Monday, October 31, 2022

MMGM- Atlas of Dogs and Different

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 

Evans, Frances and Heaton, Kelsey (illus.) Atlas of Dogs
Published October 18th 2022 by Lonely Planet
Copy provided by the publisher

As much as I love dogs, I've never really thought about where the difference breeds originated! Poodles are my favorite, due to their small size and large intelligence, although my Shih Tzu Poodle mix Pongo has convinced me that there is something to be said for a breed raised to be lap dogs! Atlas of Dogs takes a deep dive not only into the place of origins of breeds, but into their personalities and histories, and was a fascinating look at many difference types of dogs of which I had never even heard!

Heaton's artwork really makes this shine, even though some readers might want photographs; young readers are far more likely to whip out a phone and look up pictures than I am, so I don't think the lack of photographs matters. The colors are absolutely gorgeous, and the illustrations allow the text to be arranged in very pleasing ways on the page, with background cleverly worked in. The maps of the continents are particularly nice, and beg to be hung on walls, but are two page spreads, so have a divide in the center. Lonley Planet should really make these into posters! 

After the maps of the continents, there are brief descriptions of a variety of dogs found there, each getting half of a page. The physical attributes particular to the breed are pointed out for each dog with arrows and labels. There are a lot of bits of additional information as well. Between descriptions, there are spreads on topics like Dogs with Jobs, Record-Breaking Dogs, and A Pup's Life. A glossary and index round out this well designed book. 

In addition to being a fun book for canine fans, I can see this being an interesting book to include in a science class covering genetics and animal adaptations. Since Shih Tzus like Pongo no longer have to make emperors happy, and even Golden Retrievers don't necessarily spend any time retrieving things, it's interesting to take a look at the history of how and why dogs were bred for different purposes. I can't think of another book that includes so much information about place and how the dogs' qualities were formed by their sites of origins. Add this to a diverse group of books about various aspects of dogs in the lives of humans that includes Albee's 2018 Dog Days of History, Horowitz's 2020 Our Dogs, Ourselves, Miles' 2013 Guide to Puppies, and Stall's 2005 The Good, the Bad, and the Furry.

Montañés, Monica, Gómez, Eva Sánchez(illus.), Schimel, Lawrence (trans.)
Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War
November 1, 2022 by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
Copy provided by the publisher

Based on the childhood experiences of Montañés' father and aunt during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), we see how the deportation of their father affected seven-year-old Socorro and nine-year-old Paco. The father is part of the Republican movement opposed to the Nationalists, led by Franco and often called the "Falangists". Paco is kept in the city with his mother, where he has to hide the fact that his father was sent away because of his political beliefs and there is a great scarcity of food. Socorro is sent to live in the country with relatives, but misses her mother and doesn't want to eat any of the food forced upon her. She is at first in a school where they know her family situation, but manages to transfer to one where they do not. Because his father has fled to France, Paco hopes to learn French in school, but is traumatized by having to state what his father does that he finds it difficult to learn the language. He instead lies and tells the teacher his father works for the railway. Socorro and her mother eventually join the mother back in the city, although they have to rent the house out to an English family and live in one room. When the father leaves France and settles in Venezuela as World War II is gaining momentum, he sends for his family, and they undertake a long journey by boat and plane to join him. While life in Venezuela is different, the children are glad to see their father after eight years, and slowly adjust to living in a new country. 
Strengths: This reminded me strongly of Levi's Just a Girl, in that it is from the point of view of very young children who don't necessarily understand the politics of why their lives have been upended. I learned quite a lot about what happened in Spain in the twentieth century, and have to admit that I was woefully ignorant about Franco's long reign; he ruled until 1975. I have a fair number of students who are interested in what is going on in Ukraine and stop by the library to read the newspaper; this book would be helpful in explaining to elementary school students some of the experiences that children in war torn country go through. The artwork is very beautiful and reminds me of some children's books from the time period and also of Bishop's 1952 Ten and Twenty
Weaknesses: I have a lot of readers interested in World War II, but they are more often concerned with events on the battle field or concentration camps. It's somewhat harder to get them interested in stories of civilians trying to continue with their everyday lives, although that's what I find most compelling. 
What I really think: Eerdman's first came to my attention with Tak's 2011 Soldier Bear and 2014 Mikis and the Donkey when I was on the Cybils realistic middle grade fiction panel. This book has a similar feel, and it was interesting to learn about the Spanish Civil war. It's fascinating that the author herself moved from Venezuela to Madrid, Spain, just the opposite of her grandfather's journey, and her perspective as a resident of both of the countries adds a lot of vivid details to the story. 


  1. The dog book sounds really fascinating, especially since it covers the dogs' origins. I'm always surprised by the many new mixed dog breeds names that crop up each year. Like the Horgi (Corgi and Husky) and Yorkipoo (Yorkie and Toy Poddle).

  2. The Atlas of Dogs will especially delight dog lovers -- like you, I raised four poodles over the years. Such smart dogs. This would also make a great gift book.
    I know nothing about Franco and the Spanish Civil War. Haven't seen any stories either. This sounds like an excellent read. Thank you for the recommendations!

  3. We watch the dog show every time it is on, so this book would be of interest. I never really thought about where and why different breeds happened. I don't know much about the Spanish Civil War, so that book would also be of interest to me. Thanks for your reviews. I can't figure out how you can read so many books.