Rylant, Cynthia. Mr. Putter & Tabby Hit the Slope. Illustrated by Arthur Howard. (Mr. Putter and Tabby series, #25) Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. Unpaged. $14.99. ISBN 9780152064273. Ages 5-7. P7Q8
On a slow, snowy day, Mr. Putter remembers the long ago fun of sledding down hills. The adventurous neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry, has sleds in her garage. Mr. Putter, Tabby, Mrs. Teaberry and her dog, Zeke, head out for an adventure, riding sleds down hills in this twenty-fifth book in the series. Much of the charm of the long-running series comes from the simple watercolor and goache paintings that show the varied emotions of the characters—Mr. Putter’s sadness in being left without a sled, Tabby’s worried terror as Zeke pilots the two of them down the hill, the contentment on both Mr. Putter’s and Tabby’s faces as they have muffins afterward.
Verdict: Highly recommended for preschool, elementary, and public libraries.
January 2017 review by Jane Cothron.
Birdsall, Jeanne. My favorite pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s class. Pictures by Harry Bliss. Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. Unpaged. $16.99. ISBN 9780385755702. Ages 5-7. P8Q8
Gus’s school report on his 17 pet sheep gives more information on Gus, his family, and Gus’s pranks than it does on actual sheep. The deadpan handwritten report, combined with bright, realistic watercolor and ink illustrations, quickly moves from humorous to hilarious as it shows the relationships between Gus and the sheep, Gus’s younger brother, and his parents, as one disaster follows another.
Verdict: This picture book works for both story time and for one-to-one reading aloud. Highly recommended for kindergarten, elementary and public libraries.
November 2016 review by Jane Cothron.
McCully, Emily Arnold. Clara: The (Mostly) True Story of the Rhinoceros Who Dazzled Kings, Inspired Artists, and Won the Hearts of Everyone . . . While She Ate Her Way Up and Down a Continent! Schwartz & Wade, 2016. $17.99. 48p. ISBN 978-0-5535-2246-4. Ages 5-8. P9Q9
A rhinoceros is an odd pet, but Captain Van der Meer brought back one-year-old Clara from India in 1741. He showed her off throughout Europe and managed to keep her for 17 years until Clara’s death by raising money for her appearances. Readers share in the travels throughout the continent when the Prussian king gives money for her care, the French king rejects the captain because he won’t donate Clara to his home at Versailles, and Clara inspires artists and hairdressers in Paris. McCully points out in her closing note that this confinement and exhibition can be considered cruel treatment, but it was the only way that people could see a “mythical beast” before the advent of photography and zoos. Elegant ink and watercolor illustrations picture Clara both in lovable youth and in gentle age—still lovable, and endpapers follow the duo’s journeys across land and sea.
Fall 2016 review by Nel Ward.
Mantchev, Lisa. Strictly No Elephants. Illustrated by Taeeun Yoo. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2015. $17.99. ISBN 9781481416474. Ages 4-8. P8Q8
When a boy takes his tiny elephant to a Pet Club meeting and is turned away because elephants are strictly prohibited, he finds some other “outcast” friends in the same situation- kids with skunks, bats, and giraffes for pets. They form their own pet club that welcomes everyone. This book is quiet and sweet, and talks about how to be a good friend. Underlying this is the theme of inclusiveness, and shows how it feels to be excluded when you don’t fit into a narrow, specific mold. Korean illustrator Taeeun Yoo’s warm, mixed media illustrations are gentle and comforting.
May 2016 review by Carol Schramm.
Funke, Cornelia. Ruffleclaw. Random House, 2015. $9.99. ISBN 978-0-385-37548-1. 102 pages. Ages 7-10. P7Q6.
Ruffleclaw is a furry monster who lives in a burrow under a toolshed. He eats bugs, grubs, and earthworms while fancying cakes, shampoo, and tea. He decides to move in with a family of humans. Tommy wants to keep Ruffleclaw as a pet, but will Ruffleclaw and his parents allow it? Ruffleclaw makes huge messes–he spits, hisses, burps, and Tommy’s father has allergies! Can Tommy teach his monster manners? Will Ruffleclaw prefer to return to his worms, bugs, and burrows?
February 2016 review by Penny McDermott.
[Editor’s note: Originally published in 2005 in German under the title, Zottelkralle. Veteran author Cornelia Funke brings gross humor and an unlikely monster-hero to Ruffleclaw, in a story more likely to appeal to 5-to 7-year-old children than to the adults in their lives.]
Ferry, Beth. Illustrated by Ben Mantle. Land Shark. Chronicle Books, 2015. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-4521-2458-2. Unp. Ages 1-4. P7 Q 8
Bobby wanted a shark for his birthday, not just a tiny shark in an aquarium but a big shark. He was not so happy with his surprise of a puppy. His brother and sister laughed at him and told him he was silly thinking he was getting a pet shark. He declared that shark lovers cannot be converted to dog lovers ever. The puppy started destroying everything in the house and barking and Bobby didn’t want to have anything to do with her. Everyone was grumpy but Bobby was happy because he thought he would finally get his shark. But then the puppy chomped his stuffed animal shark right in two and everyone was worried. In the end Bobby became a dog lover as the puppy had chewed her way into his heart. This is a funny story about wanting wild things for birthdays and actually falling in love with the thing you get for your present.
December 2015 review by Melinda Dye.
Van Allsburg, Chris. The misadventures of Sweetie Pie. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. Unpaged. $18.99. ISBN 9780547315829 Ages: adult. P4Q7
Much in the vein of Black Beauty or Beautiful Joe, this story of a grouchy hamster who eventually leaves the pet store only to go from house to house, owner to owner, surviving overfeeding, abuse, neglect, and finding his way finally to freedom and life on his own terms. The works of two-time Caldecott Medal winner, Chris Van Allsburg have always included more than a touch of the macabre and Sweetie Pie is no exception. There are no punches pulled in the description of the children who mistreat Sweetie Pie (animals should definitely not wear clothes!) and the adults in the picture do not improve matters. This is a very well done story but is not at all comfortable to read and will likely make many readers unhappy. Recommended for libraries collecting Van Allsburg’s works. December 2014 review by Jane Cothron.