Books by Diane deGroat

CHARLIE THE RANCH DOG by Ree Drummond
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2013

"Fans of Charlie's previous picture books will like reading more about his life on the ranch, but others might concur with Rowdy as he naps on the sofa: 'Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.' (Early reader. 5-8)"
Basset hound Charlie learns to share with a visiting yellow Lab named Rowdy in this mildly entertaining early reader. Read full book review >
HOMER by Shelley Rotner
CHILDREN'S
Released: March 1, 2012

"A howlingly good time. (Picture book. 4-8)"
Alex and Homer live, breathe and dream baseball. But this is Homer's story. Read full book review >
CHARLIE THE RANCH DOG by Ree Drummond
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2011

Charlie, a long-eared, nap-loving basset hound, provides a highly filtered view of his life on the ranch. As he tells it, he and his sidekick, Suzie, are in charge. His bouncy, short-eared friend seems to be some sort of a terrier—all energy—and is always a few steps ahead of her buddy. Charlie, well, he is a basset hound, perpetually in search of the next meal and a quiet place to sleep. He has to keep the cows in their places, help Mama with the garden, catch fish and, of course, sniff the steps. Like Gloria, of Office Buckle and Gloria fame, Charlie's perceptions are quite different from reality. His down-home dialogue coupled with expressive watercolors give readers not-so-subtle clues about the personality of the dogs involved. They see Suzie running and herding the cattle, lugging baskets of vegetables and generally keeping the ranch in shape while Charlie rests his eyes and sleeps. But one day Charlie finds himself without his sidekick and actually proves himself to be a valuable farmhand. Young readers will chuckle at the unabashed, obvious humor and will especially enjoy finding the hidden, unnamed chipmunk buddy on every page. Rather bafflingly, Drummond, mostly known for her Pioneer Woman blog, provides an unexpected recipe for lasagna as backmatter. This incongruity aside, Charlie's tale is an agreeable if ephemeral one. (Picture book. 2-6)Read full book review >
LAST ONE IN IS A ROTTEN EGG! by Diane deGroat
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2007

Having been the principal in ten heartening, gently didactic books from deGroat, Gilbert is a familiar face by now: He's the one who looks like Albert Einstein, had Einstein been a young opossum. Gilbert has learned to deal with bullies and the dark, with fibbing and smelly feet, and here he must contend with his hyper-competitive cousin, Wally. An Easter egg hunt is the perfect venue for him to flex his rivalrous muscles, but Wally is not content simply to vie with his cousins to find more eggs; he gets cutthroat about it, even nasty if it means gaining the coveted golden egg. Gilbert exploits Wally's reckless need to always be first to deliver him his comeuppance. Gilbert is not only finding his way in the world, he's doing a bit of teaching as well. DeGroat's artwork and story have a benign, empathetic cast to them, so the moral eases into the proceedings without becoming heavy handed. (Picture book. 3-8)Read full book review >
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 1, 2006

Gilbert and his friends return to delight their fans in this look at their last day of school. The normal classroom routine is replaced by cleaning desks, reminiscing about the year and practicing the poems and songs they will recite for their parents that afternoon. Recess is spent speculating as to who will win which awards. Gilbert is especially worried about this, as he cannot think of anything that he is better at than his classmates. But all works out in the end, and a little ice cream after the final school bell cheers up all the students. And looking out the window, Gilbert is heartened to learn that even Miss Byrd loves summer vacation—she bicycles past the shop wearing Gilbert's gift. DeGroat perfectly portrays the essence of the last day of school, from the strange surroundings of a classroom stripped of all decorations, to the mixed emotions of students and teachers alike. Her classic illustrations capture body language and facial expression to a T. A wonderful celebration of the end of a school year, ideal for preparing kindergartners. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
BRAND-NEW PENCILS, BRAND-NEW BOOKS by Diane deGroat
CHILDREN'S
Released: July 1, 2005

DeGroat ably threads her way through some well-trod ground: the first day of school. Gilbert, our favorite opossum, has a classic case of the willies as he sets out on his first day of school: Will the teacher be nice, will he be able to do the work, will he make friends? Luckily, he already has one good friend, but then there are all those other unfamiliar faces, one belonging to the loud, bullying Lewis. Then the school day gradually begins to fall into place and Gilbert finds a comfortable niche therein: a new friend, an enjoyable playground, a book to read that is a pleasing challenge. He also learns that Mr. Pug, the principal, isn't grumpy. Pugs just always look grumpy. DeGroat's watercolors—with their easygoing charm —evolve from expectant to relaxed as the kids find what first-graders have always found: School rarely meets their dire predictions, and even kids like Lewis have their time-honored place. (Picture book. 4-7)Read full book review >
LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE by Diane deGroat
CHILDREN'S
Released: Feb. 1, 2003

Using the story of George Washington and the cherry tree as inspiration, school children realize that the lessons they learn about honesty extend beyond the skit they perform. Paired with the class know-it-all, Phillip, and bossy Margaret, Gilbert decides that instead of playing George Washington or his father, he would prefer to play the part of the cherry tree. Unfortunately, because Phillip and Margaret cannot decide who will get the starring role, they must draw names—and Gilbert draws the part of George. Nervous about messing up his lines, Gilbert practices at every opportunity. At lunch, "I cannot tell a lie. It is peanut butter and jelly!" In math class, "I cannot tell a lie. The answer is twelve." His newfound honesty is tested, though when Gilbert takes home the hat from his costume and leaves it there by mistake. Finding that practicing lines is easier than practicing honesty, Gilbert tries to get out of trouble. Almost allowing another classmate to take the blame for the missing hat, Gilbert is soon caught in his lie and learns a powerful lesson. Amusing illustrations of the menagerie of animals that make up the classroom population accompany this tale with a moral message. Readers who have enjoyed Gilbert's earlier exploits will look forward to more from this remarkably human opossum. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 1, 2001

DeGroat brings back Gilbert, the young hedgehog/porcupine, in a story that resounds with getting one's just deserts. Gilbert is so torqued about going on a field trip to Pilgrim Town that he tosses and turns all night. But then he ends up with Philip, the class tattletale, as his partner for the day. Philip is annoying—he has threatened to tell on Gilbert for a minor infraction before they are even off the bus—and Gilbert cuts him absolutely no slack. Particularly when they get the Pilgrim Town, where he does nothing but hide from Philip. Then Gilbert inadvertently gets locked in the bathroom and scary visions of being trapped all night dance through his mind. But Philip saves the day and Gilbert gets sprung. Gilbert decides that Philip just might be an okay buddy, given half a chance. DeGroat's illustrations—handsome watercolors on two-page spreads—serve as ideal scene-setters for this thoughtful reminder that you never know who your friends are, or will be, and so everybody deserves a break—especially the class sad sack. (Picture book. 5-8)Read full book review >
GUS & GERTIE AND THE LUCKY CHARMS by Joan Lowery Nixon
ANIMALS
Released: Jan. 1, 2001

Multiple Edgar Award-winning Nixon plunges her penguin sleuths (Gus & Gertie and the Missing Pearl, 2000) into a chilly new case. Clad in complementary flowered, rubber swim caps, Gus and Gertie make their way through a tent crowded with feathered and furred athletes to register for the Animal Winter Olympics—only to discover that synchronized swimming is not a winter event. Worse yet, Gertie's lucky fish pin vanishes in the hubbub—as do all of the contenders' lucky charms. Sharp-eyed camera bug Gus fingers (okay, flippers) the culprits—a pair of pack rats named Mugs and Thugs—thanks to a set of revealing Polaroids, then joins Gertie in a wild chase down snow-covered slopes to recover the loot. Not only are deGroat's brightly colored illustrations just as action-packed as the plot, but she strews them with visual clues for alert young detectives to pick out. Gus and Gertie may not achieve their Olympian dream, but they'll give Nate the Great, or Cam Jansen, a run for their money any day. (Fiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
JINGLE BELLS, HOMEWORK SMELLS by Diane deGroat
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 31, 2000

Everyone knows how difficult it is to get everything done at Christmastime because there are so many distractions. In this very human-like community of animals, Gilbert, a possum, is a good student who always does his homework, but the assignment to draw a picture of the main character from a favorite book is one that he honestly forgets because there were cookies to create and a tree to decorate. Plus he can't stop daydreaming about the Red Racer Speed Sled he's hoping to get from Santa. On Monday Gilbert is horrified when he realizes he will have to go to school empty-handed, so he tries the old "fake illness" routine, but is not able to fool his mom. As he's walking to school he really does have a stomachache thinking about his teacher's reaction. Gilbert comes up with a clever plan that temporarily satisfies the teacher, so she gives him one more day to finish the assignment correctly. When he gets home there is no procrastination and he immediately draws a picture of Saint Nick, who has the Red Racer Speed Sled in hand, from The Night Before Christmas. The next day the drawing gets a happy-face sticker and Gilbert gets a happy face too. DeGroat's cute characters are colorfully appealing to young children and are realistic, in a furry sort of way. Details of everyday life (check out the cat clock in the kitchen) help to reinforce the connection between Gilbert's world and the world of the reader. This latest will tickle those who have met Gilbert in Roses Are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink; Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet; and Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
GUS & GERTIE AND THE MISSING PEARL by Joan Lowery Nixon
ANIMALS
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

Vacationing penguins Gertie and Gus arrive at Holiday Island dressed in their best, only to find themselves at seedy OTEL, where the Bad Guys Club meets, rather than the elegant Hotel de View, which they'd booked. It's not long before the "rascally rowdies, wretched wharf rats, riffraff, and ruffians," including the wily weasel, the agile alligator, and other alliterative animals, rip off Gertie's "beautiful, valuable deep sea pearl." Enter the Law, spectacularly depicted as a mirror-sunglassed, motorcycle-riding, mean-looking warthog. Questioning ensues, during which readers can spot the miscreant in an array of arresting, clue-filled watercolors based on camera-happy Gus's Polaroids: "See this picture of a cowboy boot with a bulge in it?" Gus asks, and the chase is on. Far be it from bad guys to pass up a ride in an officer's sidecar, but Gertie wants speed and tosses them out. The "scummy scallywags" pursue the Law to the Hotel de View and help catch the thief, adding to a high-spirited denouement, in which deGroat (One Small Dog, p. 1118, etc.) illustrates her ability to lampoon snobs as well as lowlifes, a satisfying conclusion to an adventure that shows there's no place like home. Here is high action, deft characterization to the depth needed, lots of brightly colored pictures, and built-in interactivity in a first chapter book for young mystery fans. (Fiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
ONE SMALL DOG by Johanna Hurwitz
ANIMALS
Released: Aug. 31, 2000

Hurwitz's (Make Room For Elisa, 1993) account of the failure of an untrained pound puppy to fit into a stressed household is a cautionary tale of how not to adopt a dog. Mom and Dad split at Christmas. Mom, Curtis, and preschooler Mitch take a smaller apartment; Dad gets an apartment downtown; Curtis nags for a dog; Mom caves; disasters ensue. Without carefully considering all of the implications of bringing an untrained, good-sized dog into their small apartment, the family endures everything a dog can do, including chewing up shoes. Sammy gets his head stuck in a milk can because he's found food in it (he's hungrier than they realize); he barks constantly in Dad's apartment, where he is not allowed to be; and finally, he bites Mitch and then Curtis. Little lessons along the way prepare the reader for the inevitable: Sammy must go. "Important steps should take more time, more thought." Hurwitz's light hand make the lessons go down easily, and an afterword by a professional dog trainer reinforces what kids should know about adopting and training a dog. Serviceable. (Fiction. 7-9)Read full book review >
POTS AND PANS by Patricia Hubbell
CHILDREN'S
Released: June 30, 1998

This boisterous picture book, a kindred spirit to Eve Merriam's Bam Bam Bam (1995), is a rollicking salute to the utter chaos created by a curious tot let loose in the kitchen. Skillfully epitomizing the boundless inquisitiveness of toddlers, Hubbell describes the exuberant explorations of one mischievous child. Bouncy rhymes crescendo with the growing excitement of a baby as it experiments with different objects: hitting, slamming, and banging them together, creating a cacophony of sound. Children will enjoy "reading" the sound effects, set in a bold typeface that stands out from the rest of the text. DeGroat's colorful illustrations humorously depict the antics of a cat, a dog, and a baby as they revel in this lively impromptu performance. (Board book. 1-3) Read full book review >
ANIMALS
Released: Oct. 1, 1997

From the collaborators behind Pinky Is a Baby Mouse (p. 468) and following its format, a book about animal homes and habitats. Rhyming quatrains with a typical A-B-C-B metrical pattern each end in a first-person question, e.g., ``I'm an Arctic lemming. Where will my household be?'' The required page turn divulges another short verse that expounds on a particular dwelling. Fox's den and spider's web are interspersed with the less familiar squirrel's drey, badger's sett, or river otter's holt, introducing unusual vocabulary in easily understood context. Backyard, jungle, savannnah, forest, and ice floe provide a variety of safe locations; the text also visits rufous ovenbirds, pampas deer, garden bowerbirds, and African termites. Woodsy, naturalistic watercolor habitats harbor sets of creatures with similar environs. Several of the lines are awkward or out of meter, making this difficult to read aloud, and no new territory is charted; instead, it's a smattering of brief encounters and a mild overview of the range of animal homes. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
ROSES ARE PINK, YOUR FEET REALLY STINK by Diane deGroat
FICTION
Released: Feb. 1, 1996

The annual classroom exchange of valentines is the backdrop for this engaging story about retaliation. Gilbert remembers how hurt he felt when Lewis tweaked his nose and when Margaret made fun of his glasses. So when he's faced with 15 blank valentine cards, each one waiting for a poem, he decides to hurt them in return. ``Roses are red, you wet your bed. I think that you have rocks in your head,'' goes to Margaret (he signs it ``Lewis''), while Lewis's card carries the sentiments of the book's title (Gilbert signs that one ``Margaret''). Gilbert feels remorse, however, upon receiving pleasant valentines from both of them, and his regret is compounded when his deceit is discovered and he is shunned by the class. An apology and two new poems from Gilbert patch things up in time for the Valentine's Day party. These hazardous waters of handing out valentines are negotiated by a cast of animals whose emotional toils will closely mirror readers' own. DeGroat pens a sympathetic look at the small hurts in life and the importance of second chances. (Picture book. 5+) Read full book review >
NEVER TRUST A SISTER OVER TWELVE by Stephen Roos
CHILDREN'S
Released: Oct. 1, 1993

A routine, heavy-handed take on close sisters drifting apart. In a new town and new school, Suki, 10, feels that her friendship with her sister is one of the few things she can count on—until Ginger brings home friends from her own class and decides to go to the Junior High Harvest Dance rather than use the concert tickets Suki bought for her birthday. These characters simply don't behave credibly; when Suki rips up the expensive tickets, her parents sigh patiently; when she appears in school with a homemade haircut, classmates buy her wild story about rescuing a cat in a storm and being singed by lightning. Irony is left behind as the obvious is laid on with a trowel—after Suki brushes off her little brother, ``All I kept wondering was how long it would take him to figure out that sometimes older kids just don't want to hang out with younger ones!'' In the end, the plot takes a twist that even uncritical readers will find artificial: Suki and two friends crash the dance, then refuse a friendly invitation to stay (``This is a party of twelve-year-olds, and we're just not twelve''). Awkward treatment of a well-worked theme. (Fiction. 9-12) Read full book review >
THE GREAT SUMMER CAMP CATASTROPHE by Jean Van Leeuwen
ANIMALS
Released: May 1, 1992

Further adventures of Merciless Marvin the Magnificent and his gang, three mice who live in Macy's toy department but here suddenly find themselves wrapped up with a care package of goodies and shipped to a camp in Vermont. These city mice manage to cope with the rigors of life in the wild—they outrun a hungry owl, outwit the camp dog, even learn to canoe and water-ski; at summer's end, they cleverly engineer a return to New York. Lighthearted b&w drawings capture the action's high spots. Fans of the trio's earlier adventures (The Great Christmas Kidnapping Caper, 1975, etc.) will find this amusing romp perfectly consistent in tone and style with its award- winning predecessors. (Fiction. 7-10) Read full book review >
ALL ABOUT SAM by Lois Lowry
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Oct. 1, 1988

In her eighth book about the Krupnik family, Lowry gains a fresh perspective by turning to its precocious youngest member and reporting on his first four years, from his point of view. Anastasia's brother Sam is already a unique individual when he is disgusted at having to wear a hat home from the hospital after he is born. His gleeful infant efforts to control grown-ups are followed by his toddler attempts to understand a puzzling world: what are those "terrible twos" his parents say he's in the midst of, and will they hurt him? Finally, he makes a reluctant (but triumphant) entry into nursery school and—with the aid of elderly friend Gertrustein—celebrates the sheer joy of existence. Sam's adventures, some of which also occur in the books about Anastasia, are warm and life-affirming; they are related with humorous affection, without a trace of condescension. The earliest sections are especially original and appealing (although Sam masters skills like rolling over and walking with astonishing rapidity). He emerges as a fascinating person; here's hoping that his further experiences (like those of that other younger sibling, Ramona) will also be shared. Suitable for reading 'aloud to capable preschoolers. Read full book review >
ANASTASIA KRUPNIK by Lois Lowry
FAMILY AND GROWING UP
Released: Oct. 24, 1979

Disappointing after A Summer to Die (1977), this episodic story takes Anastasia, ten, from her parents' unwelcome announcement that they're expecting a second child to her acceptance of the baby brother when he's born. A changing list of "Things I Love" and "Things I Hate" helps tie together Anastasia's experiences: she writes a poem which is not appreciated by her stereotypically unenlightened teacher; she visits her professor-father's college English class where she's the only one to relate to the Wordsworth poem under discussion (his students are stereotypically spacey); she decides to turn Catholic so she can choose a new name but backs out when she learns about confession; she falls in and out of love with a cool sixth-grade boy with an Afro; and she becomes attached to her senile grandmother. As in other kids' stories with sympathetic college-teacher fathers, this dad seems stuffier and less bright than he's meant to be—and Anastasia's poem seems less genuine than intended. And with Anastasia's vindictive secret choice for the baby's name, Lowry seems to be playing to an adult audience: Anastasia's father has put the choice of a name in her hands, and she plans to spring "One-Ball Reilly" on him when the time comes. Of course, she backs out and chooses her grandfather's name—more in memory of her grandmother, who dies just before the baby's birth. This way of remembering Grandmother is just one example of Lowry's linking of different threads and episodes, which she does well throughout the book. It is neatly crafted and stout for its genre, but entirely without the emotional conviction of A Summer to Die. Read full book review >
ONE MORE FLIGHT by Diane deGroat
Released: March 15, 1976

A chronic runaway from foster homes and from the Center where he's spent most of his eleven years, Dobby is lucky enough on his latest flight to be picked up by nineteen-year-old Timmer who lives in a barn and takes care of injured birds for the Audubon Society. To Dobby's disappointment, Timmer sends him back to the Home; but meanwhile the two become friends, and Dobby learns something he can apply to his own situation as he comes to understand why Timmer won't release the birds until they're "ready." The parallels are too transparently contrived to be as effective as they should be, tho Bunting does do better with the textures of Dobby's sojourn than with the outline. One more diluted Dorp Dead? Read full book review >