A cute canine story that encourages gratitude as well as compassion toward prisoners and the disabled.

DEAR MR. ALBERT, …IT’S ME, PRINCE!

In this children’s book, a service dog for veterans finds a new home.

The Ginsburg sisters’ debut was inspired by the Dogs 4 Disabled Veterans partnership with the Martin County Correctional Institute in Florida on “a Train-the-Trainer program called B.A.R.K. (Beacon Among Rescued K9s).” The authors’ dog, Prince, was trained by a prison inmate, Mr. Albert, through this scheme. But due to his Addison’s disease, Prince couldn’t become a full-fledged service dog; instead, he lived in foster homes before being adopted. In 14 letters, Prince updates Mr. Albert on his new life with a human mom and dad, two young sisters, and his “puppy brother,” Bailey. His missives resemble those of an excited kid writing home from camp. But with the text-speak acronyms (like OMG and TBH), he also sounds like a teenage girl—“Love … it! Heehee … LOL.” The word “love” is always accompanied by a heart icon, a rather cutesy affectation. Still, it’s impossible to forget that the narrator is actually a dog: he loves chasing lizards and ends most letters with “Ta-ta for now. Lick, lick, and woof, wooof.” Prince tells Mr. Albert about a visit from the family’s Kentucky cousins, and of phoning to reassure a doggy friend who’s afraid of an impending thunderstorm. He learns to bring his mom her misplaced glasses, and sparks a panic about rabies when he catches Susie the squirrel. There are also some mild scatological incidents that are likely to amuse Captain Underpants fans: “Geez, I really need to go potty. Gotta run” and “I sometimes chase my tail trying to smell my own farts.” The didactic purpose of the book—which features adorable black-and-white images by debut illustrator Jacobson—is clear in its focus on disabilities and volunteerism as well as its vocabulary lessons. Any potentially unfamiliar words are explained in footnotes and helpfully gathered into a glossary. But the definitions are not always straightforward: for example, “Complimentary is an expression used when explaining you liked what someone did.” The authors plan a sequel; a portion of this volume’s proceeds will go to B.A.R.K.

A cute canine story that encourages gratitude as well as compassion toward prisoners and the disabled.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-9997403-0-9

Page Count: 142

Publisher: Keshare, Inc.

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2018

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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Pleasant but slightly pedestrian.

THE THREE BILLY GOATS GRUFF

Fairy-tale fun for everyone. (Except trolls.)

Barnett and Klassen partner for a retelling of the classic folktale about a trio of variously sized goats (all named Gruff) and a troll whose greed ultimately leads to his downfall. The story has been told many times, but in this variation, Barnett shows off for his audience by giving the troll a substantial amount of dialogue, most of which rhymes: “I love goat! Let me count the ways. / Goat rump in a honey glaze. / Goat smoked, goat poached, a goat pot roast. / Goat smorgasbord! Goat smeared on toast! / A goat kale salad—hold the kale. / Goat escargot! (That’s goat plus snails.) / On goat I’ll dine, on goat I’ll sup. / You little goat, I’ll eat you up!” It’s amusing verbal play, and librarians and caregivers who love to read out loud will enjoy hamming it up, although it may lessen the scary impact of the character. Likewise, the artwork, created in ink, watercolor, and graphite and compiled digitally, is pure Klassen, and the brown, green, and blue tones combine into an earthy setting where the ratlike troll (sans tail) fits in perfectly. But the visual reveal of the third billy goat takes a bit of oomph out of the story, as readers will be able to anticipate that this troll won’t be having goat strudel anytime soon. Fans of either Barnett or Klassen will love this retelling, but librarians won’t be sending their Paul Galdone or Jerry Pinkney retellings out to pasture just yet. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Pleasant but slightly pedestrian. (Folktale. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-3386-7384-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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