Book review: I, Cosmo, by Carlie Sorosiak

Sorosiak, Carlie. I, Cosmo. Walker Books, 2019. $16.99. ISBN 9781536207699. 273 pages. Ages 8-12. P7 Q7

What happens to pets when parents get divorced? Do they get to stay with the children or will they be separated from them? These are questions that Max and Cosmo have to figure out. Narrated from Cosmo, a golden retriever’s, point of view as he figures out how to support his owner, Max. Cosmo’s insight into the family is just what one would imagine a dog’s to be. Full of Cosmo’s antics from letting what he thought was a cat into the house, rolling in stinky stuff, to throwing up and being there for his humans. Max thinks that if they win a dance competition, his parents will realize that he and Cosmo need to stay together. However, Cosmo is getting older and not able to move as well as when he was younger. Will he mess up and ruin Max’s chances of winning the competition? When parents start fighting and may end up in a divorce, children may have questions, feel angry, or are uncertain about how the family will function. This story is realistic and can give children hope that even if their parents get divorced, they are still loved.

Verdict: While I find some books told from an animal’s point of view not worth reading, this one was very well written. Cosmo had insight into his family and saw things that humans miss. Children who have a dog will enjoy this thoughtful journey that Max and Cosmo go through. Children whose parents have divorced will be able to relate to this story.

January 2020 review by Tami Harris.

Book review: Good Dog, McTavish, by Meg Rosoff, illustrated by Grace Easton

Rosoff, Meg. Good Dog, McTavish. (McTavish series). Illustrated by Grace Easton. Candlewick Press, 2019. First U.S. edition. 104 pages. $15.99. ISBN 9781536200584. Ages 6-9. P7 Q9

When Ma Peachey, tired of doing unending housework for an ungrateful family, resigns from her household responsibilities to focus on her job and her yoga practice, the family falls into disarray.  No one cooks, no one makes sure everyone gets up on time, no one folds laundry. Only almost-9-year-old Betty sees the pitfalls.  She addresses the problem by pushing the family to adopt a dog.  The dog, a golden haired terrier of indeterminate breed named McTavish, uses various guerrilla tactics to train the family in putting away their laundry, placing their shoes neatly by the door, and cooking simple, nutritious meals.  Tranquility is restored in short order—appropriate because McTavish is a very short dog. The first in a series.

Verdict: The humor in this brief, satirical book reminded me more of Betty MacDonald’s Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle than of P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins, though McTavish accomplishes the task without any magic.  Grace Easton’s simple illustrations of McTavish, Ma and Pa Peachey, and the three children bring the domestic chaos of the story delightfully to the fore.  Highly recommended for readers who are ready to move from early readers to chapter books.  This will be a good addition to elementary, middle school, and public libraries.

May 2019 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Voyage of the Dogs, by Greg Van Eekhout

Van Eekhout, Greg. Voyage of the Dogs. Harper, 2018. 205 pages. $16.99. ISBN 9780062686008. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Four dogs come out of hibernation aboard the Laika, a space ship on a mission to set up a space colony, only to discover that the human crew is missing and the space ship itself is severely damaged, showing only hasty repairs.  Like the good dogs they are, the Barkonauts work to safeguard the ship, contact mission control, and maintain life support. Odds are against them, but they continue to work against an impossible fate.  After all, these are good dogs and good dogs always complete their missions.

Verdict: I really like this science fiction space survival story, not least because the dogs are the main characters.  They address complex technological tasks and still manage to act like dogs.  The poignancy of the story of the original Laika merely adds to the heroism of the four dogs as they attempt the impossible rescue of their human crew, even knowing the story of humans betraying the dog Laika.  There are not enough well written science fiction books for this age.  I recommend this one highly.  It should be in public, elementary and middle school libraries.

December 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: My Stinky Dog, by Christine Roussey

Roussey, Christine. My Stinky Dog. Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2108. $16.99. ISBN 9781419728235. Ages 4-6. P7Q6.  

What is more loveable than a story about a boy and his dog, except if that dog is known for its stink. My Stinky Dog is an enjoyable story about a dog, named Alfred, and his faithful boy. The book unfolds in a first person narrative as the boy shares his love for Alfred and his worries about his dog’s stink. We learn that his family is moving to New York and he worries that Alfred won’t be able to move with them if he continues to smell. The boy cleans Alfred and something unexpected happens. Alfred changes. Alfred doesn’t want to play with the boy anymore because he doesn’t want to get dirty. The boy misses his smelly, playful, dirty dog, so he takes him out to do all the smelly, wonderful things they had done in the past. He learns that ‘everything is perfect in its own smelly way’.  The illustrations are simplistic, colored pencil and marker sketches to represent a childlike depiction of a first person narrative.

Verdict: Children will enjoy this story about an imperfect dog and his loyal boy. It would be a good addition to any K-2 classroom and a mentor text for teaching lessons on personal narratives, small moments, acceptance, and friendship.

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: Walk Your Dog, by Elizabeth Stevens Omlor, pictures by Neesha Hudson

Omlor, Elizabeth Stevens. Walk Your Dog. Pictures by Neesha Hudson. Penguin Random House LLC, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9780399546525. Unpaged. Ages 3-5. P7Q8   

Nothing is better than a girl and her dog! Walk Your Dog is one girl’s adventure in taking care of her dog using predictable text and heart-warming illustrations. Illustrations are complementary and calming as the reader follows each interaction between the little girl and her dog. The reader can feel the warmth and love between the characters as their actions and expressions are portrayed from page to page.

Verdict: This book would be a great addition to any library or pre-k-1st grade classroom. It is an enjoyable story for young children to read and/or study the illustrations for picture clues relating to character feelings and connections. It is sure to be a class favorite!

September 2018 review by Marcy Doyle.

Book review: A Dog Named Doug, by Karma Wilson, illustrations by Matt Myers

Wilson, Karma. A Dog Named Doug. Illustrations by Matt Myers. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2018. Unpaged. $17.99. ISBN 9781442449312. Ages 4-6. P8Q7

Simple tongue-twisting text pairs well with illustrations of a very cheerful dog (named Doug) whose whole focus in life is digging.  This simple story will be perfect for reading aloud, both in groups and one-to-one.  The illustrations work when viewed at a distance and also include small visual jokes for those who take the time to examine them closely.  I enjoyed the view of Doug digging through the Oval Office and the following frame of Doug evading a Secret Service agent crawling through Doug’s tunnel with a flashlight.

Verdict: If using this book in a storytime reading, please be sure to practice reading it ahead of time.  The phrasing, while not difficult, is not exactly repetitive and not quite predictable.  I predict, however, that children will enjoy following Doug’s adventures, again and again.  Recommended for kindergarten and pre-school collections as well as for public libraries.

September 2018 review by Jane Cothron.

Book review: Dog on a Digger, by Kate Prendergast

Prendergast, Kate. Dog on a Digger. Candlewick Press, 2018. $16.99. ISBN 9781536200416. Unp. Ages 2-7. P8 Q9

Dog on a Digger is a beautifully illustrated, textless story about teamwork and friendship. A dog and its human work on a building site. Their constructive day goes awry after lunch when dog’s young friend goes missing. The story is told through panels of pencil illustration—mostly monochrome—with touches of bright yellow and muted blue. Prendergast is quite skillful at depicting sound and emotion with line and texture.

Verdict: I recommend this book to children who appreciate dogs and/or construction equipment. Its lack of text allows young readers to lend their own words to the story or enjoy the creativity of the pleasing illustrations.

September 2018 review by Lillian Curanzy.