A relatable canine protagonist, mild action, and a well-crafted message of compassionate animal advocacy.


A shelter dog takes matters into her own paws and finds the perfect home.

In this illustrated book for grade-school readers by photographer, writer, and animal advocate Blake, a German shepherd pup, the smallest in her litter, yearns for a loving home. But for one reason or another, her adoptions from a Florida shelter keep falling through, earning her the name Gypsy from shelter caretakers “since she couldn’t seem to settle in one place.” (A side note: The author’s well-meaning usage of gypsy here is clear; however, the word has increasingly been dropped from public usage due to its historic application as a pejorative for the Roma people.) When Gypsy is finally adopted, the circumstances are unhappy. She is tied up outside in the hot sun all day, an unloved watchdog. Gypsy escapes, ending up on an ocean pier where anglers dock their boats. A young man named Charlie spots the hungry pup, and before giving her a sandwich, offers his hand to sniff. Gypsy’s reaction is one of several simple, evocative passages that deepen the narrative: “He had a nice smell. It was clean and honest, like the sea.” Gypsy later repays Charlie’s kindness. Between two nicely calibrated action sequences, the author underscores Charlie’s compassionate nature when, during Gypsy’s first boat ride, he gently calms her initial anxiety, letting her know that she can trust him to keep her safe. When Charlie anchors the boat at an island, readers are offered a memorable word picture of “twisted roots of mangrove trees spread into the water, like the fingers of ancient wizards.” The author’s scene-setting and clearly defined characters are adeptly reflected in colorful images by veteran children’s author/illustrator Dey, with the appealing rendering of the German shepherd pup at their center.

A relatable canine protagonist, mild action, and a well-crafted message of compassionate animal advocacy.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-57-886306-1

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Malakie Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2021

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among


Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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