Every child can benefit from these important strategies.

PUPPY IN MY HEAD

A BOOK ABOUT MINDFULNESS

Ollie is only a puppy, and his barefooted child is having trouble soothing and training him.

Ollie can get overly excited or very anxious—which wouldn’t be such a problem if he wasn’t constantly barking inside his person’s head! He yaps for no reason and wants to run and jump when he should be calm and quiet. What happens when the puppy controls the child and not the other way around? “AWOOO!” The narrator, who has brown skin and dark brown hair, mirrors the frantic antics of the puppy until the application of mindfulness techniques helps mellow out the two friends. Gravel uses the analogy of an exuberant puppy to help young children get the upper hand on a stressed and anxious mind. The puppy analogy devolves at times to cutesy: “I love Ollie. He’s such a good puppy. He is my best friend.” Nevertheless, coping mechanisms are effectively introduced. The author demonstrates how the mind can be calmed by using breathing practices—the child calls their breath a “magical leash”—physical exercise, and focus. Gravel’s signature black-outlined, comics-style drawings and oversized, colorful text stand out against generous negative space. The golden, long-eared puppy’s expressive features (bugged eyes and lolling red tongue) and cavorting, stubby-legged body successfully convey kinetic energy overload. The subtitle’s a bit of a misnomer, as anxiety relief rather than mindfulness is the focus, but the advice is sound, buttressed by a brief afterword from a pediatrician. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-17.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Every child can benefit from these important strategies. (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-303767-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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A simple but effective look at a keystone species.

IF YOU TAKE AWAY THE OTTER

Sea otters are the key to healthy kelp forests on the Pacific coast of North America.

There have been several recent titles for older readers about the critical role sea otters play in the coastal Pacific ecosystem. This grand, green version presents it to even younger readers and listeners, using a two-level text and vivid illustrations. Biologist Buhrman-Deever opens as if she were telling a fairy tale: “On the Pacific coast of North America, where the ocean meets the shore, there are forests that have no trees.” The treelike forms are kelp, home to numerous creatures. Two spreads show this lush underwater jungle before its king, the sea otter, is introduced. A delicate balance allows this system to flourish, but there was a time that hunting upset this balance. The writer is careful to blame not the Indigenous peoples who had always hunted the area, but “new people.” In smaller print she explains that Russian explorations spurred the development of an international fur trade. Trueman paints the scene, concentrating on an otter family threatened by formidable harpoons from an abstractly rendered person in a small boat, with a sailing ship in the distance. “People do not always understand at first the changes they cause when they take too much.” Sea urchins take over; a page turn reveals a barren landscape. Happily, the story ends well when hunting stops and the otters return…and with them, the kelp forests.

A simple but effective look at a keystone species. (further information, select bibliography, additional resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8934-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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This heartwarming story of a boy and his beloved dog opens the door for further study of our 16th president.

HONEY, THE DOG WHO SAVED ABE LINCOLN

A slice of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood life is explored through a fictionalized anecdote about his dog Honey.

When 7-year-old Abe rescues a golden-brown dog with a broken leg, he takes the pup home to the Lincolns’ cabin in Knob Creek, Kentucky. Honey follows Abe everywhere, including trailing after his owner into a deep cave. When Abe gets stuck between rocks, Honey goes for help and leads a search party back to the trapped boy for a dramatic rescue. The source for this story was a book incorporating the memories of Abe’s boyhood friend, explained in an author’s note. The well-paced text includes invented dialogue attributed to Abe and his parents. Abe’s older sister, Sarah, is not mentioned in the text and is shown in the illustrations as a little girl younger than Abe. All the characters present white save for one black man in the rescue crew. An oversized format and multiple double-page spreads provide plenty of space for cartoon-style illustrations of the Lincoln cabin, the surrounding countryside, and the spooky cave where Abe was trapped. This story focuses on the incident in the cave and Abe’s rescue; a more complete look at Lincoln’s life is included in an appended timeline and the author’s note, both of which include references to Lincoln’s kindness to animals and to other pets he owned.

This heartwarming story of a boy and his beloved dog opens the door for further study of our 16th president. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-269900-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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