bird. 

This has a great mix of black and white illustrations and large text, and the small size of the book is similar to Poppy Green's Sophie Mouse or Dillard's Mouse Scouts. The reading complexity is perfect for readers who have mastered I Can Read Books and are moving on to titles like The Magic Treehouse. Even though I hadn't read any other books in the lengthy series, it was easy to jump right into this story. I believe that the other books rotate through focusing on the other characters. The cast is slightly divere, with Ellie appearing to be Black. 

The story is charming, with the girls playing the alphabet game on the car ride, getting along together, and enjoying nature. The lake house setting is interesting, and the girls talk about a lot of experiences that some readers might not get to experience first hand, like picking apples, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. Liz has a grown up with her in the kitchen while she is making the pie, and she is generally safe, although she does burn the filling. 

Readers who like books with a pleasant ensemble cast, like Meyerhoff's The Friendship Garden or with a concentration on food like Hiranandani's Phoebe Green series will enjoying spending a weekend with Liz and her friends, and might even be interested in embracing the lost art of pie making!

Webb, Holly. The Storm Leopard (Wintry Tales #4)
October 5th 2017 by Stripes Publishing 
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Isabelle and her family visit the nearby zoo and see some snow leopards, which are a new animal to the zoologically inclined Isabelle. When the family visits the gift shop, Isabelle sees a small stugged snow leopard, which has a card on it that it is made by a family in the Himalayas. The animals are endangered, so the family works with a conservancy organization; in exchange for protecting the animals, they get a contract so that they can sell their crafts, thereby earning a livlihood without hurting the animals. When Isabelle goes to bed, she dreams that she has traveled to the Himalayas, where she meets Odval. Odval is crying because three of her family's goats have been killed, which will negatively impact the family. Odval thinks that Isabelle is her imaginary friend, Sarangerel, and Odval's family can't see Isabelle. Odval worries that her family thinks the snow leopards whom she has been observing are at fault for the goats' deaths, and even though they have a contract to make crafts, they might be inclined to kill the mother, whom Odval has named Grace. This would leave her two cubs to die. They two girls work on a way to save the animals. Isabelle soon returns to her home with a renewed sense of urgency in helping the snow leopards. 

Even though this is book four in the series, it was very easy to pick up the story. It was good to see that Isabelle had an interest in animals, and being able to "travel" to the Himalayas is a fascinating experience that many young readers will enjoy. The details of Odval's family's home, work, and general way of living seem well researched, and there are notes at the end of the book about snow leopards. 

Webb excels at tales with both animals and some magical realism, like Sam the Stolen Puppy and the Rose series, and this British author has a lot of books to choose from. I liked the component of helping the animals, which gave this a feel sort of like The Magic Treehouse meets Miles' The Puppy Place. 

Occasional page illustrations add to the charm, and the inclusion of a glossary for the some of the Mongolian terms was very helpful. Other titles in this wintery series include The Snow Bear and The Reindeer Girl and would make a lovely winter holiday gift, perhaps accompanied by a stuffed animal. 

Camerson, W. Bruce. Foxes in a Fix (Lily to the Rescue!, 7) 
September 28th 2021 by Starscape
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

Lily lives with her girl, Maggie Rose, whose mother runs an animal shelter.  Maggie Rose is constantly trying to get people she knows to adopt rescue dogs. When her father asks Mr. Martin, who has a plane, to fly to Alaska with some young snow fox pups that have been bred in Coloradoe, Maggie is sure that Mr. Martin needs a dog as well. She brings Lily along on the visit. Mr. Martin's own dog has just passed away, and he says that he is not ready for another one, but Maggie Rose hopes she can change his mind. Unfortunately, Lily causes all manner of trouble, ruining a model airplane, barking at squirrels, and even rolling in something dead and requiring a bath. When the zoo where the fox pups are being kept reports them missing, Maggie Rose hopes that Lily can be instrumental in finding them. When the group finally locates the pups and takes them to Alaska, they connect with breeders who have huskies. A pup there is missing a paw, so likely will have a hard life. Will Maggie Rose be able to convince Mr. Martin that this puppy is meant for him?

Told from Lily's point of view, this is an early chapter book has adorable pencil illustrations of a variety of dogs, including the effervescent but somewhat misguided Lily. Maggie does her best to control her, and has the best interest of animals in mind. Like Miles' The Puppy Place books, Cameron's books offer a lot of good information to potential dog owners. 

In addition to the excitement of the fox pups escaping, there is the adventure of going to Alaska and working with the sled dogs. Mr. Martin's back story, with information about the three legged dog he had as a child, added another level to the story, and his sadness over losing his pet may help young readers process a similar experience. 

Readers who aren't quite ready for Johnson's Dog Driven or Gary Paulsen's adventure books will find a lot to like in this series for younger readers. Even though I haven't read the first six books in the series, it was easy to pick up the storyline. I'm curious to investigate the other adventures that Maggie Rose has. 

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