Wonder Dogs! (Linda Ashman)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Wonder Dogs!, written by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Karen Obuhanych, a delightful and touching ode to canine companions.

Dogs can do all sorts of amazing things! Agility athletes, super-scenters, brave rescuers, courageous guards, and faithful service pups – there are many dogs that have jobs helping people every day. They come in all shapes and sizes, with all kinds of coats, features, and talents. So when the roly-poly canine narrator questions what kind of wonder dog they might be, they have to think hard; they’re not a working or service dog, not a guard or a show dog. And yet, while our protagonist pup may not always be perfect, they are an expert at one thing: being a best pal to their young human.

Adorable! Ashman’s rhyming text is written with guileless charm, first exploring the breadth of amazing jobs that dogs can do, then deftly pivoting to an explanation of what makes each dog special: their capacity for unconditional love and loyalty. Obuhanych’s utterly sweet illustrations pair with this perfectly, exploring the diversity of breeds and canine professions while also creating a central character and relationship that will pull the heartstrings. For instance, a late scene in which the protagonist pup listens, ear perked, as their young human confides in them, and offers the comfort of a paw on their knee is one that will strike true to any child who grew up with a trusted canine confidant. The length is perfect for a storytime, and JJ and I both adored it. This one is an absolute treat for dog lovers of all ages, and we highly recommend it – Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

A Dog’s Guide to Being Human (Shanna Silva)

Hello, friends! Our book today is A Dog’s Guide to Being Human, written by Shanna Silva and illustrated by Agnès Ernoult, a sweet look at growing up human through the perspective of man’s best friend.

Smudge the dog is so excited – his humans are bringing home a tiny, furless baby. Being the good boy that he is, Smudge is eager to teach his new family member all there is to know about life, and pass on everything he’s learned about being human. For instance, tissues are fun to shred, roses are prickly, and NEVER drink the water from the toilet (it makes the other humans mad). Thunderstorms are scary, but you should try to be brave. Treat everyone as a potential friend, no matter what they look like. And most of all, what every good dog knows: there’s no limit to the love you can share.

Lovely. While some of Smudge’s advice is comedically misguided, this is always presented with a wink to the audience that helps the jokes land skillfully (the advice on shaking after a bath and not drinking from the toilet had JJ rolling with laughter). And as the lessons becomes more earnest, the tone beautifully straddles an ode to our relationships with dogs and a lesson in acceptance, inclusivity, and kindness. Ernoult’s digital artwork is charming and warm, with the oblong and energetic Smudge being a standout, but also manages to include a great deal of diversity in its scenes with humans. There’s even a wonderful illustration of Smudge making friends with a pitbull/bully breed dog, a class of canine often unfairly maligned in fiction and reality, alongside text encouraging tolerance. The length is perfect for a storytime, JJ loved this one, and we highly recommend it. A wonderful read, especially for dog lovers, that encourages us to look at the world through a dog’s eyes and heart. Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

Honey & Leon Take The High Road (Alan Cumming)


Hello, friends! Our book today is Honey & Leon Take The High Road, written by Alan Cumming and illustrated by Grant Shaffer, second of the pair’s stories based on their real-life dogs.

Continuing Honey and Leon’s adventures, the perfectly mismatched pair (Honey is a large, fluffy mutt; Leon is a compact and cheerful Chihuahua) continue their mission of keeping their dads safe, near and – thanks to a few clever disguises – far. Hearing the familiar, foreboding sound of luggage wheels, the two cleverly ascertain their dads’ destination: London! They tail the dads as planned, across the Atlantic, but find that London is only a waypoint; the pair follow their fathers to Edinburgh, then the island of Barra. It’s there that the glamorous Honey meets a dashing collie named Coll, and begins a holiday romance, leaving Leon to do the lion’s share of dad-guarding. But when a thick Scottish fog falls over the island, can Leon figure out how to safely lead everyone home?

Sweet. The story is fairly similar to the previous book, but adds a few new elements to spice things up. One plot point that disappointed was the mid-book reveal that the dads have known about their pets’ hijinks all along – it’s not a bad twist, but happens far too early and with too little fanfare. However, there is a plotline in this book that I’ve never seen before: Honey and Coll begin a whirlwind romance, but admit that his place is in Scotland and hers is in New York. So the two end their relationship amicably by going their separate ways, with Honey expressing to her brother that she’s happy to have loved Coll, even if it had to end. For a picture book to portray a romance like this is incredibly rare, but so beneficial: it shows little readers that not all couples work out or last forever, and that’s okay. It’s a small plot point, but I was so impressed by it, because it fosters a healthy view of relationships. Shaffer’s art is fond and deeply personal, and works perfectly. The length is fine, and JJ and I (and Kodo!) loved the playful dog’s’ antics. Definitely worth a look, and we enjoyed it. Baby Bookworm approved!

Little Brown (Marla Frazee)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Little Brown by Marla Frazee, the tale of a very cranky dog.

Little Brown is very cranky. The other dogs don’t play with him – he’s not sure if he’s cranky because they don’t to play, or if they don’t want to play because he’s cranky. Instead, he watches the other dogs from a corner of their chain-link enclosure (a dog park? Doggie daycare? Animal shelter?) – the big dogs chase balls, the small dog run in circles, the old dogs nap, and the young ones play in the mud. Little Brown is sure he could do any of these things, but no one asks him to. That is, until a start ball rolls his way…

So, I was really thinking that this was going to be a story about making friends – the setup certainly seems to indicate so. But the plot took a rather unexpected twist: Little Brown steals the ball. Then he steals all the other toys, blankets, beds, and even a rock, piling them into a mountain and sitting atop the spoils, keeping the other dogs from using them. This leads to a stalemate, where the other dogs stare and wonder if they should play with Little Brown to get the toys back – or will that make them cranky too? – and Little Brown wonders if he should give the goods back or not to make the others like him. Then, abruptly, the dogs are called inside, nothing is resolved, and the story indicates that this will all happen again tomorrow? Um.. what? Was that a kids’ story? What’s the lesson? Where was the fun? I can usually understand if a picture book lacks one or the other, but both? The length was fine, and art is very cute, with adorably charismatic dogs of all shapes and sizes, but it certainly doesn’t save the confusing, unsatisfying, and somewhat pointless storyline. Even JJ seemed pretty puzzled. Quite weird, and not for us.

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

We Are All Different & I Am Important (Miranda Mittleman)

Hello, friends! Our books today are the Paws And Think! series: We Are All Different and I Am Important, written by Miranda Mittleman and illustrated by iNDOS studio, a set starring a curious pup learning important life lessons.

In We Are All Different, Weaver introduces himself as a playful spotted dog with a loving family. At the dog park, he muses that none of the other dogs look just like him: they are all different colors, shapes and/or sizes. Weaver likes this though, because when all those differences mix together, it makes for a fun day of play with friends. In I Am Important, Weaver notices that many other pups have important jobs, like police dogs or service animals. He wonders if he is important or not, and decides to leave home to find out. As he walks around town however, he begins seeing flyers with his pictures on him – he family thinks he’s run away. Weaver returns home and realizes that everyone is important, because everyone has someone that they are important to.

These were delightful! Weaver is a strong protagonist for these types of lessons: he’s open, inquisitive, and has a positive outlook that children can connect to. And while the messages of self-esteem and diversity are well-worn in kidlit, it makes them no less important, and these books communicate them engagingly and effectively. The story in I Am Important is a bit stronger, but We Are All Different has a great payoff: Weaver notes that while others may be different to him, he is different to them. It’s a concept that often gets skipped over in books on diversity, and encourages children to consider the perspectives of others. The illustrations were very cute, with colorful environments and charming characters. The lengths were perfect, and JJ really liked them. Definitely Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of these books were provided to The Baby Bookworm by the author in exchange for an honest review.)