Tuesday, January 17

Reviews of the Week 1/16

This week includes some really inventive reads—unique ideas and storylines that had me rereading and appreciating and...sometimes scoffing. And laughing. And enjoying. It was quite the selection of awesome books this week. Hooray for creativity, right??


Du Iz Tak?
Carson Ellis

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0763665302
Publisher: Candlewick
Date of publication: October 18, 2016
Age: 4 - 8 years
Format: library book

Themes: insects, plants, language, seasons

"Du iz tak? What is that? As a tiny shoot unfurls, two damselflies peer at it in wonder. When the plant grows taller and sprouts leaves, some young beetles arrive to gander, and soon—with the help of a pill bug named Icky—they wrangle a ladder and build a tree fort. But this is the wild world, after all, and something horrible is waiting to swoop down—booby voobeck!—only to be carried off in turn. Su! With exquisitely detailed illustrations and tragicomic flair, Carson Ellis invites readers to imagine the dramatic possibilities to be found in even the humblest backyard. Su!"

I'm not going to lie, this is a weird book. Yes, the whole thing is written in some invented language that boggles the mind. But after you get over that initial impression, it's actually pretty impressive. The gist of the story is evident from the excellent illustrations (it could almost be a wordless picture book). And then you read it again and you start to pick out what some of the words could mean. And then you read it again and you spot elements in the illustrations and language that you didn't notice before. And the story grows and grows. Really, this is what makes it most impressive to me: it invites (almost forces) the reader to examine the book again and again.

Is it a storytime book? Perhaps for a smaller group, because you really do need to see the pictures. But it would be fascinating to get the groups' interpretation. One-on-one reading with your child would be perfect, because you could read and reread again as much as you needed to. Overall, I think this will be a winner with children, especially those that can't really read English all that well anyway, for them to invent the interpretations/pronunciations on their own. Yes, I still marked off a star because, while the illustrations and inventive language make it intriguing, the actual story is rather boring. But still, give it a try. It's definitely an experience to be had.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

Dog Man
(Dog Man #1)
Dav Pilkey

My rating: ★★★½

ISBN: 978-0545581608
Publisher: GRAPHIX from Scholastic
Date of publication: August 30, 2016
Age: Grades 1 - 4
Genre: Graphic Novel
Format: library ebook

Themes: police, heroes, dogs, cats

George and Harold, famed creators of Captain Underpants, have created a new hero who digs into deception, claws after crooks, and rolls over robbers. When Greg the police dog and his cop companion are injured on the job, a life-saving surgery changes the course of history, and Dog Man is born. With the head of a dog and the body of a human, this heroic hound has a real nose for justice. But can he resist the call of the wild to answer the call of duty?

This is a tough review for me. Yes, we're talking about Dav Pilkey's new creation. Yes, the famed creator of Captain Underpants. On the one hand, I love him, because he's gotten all sorts of reluctant readers reading. On the other hand—ew. I despise those books (see? personal bias and professional bias can work together! ha). Anyway, I've been putting off reading his newest creation, but I'm curious.

Here's what I discovered: Still have potty humor? Yep. Still some childish language and spelling? Yep. Still have some of the most random evil plans and heroic solutions you've ever seen? Yep. I mean, come on: an army of anthropomorphized hot dogs? Yeah. But what did I really discover? Pilkey has created an ever better hero for kids to read about. His style is easy for many kids to relate to and enjoy. Honestly, I'm happy Dog Man is around. This will be an ever better series. Is it my personal favorite? No, but I'm excited to recommend it to the right kids.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

The Wizard's Dog
Eric Kahn Gale

My rating:  ★★

ISBN: 978-0553537369
Publisher: Crown Books
Date of publication: January 17, 2017 (Happy Book Birthday!)
Age: Grades 3 - 6
Genre: Fantasy
Format: ARC from publisher

Themes: Arthurian legends, dogs, middle ages, magic, fairies, friendship

"Meet Nosewise. He’s spunky. He’s curious. And he’s a dog who can’t understand why his pack mates Merlin and Morgana spend all day practicing magic tricks. If it’s a trick they want, he’s the dog to ask! He can already Sit!, Stay!, and Roll Over!

"But there’s no way Nosewise is Stay!ing when his master and best friend, Merlin, is kidnapped. There’s nothing Nosewise won’t do to get Merlin back, even if it means facing the strange Fae people and their magic-eating worms, or tangling with the mysterious Sword in the Stone. But it may take more than sniffing out a spell to do it!"

Maybe, just maybe, Merlin and Arthur and all of our favorite legends had a little bit of help in their adventures from none other than...a totally lovable dog. This spin on the classic tale of Excalibur is inventive, to say the least. Really, I was most impressed by the obvious research that went into writing from a dog's point of view—how he uses his senses and loyal inclinations to save the day. Oh, and of course, it was a totally action-packed adventure that started off from Chapter 1. Rarely a dull moment in this story!

Were there some scenarios that might give the skeptic some good pause? Well, yes, we're talking about a talking dog who wants to do what humans do. Certain actions seemed a little beyond even a wizard-dog's abilities. But hey, that's okay! Because, really, it's about exploring all the details of the Arthurian legends (really, I learned a lot! Again, excellent research) and having fun with a dog. If you've got a dog-loving reader, this is definitely the next book for them.

Find it at your library or on Amazon

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