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

Thanksgiving Book Review: Playing Football

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This is a story about a boy who eagerly anticipates the Thanksgiving feast and the annual turkey bowl. The ‘turkey bowl’ is a rough-and-tumble game of football played by a motley collection of family and friends.

After everyone has had their fill of turkey and treats, the turkey bowl begins – in a nearby open field, in the winter wind and snow:

All afternoon Ethan, Alex, and all the kids from the block dove for passes and lunged for tackles. Finally, on the last play of the Turkey Bowl, Alex dropped back for a pass and threw a bomb. Ethan raced down the sidelines. Deep in the end zone, he soared high above a defender…”Touchdown! Touchdown!

This is a wonderful portrayal of the many ways that people spend time with family and friends over the holiday.

Turkey Bowl, written by Phil Bildner and illustrated by C. F. Payne

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 holiday 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.

Thanksgiving Book Review: Food and Community

The Thanksgiving holiday has a fascinating history.  There are many reasons and historic events behind the holiday, some good and some bad, but most people think of it in terms of two things: family and food.

Bear Says Thanks, is the perfect representation of Thanksgiving as a family-and-food holiday. It’s similar to the old ‘stone soup’ fable, where everyone brings a little something and the feast they share as a community fills both bellies and hearts.

In this story, Bear is sad because he doesn’t have any food and he wants his friends to come over for the holiday, but he can’t host a gathering without food. His friends come over anyway, each bringing something to share. Bear’s den provides the gathering space and the warm fire. A wonderful time is had by all.

It’s a simple and lovely story with beautiful illustrations that very young children will enjoy hearing over the holiday weekend.

A quote can be read HERE.

Bear Says Thanks, written by Karma Wilson and Illustrated by Jane Chapman

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 Holiday 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.

Giggle Book Award: Ninja Bunnies Need Friends

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The Giggle Book Award goes to Ninja Bunny by Jennifer Grey Olson!

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This is the story about a young bunny who gets a copy of How To Be A Super Awesome Ninja and proceeds to follow the first 10 rules. The results are mixed but most of them result in rather funny failures.

Finally, the little bunny finds himself facing a truly dangerous situation in the form of a large angry bear – with nothing but his book and a broom. It looks bad until all of his bunny friends show up and help him scare off the bear.

This moment of teamwork based success inspires the bunny to toss away his book and rewrite the rule list:

Ninja Bunny’s Rule #1: A super Awesome ninja needs super awesome friends.

Snowballs and Friendship

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Insane or not, Rudy was always destined to be Liesel’s best friend. A snowball in the face is surely the perfect beginning to a lasting friendship.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Note: This book is narrated by Death. The plot occurs during WWII. It is a very good book, with both humorous and serious aspects.

No Longer a Stranger

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It was the third time he had spoken to her, and Chee had a theory about third meetings between people. The third time you were no longer strangers.

People of Darkness (Navajo Mysteries Book 4) by Tony Hillerman

Scary Dinosaur Smiles

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Diplodocus and Stegosaurus and Iguanodon stared at their friend.

“Maybe next Halloween…” said Diplodocus.

“Instead of wearing a VERY BIG FROWN…” said Stegosaurus.

“You should wear that VERY BIG SMILE!” said Iguanodon.

“Now that would be scary!” The three friends said.

T. Rex said he would think about it.

T. Rex Trick-or-Treats, written by Lois G. Grambling and illustrated by Jack E. Davis

They Need Me There

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“Can’t you come and stay with me?” said Danny. “We could have fun.”

“No ,” said the dinosaur. “I’ve had a good time – the best I’ve had in a hundred million years. But now I must get back to the museum. They need me there.”

“Oh,” said Danny. “Well, goodbye.”

Danny watched until the long tail was out of sight. Then he went home alone.

Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff

A few links about dinosaurs: