Review: The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin


Title: The Trouble with Chickens

Author: Doreen Cronin

Illustrator: Kevin Cornell

Publisher: Balzer & Bray

ISBN: 978-0061215322


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

J.J. Tully is a former search-and rescue dog who is trying to enjoy his retirement after years of performing daring missions saving lives. So he’s not terribly impressed when two chicks named Dirt and Sugar (who look like popcorn on legs) and their chicken mom show up demanding his help to track down their missing siblings. Driven by the promise of a cheeseburger, J.J. begins to track down clues. Is Vince the Funnel hiding something? Are there dark forces at work—or is J.J. not smelling the evidence that’s right in front of him?

Bestselling author Doreen Cronin uses her deadpan humor to pitch-perfect effect in her first novel for young readers. Heavily illustrated with black-and-white artwork from Kevin Cornell, this new series is destined to become a classic.


I originally read a digital galley of this back in October.  I loved the book, but decided to wait for a finished copy before I wrote up my thoughts on it.  The title was released at the beginning of the month, so I ordered my very own copy from Amazon.  This is such a fun book, and I enjoyed revisiting the story.  Doreen Cronin’s prose kept me engaged for the entire length of the re-read.

J. J. Tully is a retired search and rescue dog.  He’s been there, and he’s seen it all.  When a chicken disturbs his quiet life in the country, he just can’t say no to the distraught mama hen.  Well, the promised cheeseburger seals the deal, and Tully is on the hunt for Moosh’s missing chicks, Poppy and Sweetie.

I love Tully, and I am happy to see that more adventures are planned for him.  He is rough around the edges and tells it like it is, kind of like a canine Sam Spade.  He knows that life isn’t all candy and roses, and he knows that not all missions are of the rescue kind. Some are much more unpleasant.  He is hoping for a joyful reunion between Mooch and her chicks, but as he searches, he discovers that she, and her two other chicks, Sugar and Dirt, aren’t being completely upfront with him.  Dealing with the frantic mama hen, her too smart for their good chicks, and the devious inside dog, Vince, with equal aplomb, Tully  puts aside his personal feelings to ensure that the quest for Moosh’s missing chicks has a happy ending.

The illustrations sprinkled throughout the book are charming and fit the tone of the narrative perfectly.  The Trouble with Chickens is for the younger set, Grades 2 – 4, but there is so much to love for older readers, too. 

Grade: A-

Review: Mercy Watson to the Rescue by Kate DiCamillo


Title: Mercy Watson to the Rescue

Author: Kate DiCamillo

Illustrator: Chris Van Dusen

Publisher: Candlewick

ISBN: 978-0763645045


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

To Mr. & Mrs. Watson, Mercy is not just a pig–she’s a porcine wonder. And to the portly and good-natured Mercy, the Watson’s are an excellent source of buttered toast, no to mention that buttery-toast feeling she gets when she snuggles in to bed with them. This is not, however so good for the Watsons’ bed. BOOM! CRACK! Welcome to the wry and endearing world of Mercy Watson.


Mercy Watson to the Rescue is a cute, and very silly story about a pig who loves buttered toast, and the people in her life.  When Mr. and Mrs. Watson get into a life or death situation, all of their hopes for rescue are pinned on their beloved pet pig, Mercy.  Mercy, being a pig, doesn’t realize the gravity (sorry for the pun!) of their perilous situation, and instead goes off searching for some buttered toast.  Through a comedy of errors, her people are rescued, but they need to thank their lucky stars more than Mercy.

This book is for readers aged 4 – 8.  There is a ton of action as Mercy trots off in search of her favorite snack, and the events occur rapidly, guaranteeing that wandering attention spans will be kept to a minimum.  The colorful illustrations are playful and eye-pleasing, and the book wouldn’t be half as fun without them.  There is so much personality packed onto every page that readers young and old alike will have a hard time putting the book down.

Grade: B

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: Gabby & Gator by James Burks


Title: Gabby & Gator

Author: James Burks

Publisher: Yen Press

ISBN: 978-0759531451


May Contain Spoilers


I saw a sample for Gabby & Gator online, and after seeing just a few panels, I desperately wanted to get my hands on the book.  Imagine my delight when I saw it at the library!  I immediately checked it out and counted the minutes until I could read it.

Gator is having a bad day. In fact, he is having 10 bad years of bad days after he gets flushed down the toilet at the insistence of his owner’s mother.  Alligators are dangerous!  Alligators don’t belong in the house!  Alligators will EAT you!  So bye-bye, two-dollar-and-fifty-cent gator hatchling, you are no longer welcome here!  Suffering from a harrowing journey through the sewer system, Gator then must resort to gobbling up dogs, cats, and squirrels to feed his never ending hunger.

Gabby isn’t having a wonderful life, either.  Her mom is always working, and her enthusiasm for social causes has earned her the contempt of her peers. They think that she is weird, and enjoy making fun of her.  Secure in the knowledge of who she is, Gabby isn’t ready to change herself for the sake of such judgmental people.  She just wishes she had a friend or two.  Along comes Gator, and theirs seems like a match made in heaven.  Well, except for Gator’s uncontrollable urge to eat.  Will he be able to resist snacking on his new friend?

Gabby and Gator is such a cute book!  I love both characters, and found Gabby especially easy to relate to.  She is intelligent and is driven by her sense of responsibility.  She’s very unique, and that leaves her open to teasing and bullying.  I loved when she finally stood up for herself.  That took guts because she acted outside of her comfort zone.  

This graphic novel is presented in hardback, with glossy, full-color pages. The illustrations match the tone of the book; they are adorable and full of personality.  If you are new to graphic novels, this is a good one to start exploring the world of comics with.  Gabby & Gator is a fun story about two misfits who are meant to be together.

Grade: A

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: The Quest of the Warrior Sheep by Christine & Christopher Russell


Title: The Quest of the Warrior Sheep

Author: Christine & Christopher Russell

Publisher:  Sourcebooks

ISBN: 978-1402255113


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When Sal the sheep is bonked on the head by an unidentified falling object, it can only mean one thing: Lord Aries, the Sheep of all Sheepdom is in trouble, and the sheep posse must save him.

Little do the sheep know that the mysterious object is actually a cell phone dropped by a couple of baaaaad bank robbers who will do anything to get it back. And a couple of woolbags aren’t going to stand in their way!

And so the quest of the Warrior Sheep begins.

The bravest sheep in the universe are in for a wild ride!


Who knew a little flock of sheep could lead a duo of bungling thieves on a merry chase around England?  It helped that both of humans have an IQ slightly lower than a sheep’s.  This silly story kept me laughing as I wondered just how the sheep were going to escape from the criminals and save the day.

When a cell phone falls from the sky and hits Sal on the head, she thinks it’s a sign from the god of sheep, Aries. She thinks that he’s in danger, waging battle against Lambad, his eternal rival.  She convinces the rest of her little flock of exotic breed sheep that they have a part to play in an ancient prophecy, and if they don’t, dire consequences are sure to follow. 

So, what happens when a flock of sheep set out to save the world? Complete chaos.  What the intrepid flock doesn’t know is that the phone has been used to commit a crime, and the men who dropped it will do anything to get it back.  The sheep have their work cut out for them, as they try to stay one step ahead of the villains and help Aries in his fight against Lambad!

From the first “Ohmygrass!” I was hooked on The Quest of the Warrior Sheep.  From the moment our hoofed protagonists leave the comfort and safety of their little pasture, they unleash a comedy of errors that leads all of their pursuers on a wild goose chase.  From neighbor Tony, who is obsessed with aliens  and is certain that the sheep have been abducted by alien invaders, to Tod and Gran, who love their sheep and just want them back home safe and sound, I was hard pressed to decide who was smarter – the humans or the sheep. 

This fun MG read keeps the excitement, and the laughs, in overdrive.  Fighting against their natural instincts to just stand around and eat grass, the sheep muster up every ounce of bravery to return the “Baaton” to Aries so he can defeat Lambad once and for all.  Little do they suspect that their jaunt around the countryside will involve a train ride, thieves, a truckload of manure, and even a secret government installation.  Cute and humorous, I was delighted to learn that the sheep are going to have another adventure soon.  Perhaps they will even be able to eat one of their favorite treats – cauliflower.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Second Chance: How Adoption Saved a Boy With Autism and His Shelter Dog


Title: Second Chance: How Adoption Saved a Boy With Autism and His Shelter Dog

Author: Sandra Gerencher

Publisher: Tribute Books

ISBN: 978-0981461922


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The timeless tale of a boy (with autism) and his (shelter) dog. Over the past 10 years, author Sandra Gerencher has been on a mission to save dogs from high-kill animal shelters. Her first rescue was P.J., the black and white Pomeranian in the story. She also adopted the orange Pomeranians Shelby and Lil Rascal, and of course, Chance, the big black Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix. All characters in the story are based on Sandra’s real life family. The book is filled with softly blended watercolor photos of her loved ones. Her most significant adoption was her son, Terry. He was considered a special needs child because he was born with a genetic disorder known as Fragile X Syndrome. The disorder can cause many cognitive disorders, such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, mental retardation and depression.

My Thoughts:

Second Chance was not at all what I was expecting.  Based on the title, I thought it would be about a a boy with autism and his dog, but it’s about Chance, a shelter dog instead.  Since I enjoy books told from an animal’s point of view, I didn’t mind getting the dog’s perspective on his experiences and confusion over being adopted.  I was just expecting more about the difficulties Ryan had gone through to find his forever home.

Chance is adopted from a shelter one day, and taken home to live with a woman, her son, and her three Pomeranians.  He is confused and bewildered at first, and wonders what this word is that everyone keeps repeating.  What is adoption, and what does it mean?  It turns out that many of his new family members have been adopted, including Ryan, who explains the concept to him and how wonderful it is now that they all have a forever home.  Even if they are occasionally bad, they will still be loved by their new family.

I thought the premise was interesting, and having the meaning of adoption explored through the eyes of a recently rescued shelter dog made the concept easier to relate to.  The illustrations are big and bold, and look like photos that were shopped to look like oil paintings.  The images are slightly blurred and lack exact details, which make them distinctive.  They have a soft, gentle quality that works well with the tone of the book.  Having “rescued” a shelter dog myself, I appreciated getting Chance’s perspective on the subject.  I think this picture book is too wordy for very young kids, but should prove informative for a slightly older audience.

Review materials provided by publisher

Review: Ridgeview Riding Club: Team Challenge by Bernadette Kelly


Title: Ridgeview Riding Club: Team Challenge

Author: Bernadette Kelly

Publisher: Stone Arch Books

ISBN: 978-1434219305


May Contain Spoilers


Annie and Bobby are back, and this time, they are gearing up for the annual Game Day!  Game Day pits rival equestrian teams against each other, and they compete in speed events.  Though Annie is still a beginning rider, she is desperate to be on the team.  The only problem – there are only a couple of spots, and Annie might not be measure up to the other riders who are trying out for a spot on the team.  A lot of the older riders want to compete, as do Reese and Matt.  When Jessica decides to be on the team, too, Annie is determined to try her best beat Jessica for a spot.  Does she have what it takes to earn it?

This was another wonderful installment of the Ridgeview Riding Club series.  Annie has come a long way with her riding skills, but she is still a newbie compared  everyone else.  Annie’s got heart, though, and she has something else that is equally important – she’s got a horse that has been there and done it all.  It doesn’t take much to fluster him, but when he does shy away from some of the props used in the games, Annie shows the patience to get him through his spooks.  This happens all the time with horses.  They have tiny little walnut-sized brains, and they need to utilize most of their grey matter to just stand upright.  They are silly creatures, easily given into that fight but mostly run away as fast as you possibly can mentality.  I think of it like this; the horse is going to save itself, and if you can hang on, it will save you, too!  It doesn’t matter that it is running away from an empty plastic bag or a plastic water bottle.  They are equally threatening, so you need to be prepared at all times! 

I like that Annie isn’t panicking as much when these unexpected incidents occur.  It’s part of a life with horses.  So is the feeling of not being good enough and constantly second-guessing your riding abilities.  That’s part of learning.  Accepting that you are making a mistake, or not giving it your all, are a part of learning how to do anything new.  If you are determined and dedicated enough, you will improve at any new endeavor.  It takes patience, and a willingness to practice.  This is why Annie will be a more accomplished rider than Jessica ever will.  Jessica isn’t willing to work for anything, and she’s never had to.  Annie has to struggle and work hard for everything that she wants.  Don’t forget that she’s got that awful dad who thinks that sheep make wonderful companions for kids.  Er, yeah.

Annie also has to deal with friendship issues in this volume.  When Jade and Reese are introduced, they don’t hit it off.  At. All.  Suddenly, Annie’s peaceful weekend dissolves away as her two best friends bicker and sneer at each other.  In addition to keeping her focus on her riding, now Annie has to deal with the conflict between the other girls.  I don’t think I liked Jade or Reese in Team Challenge.  They were both behaving like a bunch of babies, and I’m surprised Annie didn’t just wash her hands of them.

And this, unfortunately, is the last Ridgeview Riding Club review that I’ll be writing for a while.  None of the libraries in my network have any of the other four volumes.  At least Team Challenge wrapped up with a satisfying conclusion, and I enjoyed the time I have spent with Annie and Bobby.

Grade: B+

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: Ridgeview Riding Club: Leap of Faith by Bernadette Kelly


Title: Ridgeview Riding Club: Leap of Faith

Author: Bernadette Kelly

Publisher:  Stone Arch Books

ISBN: 978-1434219329


May Contain Spoilers


Annie’s back, and this time she is getting prepped for her first horse show.  She isn’t sure if she’s ready, but she doesn’t want to disappoint Reese by not going.  When her dad makes snide remarks about her skills and Bobby’s abilities, she changes her mind.  She is going to go, whether she is ready or not, just to prove how wrong her dad is about her!

Ugh!  I can’t stand Annie’s dad.  What a jerk.  The poor kid is going to grow up with a complex.  He belittles her constantly, and doesn’t give her credit for anything.  When Jessica can’t accept her own inadequacy and blames Annie for her own lack of riding skills, her dad treats her even worse!  It’s a good thing Annie has good friends who aren’t afraid to try to set him straight.  I wish her dad would go on an extended business trip overseas and not return until after the series wraps up.  He is so inconsiderate that he can’t even give her a phone message.

I felt bad for Austin.  His ego takes a battering when he takes a fall in front of an instructor he admires, and it almost derails his riding career.  It is mortifying to take a tumble, but unfortunately, it is a part of the sport.  This is why I don’t jump.  I have enough trouble staying in the saddle on the flat, and don’t need to add another level of potential fallage to my lessons.  And yes, I just made that word up.  Austin has to re-evaluate his reasons for riding, and he also has to accept that he is still just learning, too.  The only difference between Austin and Annie are miles in the saddle, and level of determination.  You can be the best rider in the world, but if you aren’t willing to work at it, you aren’t going to be successful and really enjoy yourself.

Ridgeview Riding Club continues to entertain, while accurately portraying life with horses.

Grade:  A-

Review copy obtained from my local library

Review: Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs Vol 17 by Yukiya Sakuragi


Title: Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs Vol 17

Author: Yakiya Sakuragi

Publisher:  Viz

ISBN: 978-1421532578


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Chizuru’s friend Serina has had it with trying to raise her new puppy and returns it to Woofles. Suguri is angry but comes up with an innovative way to get Serina to see things from a new perspective! Suguri also begins channeling her doggie knowledge for other purposes…


This installment is a very mixed bag.  The series almost lost me with the continuation of the Milk/Serina story arc, where Suguri’s unconventional methods to make Serina man up and accept her responsibilities did not win me over.  I love her enthusiasm and her determination to make sure that all of the puppies in Japan are loved and well cared for, but all of the panty shots and the silly dog costume got on my nerves.  It didn’t help that I can’t stand Serina, and thought she was a waste of paper.  If the spoiled young woman can’t even take care of a puppy, I fail to see how she will ever be able to care of an infant.  I was so happy to see this particular storyline come to an end.

The rest of the volume was much more fun.  A large pet product company has approached Woofles for new product ideas.  This was much more entertaining.  With Lupin there to behave in unexpected ways, due mostly to his lack of training, the new gadgets are put through more abuse than the company could have imagined. 

This is Inubaka at it’s goofy best.  Because of the potential benefits, Show is totally onboard with Woofles’ crew coming up with some great pet product ideas, so there is a lot of pressure on everyone to brainstorm.  Only problem – most of them are sadly lacking in the creativity department.  While I wasn’t expecting much from anybody else, Teppei really disappointed me!  What a lame idea he came up with.  I know that part of brainstorming is throwing anything out on the table, but, really  Tepppei??  You couldn’t think of anything better than that??  You are supposed to be the smart one!

While I found parts of this volume a bit tedious, I am still looking forward to the next installment.  I am very, very curious to see what happens next as Woofles tries to partner up with big business.

Grade:  B-

Review copy purchased from