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.)

The Very Very Very Long Dog (Julia Patton)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Very Very Very Long Dog by Julia Patton, a whimsical tale of Bartelby the sausage dog and his uniquely long body.

Bartelby is a very very very long dog. He lives quite happily in a cozy bookshop, spending each morning reading his favorite books whilst eating his breakfast, then meeting with his three young friends to go on a walk through the city. Bartelby loves his walks, but there is one slight problem: while his front end is happily enjoying the stroll, his back end seems all too adept at getting into trouble. Seemingly a block behind Bartelby at all times, his rear has a tendency to hold up traffic, prance through wet cement, and trip up passersby. When Bartelby realizes the trouble his hindquarters are causing, he is embarrassed and heartbroken. Can his clever young friends find a solution for Bartelby’s woes?

This was a really cute premise that, for the most part, worked very well. Bartelby’s sweet, friendly and sensitive nature is endearing right off the bat, and the children he has befriended are wonderful examples of how good pals can help those with special circumstances to navigate the world. The art is scribbly and sweet, adding to the general simple, congenial feel of the story and dialogue. However, the ending was a little underwhelming, and I only wish I had gotten a clearer sense of just how long Bartelby is – including his entire continuous length in at least one illustration might have helped establish a sense of scale. Otherwise, the length was great, and JJ enjoyed it. This would be a fun one for dachshund lovers, or anyone who knows what it’s like to be a little different, but wonderfully unique. Baby Bookworm approved!

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

The Adventures Of Honey & Leon (Alan Cumming & Grant Shaffer)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Adventures Of Honey & Leon, written by Alan Cumming and illustrated by Grant Shaffer, a delightful tale of two clever dogs and their loyalty to their human daddies.

Honey, a rescue mutt with refined sensibilities and a talent for acting, and Leon, a Brooklyn-born Chihuahua who is much tougher than his size suggests, live in the big city with their beloved human daddies. Life is practically perfect, except for one thing: their daddies travel a LOT, and Honey and Leon get lonely and worried about the other half of heir family when they’re separated. One day, upon finding their daddies packing their bags for another trip, Honey and Leon decide that they will embark upon a covert mission: they will pack their bags and follow their daddies across the globe in secret, defending them from baggage thieves and dozing boat captains, watching over their outings and activities, and even joining them for a fancy party – where Honey inadvertently becomes star of the show! Can the dedicated duo keep their cover and get home without their daddies realizing that they’ve had two (furry) tails?

We loved this one! The story felt very fresh and original, and was clearly written and illustrated with a great deal of love (Honey, Leon, and their daddies are based on the married author and illustrator and their real-life dogs). I loved the detail of the characters’ accents – Honey’s posh British dialect, Leon’s Brooklynite, even Cumming’s Scottish brogue if you’re feeling froggy – which allowed for some real fun when reading the book aloud to JJ. Honey and Leon themselves are a hoot, and captured gorgeously in exciting, colorful illustrations that brought them, their daddies, and their world to life. The length was great, and JJ and I both really enjoyed this one. A wonderful book to celebrate the bond between dogs and their human families, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!