This book just ate my dog!

  • Author/illustrator: Richard Byrne
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company                      Pub date: 2014
  • Intended for: Ages 3 to 6
  • Perfect for: Story time! Fans of inventive picture books.

This book ate coverThis book is an interactive treat! It uses one of the hardest parts of a book to design and illustrate around—the gutter—and turns it into the focal point.

We jump into the story with Bella walking her very large dog. But when readers turn the page, we see that the dog has disappeared half way into the gutter of the book. On the spread after that, the dog is completely gone!

This book ate interior 1

This book ate interior 2

This book ate interior 3After several attempts at getting help, from a little boy, a dog rescue vehicle, and the police, the same thing happens…they all try to help but get sucked into the gutter and disappear. The book has eaten them all!

This book ate interior 4Thank goodness assistance does arrive in the form of a letter, instructing the reader of the book to help Bella out by turning the book on its side and giving it a good shake. What fun!!

The little boy, the vehicles, and finally the dog all come falling out safe and sound—thanks to the reader.

This book ate interior 5I think this book will be a story time read aloud hit! Kids should have lots of audible responses to the characters disappearing right into the book. And they will love being an essential part of the book—being the ones who rescue the characters. You can’t ask for a better way to involve the reading audience than have them be the hero of the story!

What a fun, inventive book. The large text and oversized illustrations are engaging and make for a very kid-friendly read. Highly recommended.

Dojo Daycare

  • Author/illustrator: Chris Tougas
  • Publisher: Owl Kids                                   Pub date: 2014
  • Intended for: Ages 3 to 7
  • Perfect for: Fans of ninjas and ninja books.

Dojo Daycare coverThis book is so fun!

Ninjas have been a popular subject for picture books for the past couple of years but this one still feels fresh. The approach is unique in that the kids in the story don’t want to be ninjas…they are ninjas. Their parents are ninjas and therefore they are raised as ninjas as well.

And where do ninja parents bring their kids when they have to go to work? Dojo Daycare of course!

Dojo Daycare interior 1The story is told in rhyming text (that works almost all the time. A few of the stanzas are a bit off, but not so much that it ruins the book) with the Master of the daycare trying to keep the little ninjas in line. It is tough because, well, fighting is inherent in the behavior of the kids.

Dojo Daycare interior 2There’s a kerfluffle at lunchtime. At story time. And at playtime. The Master is at his wits end until one of the little ninjas notices his frustration and then all the kids work together to bring peace and order to the room.

Dojo Daycare interior 3

Dojo Daycare interior 4The artwork is hilarious, with lots to love. Every character in the book is in Ninja attire—even the teddy bear, fish, cat, dog, and pet mouse. Action pages are filled with details of kicking and chopping. Quieter pages are filled with remorseful-looking ninjas and an increasingly wearied Master. All in all, a truly enjoyable read with a new twist on the ninja theme.

Dojo Daycare interior 5I think young ninja fans (and soon-to-be ninja fans after they read this story) will enjoy this book. A great read aloud for daycares or any group.

All the Bright Places

  • Author: Jennifer Niven
  • Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers        
  • Pub date: Will be published 1/6/15
  • Intended for: Ages 14 +
  • Perfect for: Anyone looking for a well written emotional book.

Bright Places cover

First of all, big thanks goes out to my lovely sister-in-law for giving me this galley. Thank you for supplying me with such great reading material!!

I didn’t know what to expect with this book because I avoided reading the back cover copy on the galley. I decided to read the book because I really like the cover and I liked the title. It looks like a book I would like. And it is.

The story is told in two voices:

Violet—a popular sixteen-year-old girl who has recently lost her older sister to a car accident (in which Violet was a passenger, and came out of it unscathed) and feels lost with grief. She counts down the days until the end of school, when she can get out of there and not deal with people and learning and, well, life.

Finch—a sixteen-year-old “Freak” according to his classmates. He’s a unique soul who bounces between loving every minute of life and dealing with crippling depression. He counts the number of days he is “awake” after coming out of a bout of depression.

We begin the book with them both standing on the ledge of the bell tower at their school, contemplating suicide. Finch talks Violet down off the ledge, although reports of who saves who gets turned around by the high school masses and Violet is deemed a hero for saving Finch’s life. But Finch doesn’t seem to mind that—he’s just interested in this girl whose life he just saved and wants to get to know her.

The two get paired up for a class project that takes them on adventures throughout the state of Indiana.

Throughout the story, Finch teaches Violet how to open up and embrace living all the while dealing with the impending blackness he knows will envelope him again. He fights such a good fight by staying upbeat (at least on the outside) in the face of adversity, but the constant taunting by fellow classmates wears on him. And the fact that his dad left his family and started a brand new one doesn’t help either (nor does the fact that Finch’s dad is physically abusive to him). And to top it off, Finch’s mom and sisters just don’t “get” his depression. They push it aside as him being moody.

While Finch battles his inner demons, he is also falling in love with Violet (and she with him) and their building relationship is told beautifully and is thankfully never rushed. They learn to trust each other and their genuine affection for each other comes across so well on the page.

While Violet’s story is told well, it’s Finch’s voice that really stands out. There is such a sense of urgency in Finch’s words that you can’t help but be propelled forward into the story. You can feel his pain. You can feel the black cloud he is trying to break out from under. You can feel his highest highs and his lowest lows.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but I will say that it’s a very emotional read, but so compelling that I honestly could not stop reading this book.

Niven does a beautiful job giving a voice to those who are contemplating suicide. As she writes in her Author’s Note, the stigma of suicide and mental illness is terrible and those who think about suicide, as well as those left behind after a loved one has committed suicide, are often ostracized. This book helps give sufferers and survivors a voice and helps to enlighten readers on how someone with a mental illness may feel.

Highly recommended.