Book Review: Ugly Rescue Dog is a Hero

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The first time I read this book to the children in my life, their reaction was a combination of fear and concern. I had to encourage them to read the story to the very end, so we could enjoy the happy ending.

The reason there was such a strong reaction is because the main character is Spike, a dog who is naturally so ugly he wins an ‘Ugliest Dog in the Universe Contest.’ Immediately after winning the contest, his owner ties Spike to the porch and moves away, leaving the dog behind. Not only does this awful man abandon the dog, he also gleeful shouts insults at the animal as he drives away.

Yeah, that guy is mean.

The neighbor boy starts caring for Spike and wants to adopt him. As it turns out, Spike is an extremely well-behaved dog, so the only objection the boy’s mother has is financial. They can’t afford a pet.

All of this is told, first person, by Spike. The pictures are lovely and there is nothing scary, violent or threatening about the images. The tension is created by the story itself. But the experience of being called names, forced out of a family or circle of friends and wanting to belong are easy for children to empathize with, and Spike is a genuinely nice and lovable dog who doesn’t deserve to be treated so badly. So, around this household, the reaction to the story was rather emotional during the first reading.

In the end, not only is he adopted by the neighbor boy, Spike also rescues the neighbor’s cat (a prize winning show cat) from a would-be kidnapper and is featured in the local newspaper as a hero dog, which is much better than being the ugly dog.

Spike is thrilled when people ask if Spike is the Ugliest Dog, and his new owners respond with:

“Actually, he’s the most beloved dog in the universe – and this is just the boy to take care of him.”

The happy ending is an excellent resolution and the story is equal parts sad, exciting and happy. After that first reading, this became a family favorite. It’s the kind of story kids like to hear because they know how it will end.

Spike, the Ugliest Dog in the Universe by Debra Frasier

Book Review: The Family That Forages Together Stays Together

When I picked up this book, I was looking for practical information on foraging for food in an urban environment.

I like to garden and (frankly) would prefer to live in the country on a little hobby farm, but I work in IT Security, so my job keeps me city-bound. Identifying and using wild plants is something I’ve had a long-standing interest in, but was never able to pursue, so I started poking around different blogs and forums, looking for information on plant-identification classes and nature hikes. That was when I stumbled across this book.

The family lives in a suburban environment. Midwestern cities tend to look very suburban, even in the inner city – this is not universal, of course, but as a general rule, we have a lot more green space than people in much more densely populated areas (particularly along the coasts). Therefore, this book describes a living situation that is very close to my own.

If you are living in the inner city (a truly urban environment) you will probably find this book equal parts interesting, entertaining and not-entirely-useful.

The book is filled with hands-on practical advice, but the facts are provided through the medium of the journey of discovery this family experienced during a year of living off of what they could forage. Every family member had been involved in learning these skills – and they clearly had a wonderful time playing outside together as they pursued this interest. So, the decision to attempt living off of their foraging for an entire year was a natural and logical progression of this pursuit.

Personally, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was fascinating and eye-opening from the perspective of what is possible, even within a suburban (or urban) environment. There are several points where they decide to collect apples, berries or rose hips off of public land (e.g.: the decorative bushes planted in the medium in the middle of a road or an apple tree in a public park) and find themselves asking – or being asked – if that was even allowed. Of course, the next question was always – who’s going to stop us? After all, there aren’t any official apple-protecting-police-officers assigned to the park.

There are also a lot of really good tips and commentary on raising a family. The beneficial aspects to simply setting a goal and pursuing it together, as a family and as a team, are beautifully illustrated by this book.

It’s an excellent read. I strongly recommend taking a look.

Quotes from this book can be found HERE.

Browsing Nature’s Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs by Wendy Brown and Eric Brown

Halloween Book Review: The Family That Plays Together

Ninja! Attack of the Clan by Arree Chung

The family that plays together, stays together! This family likes to play Ninja games and the book ends with a wonderful image of everyone in the family wearing home-made ninja costumes, complete with spatula weapons, while playing ‘ninja’. Everything that is good and fun about Halloween is summed up in that one image.

For more information about this and other books in the series, see the June 2017 Giggle Book Award.

All of the Halloween themed books, quotes and commentary posted to this blog can be found HERE.

Suggestions for Building Excitement Over The Holidays

Ordering Books: Whether you are building a family library or simply looking for a fun way to build-up to the Halloween celebration, having brand new books shipped to your home, in your child’s name, is a great way to do it. To a child, it is super exciting to receive a package in the mail, addressed to them! They may even want to read their brand-new book immediately AND before bed.

Library Holds: If you’d prefer to review the books before buying them, or need to maintain a tight budget, then use the local library. Go to the library website, locate the book and place it on hold. When the notification arrives, bring the child along and let them help find the books in the on-hold shelves.

Magic Labyrinth and Pizza

Last night I spent the evening at a board game cafe. A 6-year-old family member and I had a wonderful time playing board games and eating pizza.

On the way home I realized we’d devoted 2+ hours to old-fashioned gaming in a place that does not have televisions or computers. We spent the entire time surrounded by people who were also talking, interacting and playing board games. No one was working on a laptop or staring at a cell phone. I didn’t even bother to check my phone the entire time.

It was a much-needed change for both of us. This may turn into a regular activity!

As for the games…

We played a handful of different family friendly games, but the clear winner was this:

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It’s a rather ingenious game that uses a multi-layer board and magnetic game pieces to create an ever-changing labyrinth beneath the game board. The objective is to be the first to reach a pre-designated and randomly selected spot on the board. The challenge is in getting the game piece across the board without losing the metal ball magnetically attached to the bottom (located on the underside of the board) by knocking it up against a wall of the labyrinth. Every time the ball falls off, it rolls out to a corner (like in a pool game) and the piece goes back to the beginning.

I kept thinking that it was an awful lot like late 1980s video games. For those of you who have never played: back then, ‘dying’ or losing a level meant going back to level 1. Every. Single. Time. That’s actually a big part of the reason why I never became a (video) gamer.

Yet, the board game reset was fun. In fact, it was fun and challenging for both of us (child and adult), which is difficult to do!

I strongly recommend trying this one out.

I also suspect Santa just might bring a copy to our house this year. 🙂