Picture Book Review: Chamelia by Ethan Long


Title: Chamelia

Author: Ethan Long

Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 978-0316086127


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Meet Chamelia! Chamelia is a chameleon. Most chameleons like to blend in, but Chamelia prefers to stand out. She just loves being the center of attention. But when standing out means being left out, can Chamelia learn to share the spotlight?


Chamelia is a very fun and colorful picture book.  Chamelia is a chameleon, but contrary to the rest of her species, she doesn’t want to blend in, she wants to stand out.  After learning that standing out makes it hard to fit in, she learns to compromise but still be herself. 

I love the illustrations and the use of bright fabrics to make Chamelia pop off of each page.  The other chameleons are shades of a very pale green, but the title character is a darker, more vivid green.  The illustrations are muted shades of pastels, while Chamelia is a bright splash.  She is also an accessory queen, with tasteful shoes and purses to prove that she truly is a fashionesta. 

In her eagerness to stand out, though, she occasionally stumbles by being too different from her peers.  This gets poor Chamelia down in the dumps, and a brightly attired but very unhappy chameleon is a sad sight indeed.  With some help from her parents, Chamelia learns how to stand out, but still fit in at school.

I loved the message in Chamelia, and hope that it helps younger readers to find the courage to be themselves. 

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Picture Book Review: Saving Audie by Patent and Munoz


Title: Saving Audie

Author: Dorothy Hinshaw Patent

Photographs: William Munoz

Publisher: Walker Books

ISBN: 978-0802722720


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

When Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring was discovered, more than forty dogs were rescued. But their struggle was far from over. Most animal advocates believed the former fighting dogs were too damaged to save, but Audie and his kennel mates would prove them wrong when public outcry and the publicity surrounding Michael Vick’s punishment won them a chance at a happy life. Teaming up once again with William Muñoz, photo-essay veteran Dorothy Hinshaw Patent gives an emotional account of one dog’s heartwarming story, showing how Audie, who was only a puppy when he was rescued, was rehabilitated, adopted, and now enjoys the love he deserves.


This was a hard book for me to read, but not because of the writing.  The subject matter is very close to my heart, and I still remember the day that the news broke about Michael Vicks’ Bad Newz Kennels.  It horrified me, and it made me angry.  Why would such a successful and wealthy athlete, a sports ambassador, if you will, do something so cruel?  How could anyone do something like this to a bunch of helpless dogs?  Dogs are the one animal that will love you conditionally, and accept you for who you are.  If you can’t be nice to something as simple as a dog, how can you possible be nice to a fellow human being?  I don’t buy the argument that Vick’s upbringing makes killing defenseless animals acceptable, especially not when millions of kids look up to him and try to emulate him.  Ugh.

Audie is one lucky pit bull puppy.  Most of the Vick dogs are, really.  Due to Vick’s notoriety, these dogs were given a second chance at life, one that didn’t involve fighting.  Contrary to common practice, these dogs were spared, and after intensive behavioral research, most of them were given the go ahead to be fostered and adopted out instead of being euthanized.  Audie is one of those dogs that won the forever home lottery, and this picture book chronicles his new life as a pet.

Audie’s road to happiness wasn’t easy.  After being sheltered in a small cage months as the Vick investigation dragged out, he was considered evidence by the government.  After Vick’s trial and conviction, all of the Bad Newz dogs were supposed to be put down.  A few animal loving organizations stepped in and asked that they be spared, and because of the media coverage, the dogs were allowed to live.  They were finally seen as what they were – victims of a violent crime.  Audie was placed in a foster home, which turned out to be his forever home.  Now Audie is what Michael Vick should have been; an ambassador for other dogs like him, who deserve another chance at happiness.

I loved this book and the photographs, as well as all of the facts about the Michael Vick case.  Audie and his fellow canines from Bad Newz Kennels are very lucky dogs.  Many of them have found loving homes, and the ones that haven’t are being cared for with money Vick was ordered to pay to care for his former dogs.

Here is my second chance dog – he isn’t a Pit Bull, but his breed gets a bad rap, too.  He almost died in the shelter before he was rescued and placed into a foster home.  When we adopted him, he was 70 lbs, about 50 lbs underweight.  It took him a while to trust us, but now he is a big cuddle bug.  I love him dearly, and I’m not so sure if we rescued him or he rescued us.

Grade: B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Chi’s Sweet Home Vol 4 by Konami Kanata


Title: Chi’s Sweet Home Vol 4

Author: Konami Kanata

Publisher: Vertical

ISBN: 978-1934287965

Reading Level – All Ages


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

In the fourth volume of Chi’s Sweet Home, Youhei’s actions at the end of volume three has motivated his parents to look for a new home for their kids.  Chi is moving to a new address; someplace where cats can play to their heart’s content without having to worry about nosey managers and mean hungry bully cats.

But moving alone will be something of an adventure for Chi.  While the Yamada’s can handle changing their environment now and then, for a kitten their home means much more than just a place to sleep in.  When the old apartment starts to disappear, suddenly Chi starts losing all of her favorite toys and her naps spots.  She knows they should be in specific places, the smell is still there, but her nappy spot is gone and so are her favorite scratching areas.  And what are all those boxy things?  Why are they all stacked so high up?  And what’s up with all the noise around them?  Are there dogs behind all of this?!?


Awww, the cute attack continues!  Chi is so adorable that it’s hard to not get caught up in the sweetness of this series.  I love how simple the storytelling is – short chapters humorously follow Chi as the tiny kitten explores the world around her.  Her reactions are hilarious and occasionally bittersweet, but they are always satisfying.  The books make me feel good, and sometimes that’s all I’m looking for when I sit down to a new read.  A little perk to brighten my stressful days, to allow me to laugh as Chi and her people navigate through their lives.  Every new experience is an adventure that leaves me chuckling at the cuteness that is Chi.

In this volume, Chi and the Yamadas move to a pet-friendly apartment.  Chi no longer has to live a life in hiding – not that she was ever very good at it to begin with!  Through short vignettes, she greets the move with trepidation, confusion, and finally, contentment.  When her world changes abruptly, poor little Chi doesn’t know what to do!  First, the Yamadas pack everything into boxes.  Chi’s attempts to play only get in the way, so off to a secluded room she goes.  Listening to the activity of the move frightens her, and she wonders what is happening to her home.  Her feelings of safety are gone.  Her new home only confuses her, because it smells strange and unfamiliar, which makes her apprehensive and frightened.

I enjoyed this volume a lot.  As with previous visits with Chi, her emotions are clearly communicated through Konami Kanata’s wonderful watercolors.  The illustrations are bright and colorful, and it’s so easy to read Chi’s reactions to the newness that surrounds her.  The chapters where the Yamadas introduce themselves to their new neighbors are my favorite, as they showcase a spectrum of reactions to meeting the other pets at the apartment complex.  Like people, every animal has a different personality and look, and I am looking forward to more interactions between Chi and her new neighbors.

If you are looking for a fun and painless introduction to manga and graphic novels, Chi’s Sweet Home is a great place to start.  It is so cute, and it will keep you smiling as you get to know Chi.  Best yet, it’s an appealing all ages comic that you can share with the kids in your life.  Besides, who doesn’t love adorable little animals?

Grade: A-

Review copy provided by publisher

Picture Book Review: Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich



Title: Say Hello to Zorro!

Author: Carter Goodrich

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

ISBN: 978-1416938934

I first saw the cover for this book in a Simon and Schuster catalog and my cute-o-meter started blaring very loudly in my head.  Examining the two dogs, I wondered what the book was about.  Look at the expressions on their faces!  Zorro (pug) looks just a wee-bit crabby, and Mister Bud has a look of apprehension.  Why?  Why??  I couldn’t wait to find out!

The library finally got a copy, and after a week of checking my hold list obsessively, it was my turn to check it out.  When I got home from the library, the first thing I did was sit down and read it.  Was it as enjoyable as I had hoped?  You bet!!  It is such a cute book, and if you have little ones who love dogs, they will love this too!

Mister Bud is a happy dog.  He has a schedule.  Everybody sticks to the schedule.  Everybody!  No exceptions!  Until the day the stranger came to stay…

Mister Bud has a very busy day, so it is easy to see why he feels the need to keep to a schedule.  There is wake-up time, walk time, nap time, greet and make a fuss time.  As you can see, his days are jam packed with important activities.  Then that little Zorro moves in, and Mister Bud has a few adjustments to make…

I loved the theme of Say Hello to Zorro!  Despite their differences, the dogs begin to realize that they were having more fun when they are together.  Life is more exciting!  Naps is more comfortable.  They are BFF!

The watercolor illustrations are squee worthy.  Really!  I admit that I am so mushy when it comes to animals, but Mister Bud and Zorro are adorable!  Mister Bud has a huge, expressive nose (how is that possible?) and Zorro’s smaller face is so precious!  The muted shades of color compliment the earthy tones of the dogs, and the paintings have just enough detail to provide an interesting sense of visual complexity. 


Review copy obtained from my local library

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