Bad Dog, by Mike Boldt (2019)

Picture Book | 3-6

Bad Dog, by Mike Boldt (2019)

Rocky is a bad dog. He won’t come when called, he won’t sit or fetch. He scratches the furniture, is terrified of other dogs, won’t go for a walk, and generally disappoints his eager owner. She was SO excited to get a dog for her birthday! Children will instantly recognize the problem – Rocky is a cat, and will chortle at the young narrator’s struggles to train her “dog,” until finally she figures out a way to resolve the issue. The colourful and simple illustrations highlight the duality between reality and the unnamed protagonist’s desire, and add to the hilarity of the simple text. This is an excellent choice as a read-aloud for storytime or for lapsharing. Canadian Boldt is both author and illustrator, using digitally created images that emotionally develop the characters of both girl and cat to hilarious success. This simple premise is a top notch success – a joy for youngsters who will quickly get the joke. My thanks to the Grand Forks & District Public Library for including this title in its children’s picture book collection.
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Dead Voices, by Katherine Arden (2019)

Mystery | 10-15

Dead Voices (Small Spaces #2), by Katherine Arden (2019)

This is Arden’s second book featuring her trio of young adventurers – Ollie, Coco, and Brian. It’s also quite a bit scarier, in my opinion, than the first one. I shivered with the creepiness! First, let me open by saying that while you don’t have to have read Small Spaces first, I’d recommend it. There are several references to it throughout the book, and I’m happy to report that all three young protagonists admit to being significantly affected by what happened to them in the first book. So read it first if at all possible. It’s now Christmas, about two months after the scarecrow incident, and the three kids are in the back seat on their way, with Ollie’s dad and Coco’s mum, to a ski resort called Mount Hemlock (not the one near Agassiz, lol!). A brutal storm is raging and just before arriving, Coco sees a ski-jacketed figure in the road who appears to be warning them away. No one else sees him, and despite the scare, they continue on.

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Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden (2018)

Mystery | 8-13

Small Spaces, by Katherine Arden (2018) - Small Spaces series, #1

Ghost stories were my staple as a girl – I read all those anthologies from Alfred Hitchcock, plus Lois Duncan, John Bellairs, Richard Peck, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. (Until I was 14, when the unforgettable Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot scared me straight.) Modern kids are enjoying stories by Holly Black, Mary Downing Hahn and Neil Gaiman, and I’m delighted to offer Katherine Arden as a terrific new voice in kids’ scary fiction. This is her first novel for children, and it hits all the targets – authentic voice, prickly but sympathetic protagonist witha strong moral compass and two reliable and smart pals, generally unhelpful adults, and a spooky plotline involving a bunch of really creepy scarecrows.

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Harvey Comes Home, by Colleen Nelson (2019)

Contemporary Fiction | 9-13

Harvey Comes Home, by Colleen Nelson with illustrations by Tara Anderson (2019)

Here’s a terrific children’s book that is a tale within a tale, offering multiple perspectives when a beloved little West Highland Terrier escapes his yard and brings an unlikely duo together. Harvey escapes when his dogsitter leaves the gate unlatched. After a couple of adventurous days on his own, the bedraggled Westie is discovered by 11-year-old Austin, who is “volunteering” (the result of an ill-advised caper involving fireworks at school) with his Grandpa at a retirement home. Austin falls hard for Harvey, and is trying to find a way to keep the little scamp, despite his mother’s insistence otherwise. Meanwhile, Harvey’s real owner Maggie is devastated when she finds out her dog is missing, and does everything she can to find him.

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The Ghost Collector, by Allison Mills (2019)

Fiction | 9-13

The Ghost Collector, by Allison Mills (2019)

Got a ghost? Shelly and her grandmother are ready to help. Like all women in their family, they have the ability to see spirits and catch them. In their hair. Once caught, the ghosts can be set free and sent on their way, to wherever it is they are supposed to be. Shelly’s mum has it too, but she prefers to spend her time with the living. The three live in a happy home, and Shelly is delighted whenever her grandmother lets her accompany her on a ghost job. Sometimes the ghosts are in a house, sometimes they are animals, and sometimes they are quite happy to stick around. Grandmother says you can’t push them till they are ready to go, but often a cup of warm milk does the trick. When a tragedy befalls the family, Shelly finds herself drawing inward, choosing the company of ghosts over the real world.

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Summer, by Wenxuan Cao, illustrated by Rong Yu (2015, 2019)

Picture Book | 3-7

When a hot summer day on in the grasslands leaves a group of animals squabbling over the only spindly tree, it takes the simple scene of a father and son walking to give them a good solution – have each animal create shade for the next smaller one. Sure, the elephant ends up in full sun, but that’s exactly where he started anyway! This is a sweet story with big bold illustrations that will appeal to young readers, who will want to linger on the pages and study how each animal reacts to the changing storyline.

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Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School (#1), by Julie Falatko, illus. by Colin Jack (2018)

Humourous Fiction

Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School, by Julie Falatko, illustrated by Colin Jack (2018)

Sometimes a title just grabs you and says Read Me. This is one of those titles. It’s the first of two reviews I’m doing this week, both of them books for children. There are three books in the “Two Dogs in a Trench Coat” series; this is the first. Sassy and Waldo are two dogs whose lives are devoted to eating food, protecting the household from the evil squirrels, and napping in the sun. Until they realize Stewart, the boy in their house, needs saving from a place called School, a place he goes every day and returns dejected and bored. Thanks to Waldo’s surprising ability to speak English, the two dogs finagle their way into the classroom, where they learn just how exciting school is, and help Stewart make a friend along the way.

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