Saturday, July 02, 2022

My Kingdom of Darkness: A Branches Book (Pets Rule #1)

Tan, Susan. My Kingdom of Darkness: A Branches Book (Pets Rule #1)
Wendy Tan Shiau Wei (Illustrations)
June 28th 2022 by Scholastic Inc.
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

When a small chihuahua is adopted by the Chin family, he is determined to recruit them as his minions so that they can abet his mission to take over the world. Sadly, this is hard to do when you come home from the shelter with the name "Chuckles" and are caged at night. Hamster Steve, canary Neo, and beetle BeBe are willing to make friends despite the dog's surly attitude, and warn him that the yard isn't fully theirs; there is an evil squirrel named Masher who has claimed it as his own and enforces his rights with his squirrel henchmen. This doesn't stop our budding evil overlord, who is a little concerned about trash cans and other scary things. With the help of Russian wolfhoud Zar, the group attempts to overthrow Masher, but it turns out that Zar is afraid of the rats that also help Masher. Lucy Chin is a good owner, and names the dog "Ember", since even something small can start a spark. When Lucy is threatened by a neighborhood bully, Ember comes to her rescue even though he is afraid, and his boldness inspires Lucy to stand up to him. The two are good allies who encourage each other to face their fears, which may be necessary when Lucy's grandmother, PohPoh, visits with her dog, Fluffy, in The Poodle of Doom: A Branches Book (Pets Rule #2) (October 4th 2022 by Scholastic Inc.)

Strengths: I adore beginning chapter books, and at 96 pages, this is a fantastic length. It has a good balance of text and pictures, moves quickly, and is really funny. The expressions on Ember's face... oh, my! Loved the family, loved that Ember was a shelter dog, and adored the illustrations. 
Weaknesses: The squirrel looked much larger than I have ever seen a squirrel be. 
What I really think: This was so clever and... evil. Like, I want to have grandchildren just so we can read this book together. I may actually have to buy a copy for myself, but ... oh, what the heck. I think some of my struggling readers at school  would like this one as well. 

Houran, Lori Haskins and Joven, John (illus.). The Bark Park
July 1st 2022 by Kane Press 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

In this beginning reader, Lila takes her dog, Coco, to the dog park. On the way, she passes Mr. Romero and his dog, Lady, but Mr. Romero doesn't want to go to t he park because he is turning 80 and there are no benches in the park for when he gets tired. Lila meets Nolan and Sophie, whose mother is on the park committee, and the children decide to ask for a bench. Sadly, benches cost $100 (when they are half off), and the committee doesn't have the m oney. The children decide to raise it by having a dog wash business. They charge $5 per dog, makes a chart documenting their progress towards their goal, and manage to raise the money and have it in place for Mr. Romero's birthday.
Strengths: This is a fun, math oriented book that is part of the Math Matters series. The plot is simple, easy to follow, and quite sweet. I loved the neighborhood feel, and how the children are motivated to help out Mr. Romero. The math is woven in nicely. The illustrations are very fun, and have a bit of a 1960s vibe to them, which I always enjoy. 
Weaknesses: It's a bit of a stretch that the children raised the money for the bench on Saturday and had it in place on Monday, but young readers won't know that it would be another $100 just for shipping, and the bench would have to be ordered and come from hundreds of miles away. (I recently was involved in bench negotiations, and the whole process will have taken about three years!)
What I really think: If these had been around when my children were young, I would have asked for these for gifts. I suppose $7 isn't bad for a paperback, but I got all of their books at the thrift store for a quarter. Thirty years ago! These would be perfect to give to elementary teachers as well. 

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