Friday, April 14, 2023

Guys Going to the Dogs

Watson, Tom. Stick Dog Full Color Edition
February 28, 2023 by HarperCollins 
Library copy

I always tell myself that I will wait for the prebind versions of Watson titles, but I can never wait, so I generally buy the paper over board copy and then a prebind! This is a good plan, because these are popular titles in my library. Apparently, I was not as amused by Stick Dog when I first read it as I have been since, but upon rereading this, I recommended it to my principal. Why? I think there are things for administrators to learn from Stick Dog's management style. 

Stick Dog and his friends are currently living in a big pipe between the city and the forest, and are constantly on the lookout for food. They have obsessed on hamburgers cooking in the park, and try to make a plan to steal them. The dogs are easily distracted, and just getting to the cookout takes some effort; one of the dogs decides he must take care of an obnoxious squirrel right then and there, grinding the group to a halt. Stick Dog's thought is "Is this really the time to address the squirrel issue?", and gets them to move along. Once they survey the situation, each dog comes up with crazy ideas to distract the humans and steal the hamburgers. Stick Dog very diplomatically redirects their efforts with professions like "Let's make that plan B!" and protestations like "That's a great idea, but I'm not sure I would do a good job with my part." At one point, Karen goes missing (she's a dachsund, so struggles with long grass), but shows up eating crumbs out of a potato chip bag. I love the dog's detailed description of barbecue potato chips! Will our intrepid friends be able to fill their bellies with delicious hamburgers?
: There are so many quotable lines that I sort of want to spend my day making posters out of Stick Dog's inspirational quotes, but none of my copies are in for me to consult. I was reading this while proctoring testing (Read a page, scan the room, finish a chapter, walk around the room-- I was still very vigilant!) and almost laughed aloud several times. These books do get more and more clever as the series progresses, so don't just read one. They are an excellent choice for everyone from preschoolers being read aloud to up through 8th graders who need a brain break. This anniversary, full color edition has some dubious recipes at the back as well. 
Weaknesses: The beginning is a bit slow; it's a student talking about creating Stick Dog. This is not really used in the titles that follow. 
What I really think: I think there should be a line of Stick Dog home decor and children's clothing. Or a television show. I would totally support that. Molding young minds into Stick Dog fans. 

Hoyle, McCall. Just Gus
April 4, 2023 by Shadow Mountain Publishing
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Cloe and her mother Esperanza brought Stella to their farm, where they rehabilitate dogs after the dog was traumatized and lost her owner. They also have Gus working on the farm, herding sheep, after he was abused and left tied up outside by an uncaring owner. The book is told from Gus' point of view. Cloe's cousin, Diego, and his father are spending some time on the farm before going back to the house along the beach. Diego suffers from significant social anxiety, and is planning on returning to in person schooling. He sees a therapist via computer, but still is very anxious. After Gus suffers a bad leg injury after a harrowing bear attack and can no longer run around the farm taking care of the sheep, Diego is the only person who can get Gus to calm down and do what he says. He finds that spending time with Gus calms him down, and since Gus needs to always be working, caring for Diego is something that he can do while recuperating. When it's time for Diego and his father to return to the beach, they decide to take him with them after Gus clearly doesn't want to be separated from his boy. Unfortunately, there are neighbors who object to Gus' barking, and report to the property owner that the dog is over the fifty pound limit. At one point, one man taunts Gus and pretends to be bitten, and has animal control take Gus away. Will Diego be able to find a way to keep the animal who clearly loves him, and who gives him emotional support?
Strengths: I like the depiction of working dogs; Stella was an epilepsy alert dog. There are lots of good details about training dogs, as well as caring for them when they have injuries. The depcition of Deigo's mental health challenges gives the reader just enough information to understand his difficulties without slowing down the story. There are not enough cousins in middle grade literature. The information about emotional support dogs, and the way in which the neighbor is eventually convinced that they are helpful, was handled well. 
Weaknesses: The Vivienne To cover is great, but there is something about it that made me think it was a fantasy book and Gus was a guardian angel dog. 
What I really think: Dog books have been increasingly popular in my library, and since this is a short, fast paced book that also addresses some health issues and has a great cover, I will probably buy it. Stella has circulated frequently. 

Velasquez, Crystal, Robertshaw, Danny and Danta, Ron. 
Finn and the Feline Frenemy (Life in the Doghouse #4)
February 7, 2023 by Aladdin
Copy provided by Young Adult Books Central

The Figuerosa family has some big changes coming, since nine-year-old Alyssa's mother is pregnant. She has to give up her playroom for the much anticipated Brennan, and her father is even painting a mural for him. They have also adopted a dog from Danny and Ron, who run a shelter for animals in need. Finn has recently been abandoned, and his leg had been so badly broken that it had to be amputated. Alyssa is very patient with Finn, and careful to make sure he slowly learns to get around with one less limb. She also introduces Finn to Rusty, the family cat who also has three legs. Finn has been raised with cats, so is eager to make friends, but Rusty is used to having the house and family all to himself. It doesn't help that Finn accidentally spills Rusty's food all over the kitchen and also gets Rusty wet. Finn feels horrible, and really wants to learn from Rusty, who can even climb up the cat tree. Finn learns to swim, which helps him gain strength, and really wants to reach an agreement with Rusty before baby Brennan arrives so that Alyssa has less to worry about. Will the two be able to get along?

This series (including Elmer and the Talent Show, Moose and the Smelly Sneakers, and Millie, Daisy, and the Scary Storm) is based on real life dogs that Robertshaw and Danta have had come through their shelter. I always enjoy reading the real story of the pets at the end of the book, and think it's great that these books might raise awareness of rescue dogs, as well as dogs with special needs. 

Laura Catrinella's black and white illustrations are delightful, and it's interesting to see how Finn manages to get up the stairs and navigate his world with three legs. The font was a particularly pleasant one, and the size and spacing makes this very comfortable for younger elementary school aged readers. I'm not sure how many young people watch the movie (which is available on FreeVee), but the books certainly stand on their own quite well. 

Pets have an undeniable appeal for young readers, and there are plenty of books that deal with various aspects of pet ownership. Young dog lovers who want to know a little bit about cats will find Finn's adventures with Rusty ultimately satisfying, but might also want both a dog AND a cat after reading this sweet story. Hand this one to readers of Miles' Puppy Place books, Cameron's A Puupy Tale series, Faruqi's Must Love PetsTan's Pets Rule or the amusing Wedgie and Gizmo by Selfors.

Ms. Yingling

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