New reviews: Man’s best friend in books!

Man’s best friend makes a brilliant addition to the cast of many children’s books!  I realised that a whole host of stories I’ve read recently feature a dog either as a companion or as a central part of the plot. Dogs are a big part of many children’s lives and can have a unique connection with their owners.  These books may be very different in style but they all share in celebrating man’s best friend!

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Don’t Hug the Pug by Robin Jacobs illustrated by Matthew Hodson

Baby Likes to cuddle.  He is allowed to hug the rug, the jug, the bug and the slug….but NOT the pug! Why not? What could be wrong with the pug?

A simple, rhyming narrative combines with larger-than-life, quirky illustrations to celebrate the natural curiosity of babies and their desire to play with things they shouldn’t! A great book to read aloud, children will love joining in with ‘Don’t hug the pug!’ and be highly amused by the rather smelly outcome!  Grown-ups will recognise the persistence of the little chap as he tries to hug the pug and is told no over and over – without success.  Pugs do have a reputation for being a bit smelly but perhaps on this occasion it’s a little undeserved! Great fun.

With thanks to Cicada Books for sending me this book to review. 

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My Dog Mouse by Eva Lindstrӧm

“Can I take Mouse for a walk?” I ask, and I’m always allowed.  We set off, very slowly. Mouse walks at a snails pace. He stops at a lampposts and fences and sniffs for a long time.  He’s old and fat with ears as thin as pancakes.  His walk is a kind of waddle and he’s always pleased to see me. 

This is such a lovely, gentle story about an old dog called Mouse and a young girl who loves to take him for a walk.  She might not own Mouse but as the story progresses you can see just how much she loves him, even if he is slow and fat and old.  And he loves her too.

Beautifully paced with charming illustrations, and leaving you with a warm heart, My Dog Mouse is perfect for anyone who has ever owned and loved a dog into old age.

With thanks to Gecko Press for sending me this book to review.

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McTavish Takes the Biscuit by Meg Rosof

When Pa Peachey decides to enter the town bake-off competition, his grand plans turn out to be far more impressive than his baking skills.  As Pa’s ambitions start to crumble, rescues dog McTavish smells disaster in the making. Can he find a way to save the Peachey family from disaster yet again?

The third outing for McTavish and the Peachey family, this is a delightful tale full of trademark humour and heart as Pa Peachey attempts to bake. I love his grand plans and even though you can feel his family’s concern – and possible embarrassment – you have to admire his ambition as he tries to bake his way to glory!  Family life is brilliantly brought to life with the Peachey children Betty, Ollie and Ava watching in dismay as their father creates chaos determined to win the bake off by creating a gingerbread sculpture of the Palace of Versailles! It is, of course, up to the wonderful McTavish to save the day and be the hero yet again.  A great fun read for all the family to enjoy!

With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me this book to review. See my review of the previous book in this series McTavish Goes Wild.

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D-Day Dog by Tom Palmer

Jack can’t wait for the school trip to the D-Day landing beaches. It’s his chance to learn more about the war heroes he has always admired – brave men like his Dad, who is a Reserve soldier.  But when his dad is called up to action and things at home spiral out of control, everything Jack believes about war is thrown into question.  Finding comfort only in the presence of his loyal dog, Finn, Jack is drawn to the heart-wrenching story of one particular D-Day paratrooper.  On 6 June 1944, Emile Corteil parachuted into France with his dig, Glen – and Jack is determined to discover their fate…..

Bringing together multiple themes of conflict, remembrance, family, friendship and refugees, D-Day Dog is a totally absorbing and thought-provoking story.  It brilliantly depicts the complex nature of war and conflict, and what it really means to make the ultimate sacrifice of giving your life for your country.  Questions that we all at some point ask ourselves are examined through the impressive narrative – from whether it’s right that a father go to war and leave his family behind, using animals in conflict to why we should remember those who died in wartime. It’s particularly poignant when Jack realises that conflict isn’t just something that happened a long time ago – it happens now, every single day. His connection with his dog Finn becomes all the more important as he discovers what happened to wartime dog Glen. This is a really accessible read and the historical detail brings the true nature of war to life. Ultimately this story will help all who read it understand the impact of conflict and why remembrance is so important.

With thanks to Barrington Stoke for sending me this book to review. Read my review of Tom Palmer’s Armistice Runner here.

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The Dog Runner Bren MacDibble

Ella and her brother, Emery, are alone in a city that’s starving to death. If they are going to survive, they must get away, up-country, to find Emery’s mum. But how can two kids travel such big distances across a dry, barren landscape?

Set in a future where a fungus has killed all the grass and famine has taken hold, Ella’s mother and father have gone, leaving her with her older half-brother Emery and the family’s dogs.  Their only chance of survival is get to the country and the only way they can do this quickly enough is to use a dog-sled, and two other dogs given to them by a friend. The dystopian world they live in is fraught with danger – marauding motorbike gangs steal anything of use; Ella and Emery cannot trust anyone. As the story progress, Emery is injured and they lose their strongest dog making their situation even more precarious.  Ella has to use all her bravery and strength to keep her family safe.  A fast paced plot builds the tension and a strong sense of how awfully ‘real’ this could be if we don’t look after our environment can be felt throughout.  Ella makes a brilliant heroine and the dangers she, her brother and the dogs face are palpable. I loved the relationship between the children and their dogs and the instinctive way they protect each other. The Dog Runner is a non-stop adventure which will entertain as much as it will provoke thought about the importance of looking after our planet and how we should be doing this now – not waiting until it’s too late.

With thanks to Old Barn Books for sending me this book to review. Read my review of Bren MacDibble’s debut title How to Bee here.