A sweet slice of rural American canine life.

HICKORY DOC'S TALES

THE PACK: FIRST GENERATION

A lovable bird dog points the way to outdoor fun in the country in this children’s book.

Harkey (The Budding Staff, 2005) presents a playful collection of stories narrated by a German short-haired pointer named Doc (his pedigree name is Chicoree’s Hickory Doc). The oldest in a family of five, good ol’ Doc spins colorful tales about quail-hunting dogs—like his daughter, Patch, who is the best tracker of all—in rural Oklahoma. Then there’s Doc’s laughably snooty little brother, Zeke, who brags about being kin to royalty because his coat is speckled instead of a “common” liver brown like Doc’s. The two brothers vie for the affections of Sly, a graceful bird dog with an impressive pedigree. Featuring other silly characters, such as a clumsy Labrador retriever named Newt, the tales reveal that life at the Lazy Dog Hacienda is full of giggly high jinks and an occasional snout of porcupine quills. There are scary moments, though, as when Big Bad Carl—the meanest hunter ever—steals Patch. And there’s some intrigue, including the mystery of the missing dog food. While conventional black-and-white drawings of big-eyed canines precede the chapters, they add little excitement to the stories (aimed at elementary school readers). But catchy chapter titles, like “Hamburgers, Fries, Caesar Salad, and Temptation,” and boldface subtitles break the prose into eye-appealing sections. With a voice that’s as friendly as a neighbor at the door with a pecan pie, Doc’s down-home dialogue is sprinkled with references that many kids should like. For example, he uses fast food to describe the scent of quails: “Well, I can tell you they smell like no other smell—sort of a cross between chicken nuggets and fries.” When he’s around Zeke, Doc acts like a human brother; for example, they have staring contests. For those who aren’t squeamish about dogs eating pig ears for snacks, this collection gently—and respectfully—offers the basics of quail hunting: during the “off season,” the birds “need to rest and repopulate.” Harkey accents the prose with short, memorable landscape descriptions: wind that’s always blowing and prairie grass way taller than the dogs.

A sweet slice of rural American canine life.

Pub Date: July 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4808-4723-1

Page Count: 116

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character.

SPOOKY POOKIE

One of Boynton's signature characters celebrates Halloween.

It's Halloween time, and Pookie the pig is delighted. Mom helps the little porker pick out the perfect Halloween costume, a process that spans the entire board book. Using an abcb rhyme scheme, Boynton dresses Pookie in a series of cheerful costumes, including a dragon, a bunny, and even a caped superhero. Pookie eventually settles on the holiday classic, a ghost, by way of a bedsheet. Boynton sprinkles in amusing asides to her stanzas as Pookie offers costume commentary ("It's itchy"; "It's hot"; "I feel silly"). Little readers will enjoy the notion of transforming themselves with their own Halloween costumes while reading this book, and a few parents may get some ideas as well. Boynton's clean, sharp illustrations are as good as ever. This is Pookie's first holiday title, but readers will surely welcome more.

A pleasant holiday spent with a perfectly charming character. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-553-51233-5

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Robin Corey/Random

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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