Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘reviews of books for young people


We interrupt this blog … major announcement

A year ago I had been taking a path which, despite some twists and turns, felt comfortable. And then wham! New job…. New writing markets…. New career direction…. New volunteer duties…. In the course of a year, everything changed.

Even so, when the seventh anniversary of this blog rolled around in June, I thought I knew what lay ahead for Allison’s Book Bag. There’s power in words. For that reason, I’ve been picking out books to share with you in the midst of the chaos going on in our world. There’s also power in stories. For that reason, I’ve been moving towards posting more and more stories of my cats. I felt safe about my plans.

But that’s when our landlady called with a bombshell. She plans to sell her remaining rentals, including the one we’re in. We probably have about three months to find a new place.

What does that do for Allison’s Book Bag? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. With each new change that a person juggles, commitments get dropped to allow for new ones. At times one will relinquish those forever; sometimes just for a season.

At any rate, for now, I’m right back where I was last year this time: “Pulling back but not stepping down.” There are reprints I wanted to pull from Animal Ambassadors. Those I’ll add in due time. There are posts already awaiting publication. Those I’ll post in due time. There are Advanced Reader Copies to which I’ve committed myself to review. Those I’ll write in due time. Otherwise, for the immediate future, finding a house is a major priority.

As always, see you around on the blogosphere! And remember: We are meant to thrive in God.

Foxes, raccoons, and baby animals are the topics of the three picture books in my round-up this week. Two of the books are fun fiction selections. The other is a colorful smorgasbord of nature for young readers.

Argyle Fox by Marie Letourneau is an adorable tale of a fox who wants to play outside on a warm spring day but the wind keeps wreaking havoc with his activities. I love the upbeat narrative, which keeps me in anticipation. Fox diligently stacks and stacks cards, until he’s built the tallest tower in the world. The wind goes quiet and then–WHOOSH! Not to be deterred, Fox then creates a spider web, a pirate ship, a castle…. I also love the illustrations, which are engaging and filled with endearing details. The wind curves and swirls throughout the two-page spreads. There’s an otter in the river, cardinal near a tree stump, badger in the garden… Everything about Argyle Fox works. Fox is determined, then discouraged, but eventually he finds the perfect thing to play in the wind. Readers learn about problem solving and perseverance through an incredibly cute and engaging story. I can’t wait to read about Arygle Fox’s next adventure!

Audrey Penn’s first title in The Kissing Hand series placed in the NEA and the School Library Journal top 100 picture books for children. Chester Raccoon and the Almost Perfect Sleepover is the newest title. I love how every page shows sensitivity to the natural nervous anticipation of a first sleepover. At first, Chester Raccoon impatiently hops and skips on his way to Pepper Opossum’s home, and keeps asking his mom when they will get there. The very moment they arrive, however, he squeezes his mom’s hands. And when she leaves, he feels nervous. Although he’s soon racing around with his friends, when everyone curls up for a nap, Chester is unable to sleep. He misses home. I also appreciate the balance that Penn strikes between seriousness and humor. When Sassafras Skunk gets excited, he lets out a plum of purple gas he calls a “stinky puff.” Cute! Finally, the book is delightfully illustrated with big pictures and interesting scenes. The friends hang on branches, race over logs, skip stones across a pond, and roll in the dirt in laughter. I’ll be keeping watch for Penn’s other books!

Baby Animals by Dorothea DePrisco is a publication of Animal Planet. Every spread introduces a new topic and contains a lot of sidebars and infographics. I spent hours exploring the information. The pages are bright with bold text and big photos. They are a visual delight to explore. The adult in me wishes there was more structure. There is a table of contents and colorful tabs are the top of each spread guide readers through their Animal Bites adventures. However, the tabs get lost in all the colorful pages, and would have been more helpful if they stick-out ones. Or topics simply could have been grouped together instead of randomly mixed. This criticism aside, having been a school teacher, I know that young readers will be enamored with Baby Animals. I myself keep returning to it to read about such oddities as jacanas and planthoppers. There are also familiar creatures featured such as ferrets and bears. Check out supplemental educational cards at Animal Planet Animal Bites Fun Fact Cards.

Animal books have always been a favorite of mine. Imagine my delight to have this passion recognized with requests for animal-themed Advanced Reader Copies. Stay tuned for more in the months ahead!


With almost 80 million households in the United States owning a pet as of 2015, it should come as no surprise that our calendar year is filled with holidays celebrating our animal companions. These holidays might be a little too obscure to grant anyone a day off from work, but they still might give ideas about how to have fun with or honor pets. Last year to help Lincoln Animal Ambassadors visitors keep track of those very special dates, I began posting information about them. Here are links to all of the events you might have missed in May.

National Specially-abled Pets Day: Celebrated annually on May 3rd, National Specially-abled Pets Day is a time for pet owners and animal lovers to celebrate to celebrate three-legged dogs, blind cats, and paralyzed guinea pigs. Because it can be difficult for shelters to find homes for pets with special needs, the day is also designed to encourage adoption of disabled animals. Says the founder of this national and internationally recognized day, Colleen Paige, “These pets are very able! Pets that become challenged due to disease, birth flaws, or injuries, tend to develop greater senses than your average pet. Most of the time it’s as if they never had to readjust to life…and we need to keep up with them!”

Ten Tips for Animal Disaster Preparedness: Every second Saturday in May is dedicated to educating pet owners about disaster preparedness for pets. Emergencies can come in all forms, from an unexpected brief absence to a long-term mandatory evacuation. Check out the above link for tips on how to be ready for any emergency.

National Turtle Day: National Turtle Day is not an occasion for dressing up like one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles–although you certainly can if you want to. Instead, it’s a day meant to bring awareness to the struggles of real turtles. Because while the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles could hold their own in a fight, real turtles need our help. Started by the American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) in 2000, World Turtle Day (which falls on May 23 this year) celebrates the world’s longest-living reptiles while calling attention to their declining numbers due to numerous threats.

National Heat Awareness Day: According to the The National Weather Service, heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States, resulting in hundreds of human fatalities each year and even more heat-related illnesses. Heat also kills pets, especially those kept outdoors during the summer and those left locked inside hot cars. What can pet owners do to avoid their pets being included in this statistic?

Missing from my roundup are: Adopt a Shelter Cat Month, Be Kind to Animals Week, and Dog Prevention Week.

To read more, check out Pet Calendar Dates. There you’ll find details not only about the above, but about pet-related dates that fall throughout the rest of the year.

A friend of mine and I like to collect cat books. What follows is a review of three books from her collection and one from mine. Two of the books are about homeless cats, a topic dear to my heart. The other two books are simply fun reads.

Little Bo is the first of quartet about Bonnie Boadicea, a spunky and curious little kitten, and co-written by Julie Andrews and her daughter. Little Bo is the youngest of six kittens born to champion Persian but abandoned ten days before Christmas. The Persian’s owner asks her butler to sell the kittens. When that proves difficult, he decides to throw them in a lake, and the kittens escape before that dastardly deed can be performed. I love the full-page paintings which open each chapter, and the charming spot illustrations of the kittens. Just as much I enjoy the story of sweet Bo, who seems to be the only survivor of her siblings. The structured side of me would have preferred Andrews to jump straight into Bo’s story OR to have followed the adventures of her siblings too. That little nitpicking aside, the story is a throw back to days of children’s literary anthologies. It’s full of strong-will characters, unique settings, and adventure. I’m delighted to know there are four books about Little Bo!

Trapped is the third in a trilogy, all written in 2008, about Pete the Cat. Pete is a highly unusual cat that likes to help his owner Alex solve mysteries. In this volume, Pete helps Alex track down the man responsible for illegal trapping. As in every good crime story, Pete ends up putting his life in danger to find evidence. Pete also likes to help author, Peg Kehret, tell his story. The viewpoint switches between Pete the Cat and his owner Alex. As a fan of Peg Kehret, I have read many of her books. One thing I dislike about her fiction is the villains are always one-dimensional. Case in point, in Trapped, the bad guy not only traps illegally, but he also is slovenly in appearance, drives reckless, and isn’t above threatening violence to animals and people. Sure, these people exist, but sometimes people who hurt animals are nice in every other way. Despite my wishing the Kehret would create more complex villains, I enjoy her main characters and the obvious passion of Kehret for animals. Kehret is a long-time volunteer at The Humane Society and often uses animals in her stories.

Animal rescue is hot right now. Ellen Miles ought to know. She made a name for herself with the Puppy Place and Kitty Corner series. In both series, a family fosters a homeless animal and helps find it a forever home. Along the way, readers learn lots of tips about the behavior of dogs and cats. They also realize the plight of shelter animals and maybe even find themselves wanting to give a home to an animal in need. Domino is a title in the Kitty Corner series. Siblings Michael and Mia would like to have a cat of their own, but for now they foster. And their latest foster is a kitten found on a ski slope. The less than 100-page chapter book switches viewpoints between the siblings and Domino, and makes for light-reading. Although the books are formulaic, they’re also cute and true to a kids’ world, and could turn reluctant readers into avid ones.

The Cat Who Came in off the Roof is by Annie Schmidt. It’s my favorite of the four chapter books, because the main character is a shy reporter. Tibbles is so timid that he spends his time reporting about cats and nature, instead of about people. He’s at risk of losing his job, when he meets a lady who can talk to cats because was once had been one. She tells him all the gossip around town, including some secret news, and he writes it all up for the paper. Suddenly he is a star. And she has a home. Except nothing can ever stay perfect. There is a bad guy, a quirky neighbor, a pregnant cat, and…. Next thing you know Tibbles has not only lost his job but also been evicted. To find out how things are all righted, read The Cat Who Came in off the Roof by Annie Schmidt, who is considered the Queen of Dutch Literature. She’s won several awards, including the Hans Christian Anderson, and is included in the canon of Dutch history taught to all school children.

This review is dedicated to Marlo, who regularly surprises me with packages full of all things cat. There might be a toy, a movie, or a book. If you want to read more about her story, follow this link: Bonded Together by CKD.

In December 2013, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old tortoiseshell from Hearts United for Animals. Cinder has taught us so much about cats that it seemed proper for her to have her own advice column.

QUESTION: How can one bond with a new cat?

Zoom! Zoom! That’s me racing from one part of the library to another. The library is the room where my pet parents restricted me during my first week with them. My owner was laughing as she chased me. When I ducked under a computer desk, she dropped to her knees and crawled after me. Next, I hid under a printer stand. Ha! She was too big to follow me. My owner tilted her head one way and then the other, calling my name and acting as if she didn’t know where I was. I peeked out at her, in case she really didn’t know where I was. Then I dashed past her again, ready for another game of chase.

Purr! Purr! On one of her visits to see me, my owner brought me a white furry mouse. She put it in front of me. Was it real? I gave it a sniff. Ah, it’s just a toy. I batted it with my paws. Then I rolled over on my back. The toy still in my paws, I pulled it to my face and then wrestled with it. The toy fell. I bounded to my feet and batted it again. My owner threw the mouse across the room and I raced after it. I flicked it away and then chased it down, over and over, until I grew tired. My owner embraced me in a hug, and I let her, briefly. Then I squirmed away. I needed space. Then I rubbed my nose to hers to thank her. What a wonderful world I have!

You might think that cats don’t bond with their owners, but we really do, and here are ways you can encourage your cat to bond with you:

  • Share your scent: Smells define a cat’s life! It shouldn’t surprise you that we want to know your unique scent.
  • Get down on our level: The lower you are, the more comfortable cats will feel with you. If you sit quietly and allow us to approach you when we choose, we’ll appreciate this action.
  • Spend time with us: One of my sisters likes to go for stroller rides with our owners. I don’t. My other sister likes to lay on their laps. I don’t. But I do like to wrestle my owners. We’re all different in the type of attention we want, but we also all want it.
  • Play with us: Each time my owners spend time with me in the library, they bring food or they come to play. The food lets me know they care for me; the toys let me know life with them will be fun.
  • Pet us: Even if I don’t like being hugged, I do like being stroked. Also, petting is the best way to get cats used to grooming, which is one of our most social behaviors.
  • Let us hear you: There are many ways to communicate with us. Say hello. Meow when we do. Sing to us. Just talk—about anything and everything. We like to hear your voice!
  • Watch us: Even though my sisters and I have our unique mannerisms, we also have a lot in common. Take time to watch us and soon everyone will think you’re a cat whisperer. 😉
  • Let us sleep with you: Cats enjoy love the warmth of our owners. We also love beds—whether our own, the dog’s, or yours!

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.


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Summer Reviews

Books can take connect us with strangers, take us to unique places, and introduce us to new ideas. They can also offer hope in a chaotic world. And so I must share what I read!

Each week, I’ll introduce you to religious books, Advanced Reader Copies, animal books, or diversity books. Some I’ll review as singles and others as part of round-ups. Just ahead, there will be reviews of:

  • Joni: The unforgettable story of a young woman’s struggle against quadriplegia & depression by Joni Eareckson
  • The True Story of the World’s Most Beloved Animal Sanctuary by Samantha Glen
  • Brothers in hope : the story of the Lost Boys of Sudan–refugees by Mary Williams
  • The Inner Life of Cats by Thomas McNamee



Cat Writers’ Association
Artists Helping Animals

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