Although I don’t review books for young people anymore, I still sometimes receive requests that I can’t resist. E-versions of the following three animal books were sent to me.
- I am not a Skunk by Ellen Pilch
- Harold and the Poopy Little Puppy by Ellen Crowe
- Chasing the Blue Sky by William Lowrey
Each of these e-books is for a different age group and has a different focus. The quality of each also differs, but one captivated me enough that I asked for a print version.
Chasing the Blue Sky by William Lowrey is the story of a Toby, a spirited black puppy, who was taken from his mom at just a few weeks old. Although he soon discovers the love an adoptive family, he eventually finds himself languishing in a county animal shelter, along with devoted shelter workers and other homeless dogs. This novel for young people is reasonably well written. The all-important first sentence immediately hooks me: “There is no greater hunter than the sun.” Although the initial chapters lack action, they are picturesque and vividly paint a sad portrait of the life of a chained dog. The story picks up momentum when it shifts focus from Toby’s mom to Toby himself. The chapters now include a more robust line of characters, dialog, and scenes that show instead of telling what happens. As a result, I feel sympathy for Toby when his family surrenders him to a shelter due to the arrival of a baby and for his fellow shelters dogs who have also been relinquished through no fault of their own. Despite some uneven quality in the writing, I’d recommend this book if not for its conclusion, which is not a happy one. The blurb for Chasing the Blue Sky claims the book is a tale of struggle, hope, and redemption, but the latter two are conspicuously absent. For Toby, there is no escape from his misery, except in death.
Harold and the Poopy Little Puppy by Ellie Crowe centers around Harold learning to live with a new puppy, while he keeps getting in trouble for things Prince has done. This chapter book is cute and will endear the hearts of children who enjoy dog stories. The title is fun, the bright illustrations are eye-fetching, and the short sentences are easy to read. liked how the author captured the world from a dog’s perspective, such as when she described Harold’s delight in pee-mail (yellow pee spots that tell doggy news) or showed readers Harold’s anxiety by writing that he began licking a spot he hadn’t licked in his years. The author’s portrayal of the average dog owner is also accurate. They’ re excited to share news with Harold and to give him treats. When things go wrong, however, they’re include to bar him outside. Unfortunately, characters other than Harold and Prince needed more development. For example, Madeline is supposed to be Harold’s best friend, but I barely know anything about her. At times too, there needed to be more explanation as to why characters acted a certain way. For example, Harold felt as if often disappointed the dad, but I don’t know the reason. I wished there had been a realistic solution to the conflict between Harold and Prince, but young readers may embrace the outlandish ending, Parents can find an educational guide at elliecroweauthor.blogspot.com
I am not a Skunk by Ellen Pilch is about a homeless cat that is eager to find a family but must first convince them she is not a skunk. This second picture book by Pilch hits all the right notes. I enjoyed it so much that I accepted her offer for a print version for my shelves. There is one typo, and the font design is almost too casual, but these are minor flaws. Everything else works. The title and artwork are adorable, and the style is fun and easy to read. There is lots of humor infused into the story, such as when the misidentified cat declares, “If I were a skunk, I’d spray that man.” The smug look on the cat’s face at the end is priceless. While I’m not sure how this family could mistake a cat for a skunk, the author convinces me to accept their confusion. Even the cat at one point wonders if the family could be right and decides to roll in flowers just in case she smells. The author also provides an ingenious solution for how the cat finally gets accepted into the family. I am not a Skunk would make a great stocking stuffer or gift at any point for any cat lover.