Kids are sure to ask questions about the plot holes, but others will enjoy the happy ending.

THE BOY WHO WANTED TO BE THE PRESIDENT'S DOG

Foster boy Spike, meanly called a mutt by his peers, heads to D.C. in this story of finding and belonging by Levin (Little Cheese: The Brie that Brought Sunshine to Chicago, 2013, etc.), with occasional illustrations from Mitevska (Too Many Shoes for Tenlei, 2017, etc.).

With text density appropriate to a chapter book, Levin introduces Spike, a pale boy with orange hair and freckles. Everyone calls Spike a mutt, which nice foster mom Mrs. Hope suggests is because “you look like you have a little bit of everyone in you.” Spike still thinks it’s an insult—until the new president says he wants a family dog who is a mutt, just like him. Spike takes a bus to Washington, D.C., to apply for the position of first dog, and though he gets a happy ending (he becomes a member of the first family), his aspirations never climb higher than being a pet. The tale touches on homelessness and problems of the foster care system, but the cheeky star never gives them much thought. Mitevska’s design for Spike doesn’t reflect his mixed heritage, but the contrast between him and the African-American first family shows the appeal of crossing bridges to make a family, and Levin depicts Spike’s brave adventure in an approachable vocabulary for strong independent readers.

Kids are sure to ask questions about the plot holes, but others will enjoy the happy ending.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-979967-16-7

Page Count: 26

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2018

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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