The Vanishing Lake (Paddy Donnelly)

Hello, friends! Our book today is The Vanishing Lake by Paddy Donnelly, an enchanting fable that celebrates imagination, curiosity, and everyday magic.

Meara loves to visit her Granddad and his pet otter, Cara, at his home of the shores of beautiful lake called Loughareema. With cool water to swim in, scattered rocks to jump across, and small islands to explore, Loughareema is a pretty normal lake… most of the time. But sometimes, for seemingly no reason at all, the lake will just up and disappear! Very suddenly, all the water will be gone until it rains again. Meara’s granddad has plenty of ridiculous explanations for this mysterious phenomenon, but Meara knows that there must be an answer in science. She begins to study and gather evidence of where the vanishing lake might be disappearing to, but with no answers and no leads. At last, Granddad offers to show Meara the truth about their disappearing lake… and it’s an explanation that no one expects!

Wonderful! I absolutely love a good plot twist in a children’s book, and this is one of the coolest – and most moving – I’ve ever seen. Loughareema, based on the actual vanishing lake near the author’s childhood home in Northern Ireland, actually does have a fascinating scientific explanation for its periodic disappearances, and one that Donnelly wisely adds in a very informative author’s note. But for the purposes of the story, it’s the magic of the mystery that is more important than solving it, and Paddy nicely balances fact and fantasy to sell the message that both scientific curiosity and imagination have value, especially for children. This is supported beautifully by the lush and atmospheric illustrations that pulls readers into the world of Meara’s lake, creating both a natural and somewhat mystical environment. The length is great for a storytime, and JJ really enjoyed the surprise twist, and loved that Granddad’s otter shared a name with her mom (lol). Overall, this was a wonderful read with a lot of style and a sweet message, 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.)

Dodos Are Not Extinct! (Paddy Donnelly)

Hello, friends! Our book today is Dodos Are Not Extinct! by Paddy Donnelly, a humorous look at the secret lives of extinct (or are they?) creatures.

They are many famous creatures that have gone extinct over time: dodos, quaggas, great auks, Irish elk. But wait, did they? Little do us humans know, these animals are still roaming the earth – in disguise! Sure, it can be tricky at times to maintain their cover, and they have to get very creative with their costumes and aliases, but it allows these famous critters to maintain their anonymity (the most skilled covert creatures? Dinosaurs, of course).

Fabulously fun, but with a confusing message. I would be lying if I said this one didn’t have JJ and I giggling throughout; Donnelly’s delightful conversational text and wonderfully absurd illustrations are a hoot and a half, and make for a fantastic read-aloud. However, the fantasy of extinct creatures existing in secret in modern times does occasionally feel like taking a serious subject a little too lightly, especially in reference to animals who were snuffed from existence due to human intervention. While Donnelly does provide more information all of the species in the back endpaper, including their causes of extinction, it may be too little too late for younger readers who don’t understand the gravity of species extinction and the separation of fact from fantasy. Otherwise, the length was good for a storytime, and we really did enjoy the story itself. Perhaps pair this one with a follow-up discussion to inject a dose of reality, but absolutely worth a read. Baby Bookworm approved!

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