A sweet, conversational introduction to service dogs that’s hampered by repetitive graphics and awkward text design.




A grandmother explains the important role that her dog plays in her life in this illustrated children’s book.

Georgi, Violet, and Luella want to know more about their grandmother Nana Jan’s dog, Dominique. The older woman calls the canine a “service dog,” which she defines “a dog that is trained to help a person who has challenges.” She then shares the ways in which her Shih Tzu is a help not only to her, but to other people with whom they interact. As the grandkids ask additional questions, the story describes, in accessible vocabulary, the many roles of the dog. Nana Jan experiences pain and has trouble walking, and Dominique’s stroller works like a walker, allowing the grandmother to get around normally; the joy that Dominique brings Nana Jan helps her forget about her pain, and the dog’s cuddles help her rest. Dominique also works at a hospital, bringing comfort to sick children and pregnant women on bedrest. Dominique’s attendance at yoga classes at the YMCA brings happiness to Nana Jan’s classmates. As in Mud Pies (2015), Kiefer shows the comfortable relationship between a grandmother and her grandkids in this work. However, the book doesn’t address any special training that the dog has received, which is what differentiates service dogs from emotional-support animals. Nan Jan’s explanations of why she needs the dog, however, effectively normalize the experience of chronic pain for young readers. The uncredited illustrations don’t always match the text—the dog seems a bit more like a mutt than a Shih Tzu, and two illustrations appear to depict four grandchildren instead of the three named. The full-color cartoon images are full of joy, which fits the text’s mood. However, the book distractingly repeats some drawings on multiple pages; an image of a running dog on the title page, for example, appears four more times later on. The typefaces, in multiple sizes and colors, may be hard on young eyes, although Kiefer’s word choices and glossary are appropriate for beginning readers. Additional activities encourage children to conduct their own research about service dogs, with parental guidance.

A sweet, conversational introduction to service dogs that’s hampered by repetitive graphics and awkward text design.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-5399-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2020

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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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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