Author Archives: Jo

Cats in children’s literature

After two weeks of picture books about cats, it’s time to introduce you to books for children and young adults that have felines at the heart of them.

Children's Books About Cats

Ship’s Cat Doris
Written and illustrated by Jane Simmons

Ship's Cat Doris

When Bosun thinks his new ship’s cat is a she, he names her Doris! But Doris-definitely a he-soon finds this isn’t his only problem: making friends with the ship’s dogs is tricky, and standing up to the shipyard bully will take a lot of courage…

Will Doris ever be a true ship’s cat?

Doris is taken from his mummy to live on Cap and Bosun’s boat. There he meets two dogs: John the gentle giant and Madge, who was badly treated by her previous family and needs time to get to know Doris. Freda the chicken also lives with them and spends most of her time scrounging food in the boatyard. When the Beast (the vet) visits, it turns out that Doris is actually a boy! But Cap and Bosun decide to keep the name. Life on the boat is never dull. Doris chases a rat into the water, encounters mean Jasper the boatyard cat, is attacked by seagulls and is trapped on the boat by the threat of the Queen’s (the owner of the boatyard) pet. Finally the boat is sea-worthy and Doris sets sail for new adventures with his family.

Jane Simmons is the author and illustrator of many picture books, including the Ebb and Flo and Daisy series. She based this story on her own experiences living with Doris, John, Madge and Freda on a boat in Cornwall.

Squishy McFluff: The Invisible Cat!
Written by Pip Jones and illustrated by Ella Okstad

Squishy McFluff

An imaginary friend is a wonderful thing.
What giggles! What games! What adventures they bring!
Well, Ava’s a girl who knows all about that…
Meet Squishy McFluff, her invisible cat!

Suitable for younger readers, this book introduces Ava and her invisible cat, Squishy McFluff. Soon the two are getting into all sorts of mischief: chasing birds, painting the carpet, drawing on the curtains and putting plants in the bath. Of course, it is all Squishy McFluff’s doing. Mum tries to get rid of him by sending him on a train ride and then to the moon, but he just comes back. Finally she enlists the help of Great Grandad Bill, who solves the problem of the mischievous invisible cat…for now!

This rhyming book about an imaginary cat is delightful. The words and pictures are a perfect match, enhancing the reading experience. The length and layout also make it an ideal way of introducing children to independent reading. And there are another five Squishy McFluff books, as well as a website to explore. Yay!

The Cats of Tanglewood Forest
Written by Charles de Lint and illustrated by Charles Vess

The Cats Of Tanglewood Forest

Lillian Kindred spends her days exploring the Tanglewood Forest, a magical, rolling wilderness that she imagines to be full of fairies. The trouble is, Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills-until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. Now Lillian must set out on a perilous adventure that will lead her through the untamed lands of fabled creatures-from Old Mother Possum to the fearsome Bear People-to find a way to make things right.

With beautiful illustrations throughout, this book tells the story of Lillian, who gets bitten by a snake whilst playing in Tanglewood Forest. The cats, who live there, turn her into a kitten in order to save her life. Lillian then sets out to find a way to return to her original form. During her adventures, she meets T. H. Reynolds (a Truthful and Handsome fox), who takes her to Old Mother Possum. She changes Lillian back, but there are awful consequences. So, again, Lillian sets off to make things right by journeying to the Bear People. Finally, with the help of Apple Tree Man and Father of Cats (a panther), things are righted, for a price.

This is a wonderful book, full of folklore and magic, which is only to be expected as both Charles de Lint and Charles Vess are well-known for their work in the mythic arts field. Based on the picture book, A Circle of Cats, I highly recommend this story to anyone who enjoys fantasy and legends.

Warriors: Into the Wild
Written by Erin Hunter and illustrated by Owen Richardson

Into The Wild

Fire alone can save our clan.

For generations, four Clans of cats have shared the forest. But ThunderClan is in grave danger, and ShadowClan grows stronger every day. In the midst of this turmoil appears a house cat named Rusty…who may turn out to be the bravest warrior of them all.

This book marks the start of the Warriors series, The Prophecies Begin, and is set in a rural area inhabited by four clans of cats: Thunderclan, Shadowclan, Riverclan and Windclan. When cats dies, they journey to Starclan, which provides guidance through dreams and omens. This first book introduces Rusty, a kittypet (a house-cat), who leaves his home and joins Thunderclan, whose territory covers the woodland areas. He is renamed Firepaw and becomes friends with two other apprentices, Graypaw and Ravenpaw. But there is trouble in the wilderness. One clan has disappeared and another is trying to extend its territory. Meanwhile not all cats in Thunderclan can be trusted. It is just possible that Firepaw is the cat foreseen in a message from Starclan: “Fire alone can save our clan”.

Although I am not a cat-person, I really enjoyed this book. It is fast-paced and exciting, with high and low points. Written from a cat’s-eye view, it captures the mannerisms and ‘speech’ of the felines; eg. ‘miaowed’ and ‘mewed’ are used instead of ‘said’. I also love the maps at the front of the book, which show the wilderness from a cat viewpoint and then a two-leg (a person) viewpoint. The good news for those who enjoy this book is that there are nine series to read, as well as a website to explore. So, plenty to keep you busy! Erin Hunter (a collective pseudonym for six authors) has also written several other series: Seekers (about three bears), Survivors (about a pack of dogs) and Bravelands (about a lion, elephant and baboon).

Kaspar, Prince of Cats
Written by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman

Kaspar, Prince Of Cats

Kaspar the cat first came to The Savoy Hotel in a basket-Johnny Trott knows, because he was the one who carried him in. Johnny was a bell-boy, you see, and he carried all of Countess Kandinsky’s things to her room.

But Johnny didn’t expect to end up with Kaspar on his hands forever, nor did he count on making friends with Lizziebeth, a spirited American heiress. Pretty soon, events are set in motion that will take Johnny-and Kaspar-all around the world, surviving theft, shipwreck and rooftop rescues along the way. Because everything changes with a cat like Kaspar around. After all, he’s Kaspar Kandinsky, Prince of Cats, a Muscovite, a Londoner and a New Yorker, and as far as anyone knows, the only cat to survive the sinking of the Titanic

This is the story of Johnny Trott, a bell-boy at The Savoy Hotel in London, whose life becomes entwined with that of Kaspar, the Prince of Cats. He meets Countess Kandinsky and her cat when she arrives at the hotel. He is given responsibility for looking after Kaspar whilst she is rehearsing for an opera at Covent Garden. But a tragedy occurs and Johnny ends up hiding the cat in his room. Lizziebeth, an American heiress staying at The Savoy with her family, finds Kaspar and befriends Johnny, who saves her when she climbs onto the roof trying to help an injured pigeon. When the family and Kaspar return to New York aboard the Titanic, Johnny stows away and ends up working as a stoker. Soon disaster strikes in the middle of the North Atlantic…

Like much of Michael Morpurgo’s work, this is a wonderfully emotive story. It is based on real events: the lucky black cat at The Savoy and the sinking of the Titanic. I love the way he has woven a story around these things. This is a feature of several of his books; eg. Listen to the Moon (the sinking of the Lusitania during World War I), The Fox and the Ghost King (the discovery of the remains of King Richard III in a carpark in Leicester) and The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips (the practice for the D-Day landings on a beach in Slapton, South Devon).

Cat on the Island
Written by Gary Crew and illustrated by Gillian Warden

Cat On The Island

In 1894, Stephens Island, New Zealand, was paradise. This true story, told by an old man to his grandson, reveals how one innocent event can change the delicate balance of nature forever.

“Told as a fable, but based on a real event, this story is a timely reminder of the fragility of our world” (Harper Collins Publishers, 2014). A grandfather tells his grandson about his family’s arrival on Stephens Island in Cook Strait between New Zealand’s North and South islands. His father is the lighthouse keeper and his mother brings a pregnant cat named Tibbles. The island is home to many different bird species, including the world’s only flightless wren. The trees are cleared and the vegetation is removed to make way for the lighthouse. As the grandfather says, “We built a lighthouse to save the odd ship, but wrecked an island to do it”. Then Tibbles gives birth to a litter of kittens, which become feral once they have weaned. They start to prey on the birds, especially the wrens which, being flightless, have no means of escape and no vegetation to hide in. Within two years of the family’s arrival, the wrens are extinct. The grandfather explains to his grandson that “Nothing comes back when it’s extinct”. This is “the only instance in the world where a single species has been made extinct by another single species”.

This picture book is more appropriate for older readers and I would shelve it in the fiction section, rather than with the picture books. There are slightly confronting images of the cat (all fangs, claws and blood) and the theme is suited to deeper discussions around a range of ecological issues. These are included in the Teaching Notes written for use with the book. In addition, an article published by The Ornithological Society of New Zealand and entitled The tale of the lighthouse-keeper’s cat (not Hamish from last week’s post!), provides more information about the extinction of the flightless wren. It makes interesting reading. As does a recent article in The Guardian about the number of birds killed each year by cats in Australia (an incredible 377 million).

The Wildings
Written by Nilanjana Roy and illustrated by Prabha Mallya

The Wildings

Prowling, hunting and fighting amidst the crumbling ruins of one of Delhi’s oldest neighbourhoods, are the proud Wildings. These feral cats fear no one, go where they want and do as they please. Battle-scarred tomcats, fierce warrior queens, the Wildings have ruled over Nizamuddin for centuries.

Now there is a new addition to the clan-a pampered housecat with strange powers that could turn their world on its head. And something is stirring in the old Shuttered House-something dark and cruel and dangerous. As a terrifying new enemy emerges from the shadows, the Wildings will need all the allies they can get, as they fight for Nizamuddin, and their lives.

The Wildings are the feral cats of Nizamuddin in Old Delhi. Consisting of toms, such as Katar and Hulo, and queens, such as Beraal and Miao, they prowl the parks and streets of the neighbourhood. In many ways, this book is similar to Into the Wild, as it introduces the clan members and world in which they live. Into their lives comes a kitten, a house-cat like Rusty, who plays an important role in the future of the Wildings. However, unlike Rusty, Mara interacts with the other cats in a non-physical way and refuses to leave the safety and comfort of her home. While she develops and learns to control her powers, the cats in the old Shuttered House are getting restless. They are not like the Wildings; they have no morals or scruples. They want to kill and take over the surrounding territory. Only the feral cats stand in their way…

This was an exceptionally well-written book, which I found hard to put down. The characters are engaging and there is a good balance between action and setting, so you get a feel for the place, but the storyline continues to move forward. I also enjoyed the fantasy element of the Sender. The sequel, The Hundred Names of Darkness, is on my ‘to read’ list and I look forward to meeting Mara, Southpaw, Beraal, Katar and the other cats of Old Delhi again.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of books about cats. Maybe you’ve been inspired to seek some of them out and read them. If you have, let me know what you think of them in the comments below.

This post is for Olivia, who loves cats, but may have to settle for her own Squishy McFluff!

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.

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More picture books about cats

Last week I shared seven picture books about cats with you. Here are some more to enjoy alone or with friends.
More Picture Books About Cats
Macavity the Mystery Cat
Written by T. S. Eliot and illustrated by Arthur Robins
Macavity The Mystery Cat

Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,

He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity…

A celebration of the world’s most mischievous cat, featuring gloriously funny illustrations by Arthur Robins.

This book was released to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the publication of Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, from which this poem is taken. Macavity is known as the Hidden Paw, because he is “the master criminal who can defy the law”. He steals anything and everything (and also cheats at cards!), but never gets caught. Children will love joining in and shouting the refrain, “Macavity’s not there!”. Readers can also try to spot Macavity as he prowls the pages of the book.

T. S. Eliot’s collection of feline poems inspired the musical Cats by Andrew Lloyd Webber. A number of other picture books have been also published alongside Macavity, including Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat and Mr Mistoffelees the Conjuring Cat.

Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes
Written by Eric Litwin and illustrated by James Dean

Pete The Cat

Pete the Cat loves his brand-new white shoes so much he goes walking down the street singing…

“I love my white shoes,

I love my white shoes,

I love my white shoes.”

Along the way, Pete’s white shoes don’t stay so white. But does that worry Pete? Goodness, no! Because it’s all good.

Pete the Cat is one chilaxed feline. Nothing bothers him, not even when his brand-new white shoes get stained different colours. He just keeps walking and singing his song. This is fun way for children to explore the colours, white, red, blue and brown, as Pete’s shoes change when he steps in strawberries, blueberries and mud. The colour of the page also changes accordingly.

There are a series of Pete the Cat books, which you can check out on the Pete the Cat website. These include picture books, song books, I Can Read books and storybooks. You can also access songs and videos, including the one about Pete’s white shoes.

Mog the Forgetful Cat
Written and illustrated by Judith Kerr

Mog The Forgetful Cat

Mog always seems to be in trouble for her forgetfulness… but one night it comes in very handy!

This is the first Mog book, introducing us to the endearing tabby, who lives with Mr and Mrs Thomas and their children, Debbie and Nicky. In this story, Mog can’t get back into the house, because she can’t remember, amongst other things, where the cat flap is. The family complain, “Bother that cat”, as she creates havoc trying to get inside. However, being forgetful is helpful, because Mog saves the day when the house is broken into. The illustrations have a real 1970s feel to them and remind me of my childhood in London. I particularly love the scene where the burglar has been caught and the policeman has come to take statements from the family. The thief is having a cup of tea with Mr and Mrs Thomas as he waits to be taken to the nick. What a terribly British attitude to crime!

There are 18 Mog books in total, including the poignant Goodbye Mog, in which Mog dies. Judith Kerr is also well-known for her picture book, The Tiger Who Came To Tea, and the semi-autobiographical trilogy, Out of the Hitler Time, which includes When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Now aged 94, she continues to write, with two new books being published in 2015.

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Cat
Written and illustrated by Ronda and David Armitage

The Lighthouse Keeper's Cat

Hamish, the lighthouse keeper’s cat, has been neglecting his duties. So when he hears that Mr and Mrs Grinling are going to punish him by putting him on a diet, he decides to find somewhere else to live. Soon, though, Hamish realises there’s no place like home…

Hamish lives with Mr and Mrs Grinling in “the little white cottage on the cliffs”. He helps Mr Grinling in the lighthouse and Mrs Grinling in the garden. But mostly he likes to sleep. When there is a problem with mice, the Grinlings decide to cut out Hamish’s breakfast so he will get rid of them. However, the poor cat thinks they no longer love him and he leaves home. He finds several possible places to stay, but none are quite right.  Then, whilst at the top of a tree in the middle of a storm, Hamish comes to realise that home is best. But he is stuck and it is only with the help of Mrs Grinling and his favourite Star-gazy Pie that he is able to get down. When he gets back to the lighthouse, he persuades the mice to leave.

Like Mog, this is an oldie but a goodie. And like Mog, there are a number of books in The Lighthouse Keeper’s series, including The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch. This is the book that introduced readers to the Grinlings. It also features Hamish in a basket high above the sea!

There Are Cats In This Book
Written and illustrated by Viviane Schwarz

There Are Cats In This Book

Come play with the cats in this book, Tiny, Moonpie and André. All you have to do is start turning the pages!

PS. There are fish in this book too.

Like Chester in the previous post, this book challenges the picture book format and the conventions of storytelling. The cats engage the readers by speaking directly to them; eg. “Turn the page”, “Can you dry us too?” and “Will you tuck us in?” Along with flaps to turn, this makes for an interactive experience. It is almost as if you are playing with the cats.

Viviane Schwarz has created a series of books featuring Tiny, Moonpie and André, including There Are No Cats in This Book and Is There a Dog in This Book?

Drat that Cat!
Written and illustrated by Tony Ross

Drat That Cat!

Drat that cat! Suzy the cat is always getting into trouble much to the annoyance of her family. But then one terrible day, she refuses to eat or drink. Whatever can be the matter?

Suzy Cat Baggot is both well-behaved and naughty. Her antics draw a “Drat that cat!” from her family. Children will particularly love it when she does “a piddle in Dad’s golf bag” (this reminds me of Frank Spencer’s “the cat’s done a whoopsie in my hat!”). But one day, Suzy won’t eat or drink. She is taken to the vet and things don’t look good. The family realise how much they love and miss her. When she gets better, everyone welcomes her home. Later Suzy meets Charlie Dog during her evening stroll and tells him she was only pretending to be ill. She wanted her family to know how much they love her!

Tony Ross is well-known for his Little Princess stories and for illustrating the Horrid Henry books by Francesca Simon. He was recently “named as the most borrowed illustrator from the UK’s public libraries” (Flood, 2017). Having written or illustrated about 1000 books, it is easy to see why his titles were borrowed more than 1 million times (Flood, 2017)!

Homer the Library Cat
Written by Reeve Lindbergh and illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf

Homer The Library Cat

Homer the cat loves to stay at home, so when one day he goes out-CRASH! BANG! CLANG! CLANG!-he can’t believe how noisy it is. Where can he find a cosy place to curl up for a snooze?

Homer lives in a quiet house with a quiet lady. He stays inside and plays with feathers and wool. But one day, he hears a loud noise and jumps out of the window. Then his adventures begin. He tries to find a quiet place, but there are noises everywhere: in the post office, the fire station and the railway. Finally Homer discovers the library, where he finds… the quiet lady, who is a librarian. He stays for storytime with the children and becomes the library cat.

Reeve Lindbergh is the daughter of Charles Lindbergh, the American aviator who made the first solo transatlantic flight. She has written many books for both children and adults, including Nobody Owns the Sky: The Story of “Brave Bessie” Coleman, the first licensed black aviator.

Next week I’ll introduce you to some fiction books for children and young adults with cats at the heart of them.

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.

Picture books about cats

After celebrating books about dogs, it’s time to share with you some about cats. Here are seven picture books about felines that will delight and inspire readers, young and old.

Picture Books About Cats

I am Cat
Written and illustrated by Jackie Morris

I Am Cat

I am Cat. At night I prowl, but in the day I sleep, curled up in warm places. And when I sleep I dream…

I am a tiger, flame cat of the forest; a cheetah, fast as the wind on the African plains; a lion, lounging through the heat of the day; a jaguar, perfectly camouflaged deep in the jungle.

But above all, I am Cat.

I love Jackie Morris’ work. Her illustrations are gorgeous and the pictures in this book are no exception. Beginning with a domestic cat, curled up on a beautiful patchwork cushion, each double-page spread presents a big cat in its native habitat, from the tiger in the jungle to the Amur leopard in the forests of Russia. Accompanying the pictures are poetic descriptions of the animals and the landscapes they live in. The last two pages contain interesting information about each species.

On her website, Jackie Morris tells how the book, I am Cat, came into being and writes about the many cats she has shared her life with. They are also represented on the dedication page in a touching group illustration.

The Tobermory Cat
Written and illustrated by Debi Gliori

The Tobermory Cat

In the village of Tobermory, on the Scottish island of Mull, lives a very special ginger cat. But once upon a time he didn’t think he was special at all-not like the woolly cats of Loch Ba, the singing cats of Staffa or the fishing cats of Fishnish.

But now everyone knows about him. He’s the cat who has become a legend in his own lifetime by simply being himself. He’s the cat who dances on top of the fish van; the cat who speaks to otters; the cat who drives the big yellow digger; the cat who rides on top of cars. He’s the Tobermory Cat.

Another picture book with a ginger cat on the cover! This story is based on a cat from the Isle of Mull, who was a celebrity on the island. Whilst the other villages have special cats, the Tobermory cats are very ordinary. In an attempt to attract tourists, the people of Tobermory try to teach their cats how to be special. This proves to be impossible until one ginger cat becomes famous without even trying! Soon everyone knows him and people start flocking to the village. The twist in the story is that he is the cat in the Hey Diddle Diddle rhyme.

Debi Gliori is the author and illustrator of many children’s picture books, including No Matter What and The Trouble With Dragons. Her illustrations contain lots of details to interest children (and adults), providing plenty to talk about.

Tabby McTat
Written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Tabby McTat

“Me, you and the old guitar,
How perfectly, perfectly happy we are.
MEEE-EW and the old guitar.
How PURRRR-fectly happy we are!”

This book tells the story of Tabby McTat, the busker’s cat. When Fred gets hurt, he and McTat get separated. The tabby finds a new home with Sock and her people, Prunella and Pat. He has plenty to do, especially when he becomes a father of three kittens. But McTat still thinks about his friend, Fred, so he sets out to find him again. However, when they are reunited, he realises how much he misses Sock and his new life. So his littlest kitten, Samuel Sprat, becomes the busker’s cat instead!

This is another wonderful book from the team that brought us The Gruffalo (which has a fabulous interactive website). As usual, Julia Donaldson’s words roll off the tongue with ease, having a lovely strong rhythm and smooth rhyming. Alex Scheffler’s illustrations enhance the story with detailed vignettes and full-page pictures. It’s just a joy to read!

The Minister’s Cat ABC
Written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd

The Minister's Cat

A very special alphabet book, based on the traditional game The Minister’s Cat, and featuring Slinky Malinki, Butterball Brown, Scarface Claw, and other well-loved Lynley Dodd cats.

This book contains feline characters from the Hairy Maclary series, such as Slinky Malinki and the dreaded Scarface Claw, the toughest tom in town! As expected from Lynley Dodd, the rhyming and vocabulary are excellent. Two double-page spreads are devoted to each cat and in alphabetical order; for example, the minister’s cat is airborne, busy, crazy and dizzy.

Lynley Dodd has created a number of other cat books, including Slinky Malinki, Scarface Claw, Scattercat and Catflaps. This book is based on the Victorian parlour game, The Minister’s Cat. Maybe you could try playing this at home with your family and friends.

Chester
Written and illustrated by Mélanie Watt

Chester

Hi, I’m Mélanie Watt and I’m trying to write and illustrate a story about a mouse. But Chester just won’t stop interfering!

Thank Goodness! NOW it’s a great book about me!

See what I mean? Chester keeps doodling on and rewriting my story with his annoying red marker. How am I supposed to deal with this cat upstaging me at every turn? I need to think of a way to put a end to this before he completely takes over!

Good luck, Einstein!!

As you can tell, Chester, A.K.A. the red and self-centred fur ball, always has to have the last word.

NOT true!

You see?

See what?

What did I tell you?

Whatever!

This is an interesting book in that it challenges the conventions of picture books and linear storytelling. As the author writes, Chester the cat uses his red pen to change the words and pictures, because he wants the story to be about him, not the mouse. There is a wonderful twist at the end when Mélanie Watt finally outwits Chester, only for him to deface her photo on the last page.

Children love the humour and irreverence of Chester and his additions (“Blah! Blah! Blah!). Thankfully there are two other books featuring Chester and his red pen to keep them happy: Chester’s Back! and Chester’s Masterpiece.

Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats
Written by Alicia Potter and illustrated by Birgitta Sif

Miss Hazeltine's Home For Shy And Fearful Cats

Are you a cat who’s scared of mice? Afraid of birds? Who can’t pounce and won’t purr?

Then follow the sign in the woods to the place with the open door: it’s Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, a place where you belong.

Crumb is the most timid cat at Miss Hazeltine’s Home for Shy and Fearful Cats. There he learns Bird Basics, Climbing, Pouncing and Meeting New Friends. “The hardest lesson? How Not to Fear the Broom”. Miss Hazeltine has fears of her own: mushrooms, owls and the dark. One day, when she is fetching milk for the cats, she stumbles and falls into a ditch. There, stuck in the dark, she is surrounded by mushrooms and owls! Only Crumb knows where she has gone. So, when the cats become afraid, he leads them out to find her. Working together, they form a chain to get her out of the ditch. Later the sign is changed to the Home for Shy and Pretty Brave If You Ask Us Cats.

Beautifully illustrated by Birgitta Sif, who was shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway award, this is a wonderful story about overcoming your fears to help the one you love. Alicia Potter has created a caring, gentle character in Miss Hazeltine, who nurtures and loves the cats. And they return that love, turning it into courage when they need it most.

Felix
Written and illustrated by Pamela Allen

Felix

Grandma was VERY CROSS.

“Someone’s been nibbling the bread,” she shouted, “and someone’s been eating the jam!”

“It wasn’t me,” said Grandpa.

“It wasn’t me,” said Molly.

Could it be Felix?

Poor Felix! He knows he’s not to blame, so he sets out to find the thief…

Someone has been eating the bread and jam. Felix the cat decides to find out who it is. He discovers a mouse in the jar of jam and then gets his head stuck trying to catch it. Banging the jar against the floor doesn’t dislodge it, so Grandma, then Grandpa and then Molly try to help. Finally the jar smashes, releasing both Felix and the mouse, who runs out of the door. Like several of Pamela Allen’s books, this one features a child with her grandparents, rather than her parents, making it good for families in a similar situation.

For over 35 years, Pamela Allen has written and illustrated picture books. Consequently, she is as prolific as Lynley Dodd, with almost 50 books to her name. She has created several other cat stories, including Hetty’s Day Out and My Cat Maisie.

That’s a few stories to be getting on with. See you next week with a second list of picture books about cats.

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.

Happy birthday, Roald Dahl

Roald Dahl, the master storyteller, was born on this day in 1916. Known for his irreverent and often dark humour, he is the creator of such well-known characters as Charlie Bucket, Sophie, James Trotter, Danny, George Kranky and Matilda Wormwood (Characters, n.d.). His books were published across three decades, beginning with James and the Giant Peach in 1961 through to The Minpins in 1991, a year after his death. They have been hugely popular, remaining in print since their initial publication. His long-time collaboration with the fabulous illustrator, Quentin Blake, has shaped how the world sees the characters in his books. Roald Dahl also wrote screenplays, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and short stories for adults, many of which were filmed as part of the Tales of the Unexpected TV series (which I remember watching when they were screened in the UK). But Roald Dahl was much more than a writer; he was also “a spy, an ace fighter pilot, a chocolate historian and a medical inventor” (About Roald Dahl, n.d.).

The wonderful world of Roald Dahl

I enjoy reading Roald Dahl’s work to children. They love the characters, with their crazy names and personality traits, and the humour that runs through every story. There is also a sense of fairness and justice in the books. The mean, nasty adults (and there are many scattered through the pages) always get their comeuppance, often at the hands of the children. And there are so many memorable words and quotes that children (and adults) just love. For example, in Revolting Rhymes (highly recommended, although not for the faint-hearted!), Red Riding Hood “whips a pistol from her knickers” (Dahl, 1982) and shoots the wolf, whilst poor Jack is beaten by his mother for exchanging their cow for magic beans, “using (and nothing could be meaner) the handle of a vacuum cleaner” (Dahl, 1982). The recently published Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary contains words used in the books, including bogrotting, horrigust and plussy! It’s wondercrump!

 UK stamps featuring characters created by Roald Dahl and drawn by Quentin Blake

Each year, Roald Dahl Day is held in schools and libraries to celebrate his birth. A range of activities are organised as part of this, including hosting a Roald Dahl Day party, dressing up as your favourite character, reading a Roald Dahl story or making dream jars or marvellous medicine at school or at home (Roald Dahl HQ, 2017). As part of the celebrations, Puffin Virtually Live broadcasts a themed event live to children around the world and last year this included a draw-along with Quentin Blake and a message from the cast of The BFG (Puffin Virtually Live, n.d.). You can follow all the festivities at Roald Dahl HQ on Twitter.

Celebrations wouldn’t be complete without some scrumptious chocolate cake; just ask Bruce Bogtrotter!

For further fun, you can visit the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden, the village in Berkshire in which he lived for almost 40 years. It has three interactive galleries and is suitable for children aged 6 to 12. Nearby, in Aylesbury, is the Roald Dahl Children’s Gallery. This has hands-on exhibits inspired by his stories, including the mini- beasts living in the Giant Peach.

  The splendiferous Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre!

Roald Dahl died in 1990, at the age of 74 (About Roald Dahl, n.d.). He left behind a wealth of stories and characters loved by children (and their parents and grandparents). But his legacy also continues to live on in the charity established in his name. Shortly after his death, his widow, Felicity, set up the Roald Dahl Foundation, which has since been renamed Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity. It helps support seriously ill children and their families through providing Roald Dahl nurses and offering financial grants for those experiencing hardship. Through his stories and his charity, Roald Dahl is still bringing joy to children throughout the world.

Celebrate reading

During September, several events will be held to celebrate reading. These help to raise the profile of reading (and libraries) within the community. They allow people to “discover and rediscover the joy of reading” (The Reading Hour, n.d.), whilst encouraging the “anytime, anywhere” (The Reading Hour, n.d.) philosophy, which makes reading visible in society in all its forms.

The Australian Reading Hour will be held on September 14th. The aim of the event is to encourage people of all ages to read any time during the day for 60 minutes. In previous years (it has been running since 2012), it has been held mainly in public and school libraries. However this year, publishers, booksellers and authors have come on board and it is hoped this will expand the scheme and shift the focus from child readers to reading for all ages. If you are not working in a library service or bookshop, you can host your own event for family, friends or colleagues in your home or at your workplace.

Spend an hour reading by yourself…

Boy Reading

Image by sof_sof_0000: CC0 1.0

or reading with someone else…

or reading a newspaper on a bench!

Reading Side By Side

The Reading Bench by David Hodgson: CC BY 2.0

Last week, on September 6th, it was National Read a Book Day in the UK and the US. Other similar events in America include National Reading Day on January 23rd and Read Across America Day on March 2nd, Dr Seuss’ birthday. All these events place the spotlight on reading, encouraging adults and children to dive into books. Because, as Dr Seuss said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go”!

Children’s cat-alogues

Having written several posts about dogs, I thought it was only fair to our feline friends that I create some booklists about cats. To segue into these, I’ve decided to explore library cat-alogues for children. A bit corny, I know, but it’s the best I can come up with!

Ahh, the good old days when you had to thumb through thousands of cards to find the one you wanted-and you couldn’t do it from home!

Card Catalogue

Card Catolog by Gregg Richards: CC BY 2.0

Since the introduction of online public access catalogues (OPACs), which replaced the card cataloguing system, it has become easier to search for resources in a library collection. OPACs are much more user-friendly, allowing customers to enter different search terms and to refine their search using facets (such as Format, Publication Date and Location). However, many public library catalogues do not differentiate between adults and children. The same format, with the same results and resource pages, is presented to both groups. This makes accessing the library catalogue more difficult for children for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is usually too much text and too many options presented on a page. For example, the results page for a search may contain multiple facets, whilst a resource page may include information about the publication or details of the format. This is often overwhelming for children as well as being largely irrelevant to their search for a resource. Browsing, which is the preferred method by which children choose books, is not easily facilitated by most OPACs. Finally, children usually need instruction on how to navigate the catalogue, especially in terms of refining their search using facets. This is because OPACs generally are not intuitive interfaces for children in the way that a tablet is.

The results page of an OPAC with multiple facets

OPAC Results Page

Screenshot captured by the author

I have discovered a number of OPACs that have been designed for children. These take into consideration the characteristics of young library users in terms of their level of cognitive and linguistic development and their preferred method of choosing resources. One of the best that I’ve seen is Georgia’s PINES Kids’ Catalog.

The home page of PINES Kids’ Catalog

PINES Kids Catalog

Screenshot captured by the author

As well as being attractive and appealing to children, this OPAC has a clean layout with minimal text. There is also the option of browsing using categories, which have picture cues for early readers.

The results page of PINES Kids’ Catalog

PINES Results Page

Screenshot captured by the author

With only one facet (Age Group), the results page of PINES Kids’ Catalog is less overwhelming for children. The information for each resource is the same as is found on the individual resource page. Again, this is relevant and meaningful for children, with minimal text, resource images and icons representing different formats.

Another online catalogue that has been created for children is the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL), which “promotes tolerance and respect for diverse cultures by providing access to the best of children’s literature from around the world” (International Children’s Digital Library, n.d.). This is a great resource for material in a range of languages and can be useful when working with bi-lingual children.

The home page of ICDL’s catalogue

ICDL Home Page

Screenshot captured by author

Like PINES Kids’ Catalog, the ICDL home page has a simple layout with options to browse using the central carousel or to search using the different facets, all of which are represented by simple images. I like the idea of refining by colour, as this recognises one of the ways in which children select books: “I’d like one with a blue cover”!

Softlink, which developed the Oliver library software used in school libraries, has recently released Orbit, an interface designed for younger students. It allows children to customise the background, theme and avatar of their home page. There is a simple search facility, which uses either keywords or browsing buttons. There are also book carousels and slideshows to highlight resources in the collection.

The results page of Orbit library interface

Orbit Results Page

Screenshot captured by the author

The results page for the Orbit library interface is easy for children to read and navigate. The only facet is Type, with picture cues for each category.   More information is contained on the resource page, including a summary and a suitability age (which I don’t necessarily agree with, but that’s an issue for another post!).

It’s good to see there are library catalogues available that have been designed to meet children’s search habits and developmental stages. If we want children to become enthusiastic library users, then we must provide them with OPACs that engage them and motivate them to explore the library collection. Hopefully children’s catalogues will be embraced by the public library sector, resulting in a new generation of avid library users.

Dogs in children’s literature

After collecting picture books and more picture books about dogs, I decided to find seven junior fiction books to complete the set. In this list, I haven’t included well-known stories, such as The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith and The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford. Instead I have chosen more recent books with dogs at the heart of them.

Children's Books About Dogs

Dear Hound
Written and illustrated by Jill Murphy

Dear Hound

Alfie is a young deerhound. He loves his boy Charlie, and cheese, and he’s very good at digging holes. But poor Alfie has got lost and he’s scared-of thunderstorms and being hungry and never seeing Charlie again…

Meanwhile, Charlie doesn’t know what to do-but one thing is for sure: he’ll never stop looking for his dear hound.

Can Alfie ever find his way back to Charlie-and his great big squashy beanbag in the kitchen?

Books about dogs often have the ‘lost dog trying to get home’ storyline and Dear Hound falls into this category. Alfie the deerhound becomes lost in the woods after getting a fright. Fortunately he is befriended by two foxes, Fixit and Sunset, who help him to survive in the wild for several months. Meanwhile Alfie’s boy, Charlie, is desperately searching for him and refuses to give up hope of finding him. This is a wonderful story about the bond between dog and human. I also have a dear hound called Alfie, which makes this book extra special for me.

Although Jill Murphy is best known for The Worst Witch series, she has written and illustrated a number of picture books, including those about the Large family (such as Peace at Last). I love her illustrations, which always have an expressive quality to them.

Best Mate
Written by Michael Morpurgo and illustrated by Michael Foreman

Best Mate

For Best Mate, being rescued from drowning as a young puppy is only the start of his adventures. From unwanted burden to favourite companion, and from pet to champion race dog, this remarkable greyhound proves that it’s not just cats who have more than one life. Cast aside, kidnapped, adopted or living rough on the streets, Best Mate can always find a way to survive. But will he ever find a real home?

This book, which has the alternative title, Born to Run, reminds me of Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Like Beauty, this is a touching tale of the ups and downs experienced by a pet. The story follows a greyhound though his life from abandoned puppy (rescued by Patrick and named Best Mate) to champion racer (renamed Brighteyes by Becky) to Joe’s companion (renamed Paddywack). It also tackles issues around greyhound racing, particularly once a dog is no longer winning. A highly recommended read.

Michael Morpurgo, the third British Children’s Laureate, has written many memorable children’s books. These often explore the topic of war and conflict (Private Peaceful and A Medal for Leroy) or have animals at the heart of the story (The Last Wolf and The Fox and the Ghost King). War Horse and Shadow (about a sniffer dog working with the army in Afghanistan) combine both of these themes.

Good Dog McTavish
Written by Meg Rosoff and illustrated by Grace Easton

Good Dog McTavish

The Peachey family are always late, they never agree, the house is always a mess…and everything’s going to the dogs.

Enter McTavish, a rescue dog with a difference-he’s on a mission to rescue them!

This was a really enjoyable read! The Peachey family have been in disarray since Ma Peachey resigned from being a mother and took up yoga! Betty, the youngest and most sensible Peachey, decides the family needs a dog and so they head to CHUM (Cuddles Home for Unclaimed Mutts) to find one. McTavish is chosen and taken home, where he proceeds to whip the Peacheys into shape, using Plan A, B and C. As he says, “with a little more work and a consistent routine, they [will] turn out to be a most satisfactory family after all”.

Meg Rosoff has won numerous awards for her junior and young adult fiction. Her first book, How I Live Now, won the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize and has been turned into a radio adaption and a film.

Just a Dog
Written by Michael Gerard Bauer

Just A Dog

Mr Mosely isn’t a pedigreed dog, but he is just the dog Corey and his family want: he is loyal, protective and loving. And he is much more than that. He might well be the one thing that holds them all together.

This book reminded me of Marley and Me by John Grogan. A bitter-sweet story with some funny moments, it is about a much loved family pet. Corey recounts his memories of Mr Mosely, starting with his arrival at their house. Each chapter consists of something significant about him: what he looked like, how he was named and what he was afraid of. We follow Mr Mosely through his life with the Ingrams. Like Marley and Me, you will need a box of tissues to hand when you read the last few chapters.

The Sniff books are also about life with a dog. Written by Ian Whybrow and illustrated by Tony Ross, they are brilliant. I would have included Sniff on my list, but I couldn’t get a copy from any of my local libraries. The antics that Sniff gets up to are hysterical. In fact, I was laughing so much at the incident involving a Christmas tree and an army of plastic soldiers, I was unable to continue reading out loud to my niece. If you can get your hands on any of the books (Sniff Bounces Back, Nice One Sniff and Sniff the Wonderdog), read them. You won’t regret it!

Stick Dog
Written by Tom Watson and illustrated by Ethan Long

Stick Dog

Introducing everyone’s new best friend: Stick Dog!

Join this loveable wet-nosed hero and his hilarious friends as they go on an epic quest for the perfect burger.

I really enjoyed this book. It is a light, easy and funny read. Stick Dog is a stray, who lives in a pipe under the highway. He has a comfy couch cushion to sleep on and some tennis balls and frisbees to play with. And he has four friends: Poo-Poo (so named because he is a poodle), Karen (a dachshund), Stripes (a dalmatian) and Mutt (yep, a mutt!). The story is basically about the dogs’ search for a burger, which of course isn’t as straightforward as it might have been!

There are seven books in the Stick Dog series. Tom Watson has also written a number of books based around Stick Cat. Both will appeal to children who have enjoyed reading  Diary of a Wimpy Kid.

One Dog and his Boy
Written by Eva Ibbotson and illustrated by Sharon Rentta

One Dog And His Boy

Hal’s parents refuse to let him have a dog-until they discover the Easy Pets Dog Agency. They don’t tell Hal that the clever puppy he chooses is not his for life, but only for the weekend.

Hal and Fleck must find a way to be together.

I have loved this book since the moment I started reading it some years ago. It is a beautiful story about a boy who longs for a dog. However, his parents won’t let him have one until they discover The Easy Pets Dog Agency. There you can hire a dog for any occasion, so Hal’s parents decide to rent one for the weekend… but they don’t tell Hal that the dog will be going back. Hal chooses Fleck, a “Tottenham Terrier” and the two bond during their time together. When Fleck is taken back to the agency, both pine for the other. Hal makes plans to get Fleck back and they run away together, accompanied by a girl and four of the dogs from Easy Pets. And that’s when the adventures begin…

I have a fondness for Eva Ibbotson’s books. They fall into two categories: funny, magical, supernatural stories about ghosts and witches (such as The Great Ghost Rescue and The Beasts of Clawstone Castle) and historical stories (such as The Dragonfly Pool and The Star of Kazan). Both types are highly recommended. She also wrote adult historical romances, which were later repackaged for young adult readers (Pauli, 2010).

A Dog’s Life
Written by Ann M Martin and illustrated by Antonia Miller (cover)

A Dog's Life

My name is Squirrel. I was born in a wheelbarrow.

There were five of us puppies in the beginning, but only my brother and I survived. So we set off on our own to see the world.

Life as a stray has been hard-but filled with adventure!

I’ve been adopted and I’ve been abandoned. I lost my brother, but found new friends. I’ve been in scrapes, but I always survived.

This is the story of my life.

This book is exactly as it is described in a Kirkus review: “heart-wrenching as well as heart-warming” (Kirkus, 2010). It is a touching, uplifting story about a stray called Squirrel. Like Best Mate, she shares her life with different humans, but always ends up back on the road or in the woods, either alone or with her friend, Moon. Some people show her kindness; others don’t. But through it all, the quality of her character shines through. I absolutely loved this book, even though, at times, it was hard to read. This was because of the emotions evoked by what happens to Squirrel. This book is definitely one of my favourite children’s books (along with One Dog and His Boy).

Ann M Martin is well-known as the author of the Baby-Sitter’s Club. She has also written another dog book: How To Look for a Lost Dog. That one is currently on my to-read list.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this list of books about dogs. Maybe you’ve been inspired to seek some of them out and read them. If you have, let me know what you think of them in the comments below.

This post is for Ellie, who has always loved dogs, especially Harry and George.

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.

Children’s Book Week

Children’s Book Week, which begins today in Australia, is a celebration of Australian children’s literature and the authors and illustrators who create it. It is organised by the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA), which works to “bring words, images and stories into the hearts and minds of children and adults” (Children’s Book Council of Australia, n.d.). The theme for 2017 is Escape to Everywhere, which I think is magical.

Storytelling sessions are often held during Children’s Book Week

School and public libraries organise activities and displays to celebrate books and reading during Children’s Book Week. The Book Chook, Madison’s Library and Book Week For Beginners all offer suggestions for this year’s theme, which can be used as starting points for future celebrations. These include creating posters, bookmarks, postcards and book trailers. Dressing-up as your favourite book character is another popular whole school activity. Public libraries often organise storytelling sessions and writing or colouring-in competitions for children and young adults.

Face painting can be part of the Children’s Book Week celebrations

Each year, the day before the start of Children’s Book Week, the winners of the CBCA Book of the Year awards are announced. The aim of these is to:

promote quality literature for young Australians
support and encourage a wide range of Australian writers and illustrators of  children’s books
celebrate contributions to Australian children’s literature

(Children’s Book Council of Australia, n.d.)

These are the winners for 2017 in each of the five categories:

CBCA Book of the Year-Older Readers
Books for young people aged 13 to 18 (secondary school level)

One Would Think the Deep, written by Claire Zorn

Sam has always had things going on in his head that no one else understands, even his mum. And now she’s dead, it’s worse than ever.

With nothing but his skateboard and a few belongings in a garbage bag, Sam goes to live with the strangers his mum cut ties with seven years ago: Aunty Lorraine and his cousins Shane and Minty.

Despite the suspicion and hostility emanating from their fibro shack, Sam reverts to his childhood habit of following Minty around and is soon surfing with Minty to cut through the static fuzz in his head. But as the days slowly meld into one another, and ghosts from the past reappear, Sam has to make the ultimate decision…will he sink or will he swim.

(Synopsis by UQP)

CBCA Book of the Year-Younger Readers
Books for children aged 8 to 12 (upper primary school level)

Rockhopping, written and illustrated by Trace Balla

Join Clancy and Uncle Egg on a rambling, rockhopping adventure in Gariwerd (the Grampians), to find the source of the Glenelg River. A story about following your flow, and the unexpected places you may go.

(Synopsis by Allen & Unwin)

CBCA Book of the Year-Early Childhood
Books for early readers (preschool and lower primary school level)

Go Home, Cheeky Animals, written by Johanna Bell and illustrated by Dion Beasley

At Canteen Creek where we live, there are cheeky dogs everywhere. But when the cheeky goats, donkeys, buffaloes and camels make mischief in the camp, the dogs just lie there-until those pesky animals really go too far. Then the cheeky camp dogs roar into action!

(Synopsis by Allen & Unwin)

CBCA Picture Book of the Year
Books “in which the text and illustrations achieve artistic and literary unity and the story, theme or concept is enhanced and unified through the illustrations” (Children’s Book Council of Australia, n.d.)

Home in the Rain, written and illustrated by Bob Graham

Francie’s going to have a new baby sister very soon. But what will her name be? Francie has so many ideas! On a long drive home with Mum, in the pouring rain, maybe they’ll find one that’s just right… From multi-award winning author-illustrator Bob Graham comes a tender, touching story of family life, perfect for sharing when a new baby is on the way. A beautifully observed celebration of the way inspiration can, and often does, happen in the most ordinary and unlikely of places.

(Synopsis by Walker Books)

The Eve Pownall Award for Information Books
Books “which have the prime purpose of documenting factual material with consideration given to imaginative presentation, interpretation and variation of style” (Children’s Book Council of Australia, n.d.)

Amazing Animals of Australia’s National Parks, written by Gina M Newton

This book brings together 55 national parks, selected across all Australian states and territories, and over 120 animals. It is divided into seven sections according to habitat (woodlands and grasslands; forests; rainforests; arid zones; mountains; wetlands and waterways; coasts, oceans and islands), each including a number of national parks and a selection of the fish, reptiles, frogs, birds and mammals that inhabit them. At the end of the book is a section on ‘little critters’-beetles, spiders, butterflies, grasshoppers, bugs and so on.

(Synopsis by NLA Publishing)

So hurry into your local library to borrow these winners and share them with the children in your life!

Dressing up as your favourite book character can be grrrr-eat fun!

The Tiger Who Came To Tea

The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Radarsmum1967: CC BY 2.0

If you are in Australia, enjoy Children’s Book Week. Otherwise, celebrate children’s literature and reading wherever you are!

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More picture books about dogs

I had so much fun finding and reading picture books about dogs, that I’m back with another seven stories. These celebrate the joys and sorrows of sharing your life with a dog. Most are funny, whilst one will break your heart. Welcome to the world of dogs!

More Picture Books About Dogs

My Dog Bigsy
Written and illustrated by Alison Lester

My Dog Bigsy

Meet my dog Bigsy. He’s only small, but everyone knows he’s the boss.

Squawk, neigh, quack, moo, baa, oink, cluck, purr, ruff ruff ruff!

What a lot of noise! And all because of Bigsy!

I particularly like the illustrations in this book about life on an Australian farm. Alison Lester has used a collage effect alongside her expressive images of Bigsy and the various animals and birds he meets each morning. A map on the endpapers allows the reader to follow his route to and from his house. It’s a great book for younger children, because of the rhythm of the pages, with the noises of both Bigsy and the creatures he encounters. There are also opportunities to engage in counting; how many cockies are flying away or how many ducks are complaining or how many eggs have been laid by the hens.

Along with Boori Monty Pryor, Alison Lester was the inaugural Australian Children’s Laureate in 2012 and 2013. She has written and illustrated over 25 children’s books, many of which celebrate the landscape and wildlife of Australia.

Pig the Pug
Written and illustrated by Aaron Blabey

Pig The Pug

Pig was a Pug and I’m sorry to say,
He was greedy and selfish in most every way…

This is the first book in a series about a bad-tempered, greedy and selfish pug. Pig lives with Trevor, the sweet-natured dachshund. In this story, he refuses to share his toys. But, in the tradition of the cautionary tale, Pig gets his comeuppance. He climbs onto the top of the pile of toys, which wobbles, causing him to fall out of the window. He soon discovers that “pigs cannot fly”!

Aaron Blabey is hugely popular with children and has created three other books about Pig and Trevor: Pig the Fibber, Pig the Winner and Pig the Elf. Like Pig the Pug, they each contain a lesson for the little fella (and for the reader); not to lie, not to win at any cost and not to be greedy.

Hairy Maclary From Donaldson’s Dairy
Written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd

Hairy Maclary From Donaldson's Dairy

Hairy Maclary goes off for a walk with a few of his friends-and comes up against something that gives them all a nasty surprise!

Like Pig the Pug, this is the first book in a series. Unlike Pig the Pug, Hairy Maclary is cute and sweet and fun-loving! In this story, we are also introduced to his friends, who feature in several other books (Hairy Maclary’s Bone and Hairy Maclary and Friends). I was once fortunate to know a “Hercules Morse” who was almost “as big as a horse”, so these books always remind me of him. Check out Hairy Maclary’s website-it’s pretty good, with games, information about the characters in the series and even everything you need for a Hairy Maclary birthday party! Like any self-respecting celebrity, he also has a Facebook page!

Dame Lynley Dodd has written and illustrated more books than you can poke a stick at! Her rhyming is impeccable and she uses gorgeous vocabulary (such as ‘cacophony’ and ‘caterwaul’). Children love the characters in her stories; not just Hairy Maclary, but Slinky Malinki the black Siamese cat and Zachary Quack the fluffy duckling.

Dr Dog
Written and illustrated by Babette Cole

Dr Dog

Both pet and personal physician to the Gumboyle family, Dr Dog is always on hand with the perfect diagnosis and remedy for every complaint.

So, whether it’s tickly tonsils, itchy nits or unspeakable tummy troubles, hear some common-sense advice from Dr. Dog-the canine consultant that no home should be without!

I love Dr Dog and so have the children I have read it to. The book is full of information about good health, such as when Kurt Gumboyle has a “wicked cough” and Dr Dog tells him, “It’s not good to smoke”. He then explains, using simple illustrations, how this damages our lungs. Dr Dog also gives his patients advice. He tells Kev Gumboyle, who has nits, to “never swap combs and brushes with anyone”. But my favourite bit is when Baby Gumboyle catches worms, which “are breeding in his tubes”! The advice Dr Dog gives is hilarious: “Never scratch your bum and suck your thumb”! The book has resulted in both a sequel, A Dose of Dr Dog, and a TV series.

Earlier this year, I was really sad to hear that Babette Cole had died. She was an outrageous, irreverent children’s author and illustrator. She subverted many of the traditional fairy tales (Princess Smartypants and Prince Cinders) and tackled difficult topics with humour (Mummy Laid an Egg! and Hair in Funny Places). She will be much missed by those who loved her work.

Smelly Louie
Written and illustrated by Catherine Rayner

Smelly Louie

Nobody smells quite like Louie…

I love the illustrations in this book. Louie has his own smell, which gets washed away when he has a bath. He goes in search of it, finding lots of different smells on the way. He rolls in “sticky sludge” and “the pongy pond” before finally he smells right again. He returns home, with grey and green and yellow clouds emanating from him. Unfortunately he doesn’t stay that way for very long… This story will be familiar to any owner whose dog has rolled in sticky, smelly duck poo! It also has a similar theme to Lynley Dodd’s Schnitzel Von Krumm’s Basketwork, in which the dog with the very low tum is given a new basket, but “something was wrong with the smell and the fit”.

Catherine Rayner has created more than 10 children’s books, all of which feature animals as the main characters. She also illustrated the fabulous Olga da Polga by Michael Bond, a particular favourite of mine.

Looking For Rex
Written by Jan Ormerod and illustrated by Carol Thompson

Looking For Rex

The children are sure that Gramps would never feel lonely if he had a dog of his own. They say the dog should be called Rex, but what would Rex look like? So they play ‘Looking for Rex’, and pretend to see Rex, but whenever they think they find Rex…it is never really the right Rex. Where is he?

This is a book full of dogs, including on the back inside cover. Everyone thinks Gramps should get a dog and call him Rex. So they all start looking for him when they are out and about. Children will have fun searching for Rex in the pictures as they read the book. The story is particularly touching when Gramps imagines life with Rex; only to decide that he is too old to take care of a dog and “that Rex is not for him”. Then he discovers his family have got a dog and they would like Gramps to help them look after him. This, of course, is the perfect solution! I love the last page, which is wordless, but says so much. There are four small pictures of Gramps and Rex sitting next to each other; in these, Rex slowly gets bigger and bigger, and closer and closer to Gramps.

Jan Ormerod is best known as both a writer and illustrator of children’s books. Now over 30 years old, her Sunshine and Moonlight are classics; simple, beautiful books without words.

Harry and Hopper
Written by Margaret Wild and illustrated by Freya Blackwood

Harry And Hopper

Harry and his dog Hopper have done everything together, ever since Hopper was a jumpy little puppy. But one day the unthinkable happens. When Harry comes home from school, Hopper isn’t there to greet him. Hopper will never be there again, but Harry is not ready to let go.

Harry loves Hopper (what a great name for a dog!) and they do everything together. Then there is an accident and Hopper dies. Harry is devastated and refuses to accept that he will never see his beloved dog again. He sleeps on the sofa, because the bed feels empty without Hopper. “Harry lay curled up, longing for the feel of Hopper, the smell of Hopper, the bark of Hopper”. But the next night, Hopper wakes him up and they play together. Over the following two nights, Hopper comes to Harry, but each time, he is less solid and warm. Finally he is “as wispy as winter fog, as cold as winter air”. Harry carries him into his bedroom and says, “Goodbye, Hopper”. I can’t read this book to children, because I end up crying. It is a simply beautiful book, both in terms of words and pictures, which will resonate with anyone who has loved and lost a dog.

I am a huge fan of Margaret Wild’s work, which I am sure will feature on many lists that I compile. She has written a series of three books about The Pocket Dogs, which are illustrated by Stephen Michael King. He also wrote and illustrated Mutt Dog, another brilliant dog book, which my niece loved when she was small. That’s another four picture books about dogs to check out. See I told you it was hard to stick to just seven!

I could do several more posts on picture books about dogs. But I’m going to stop now and direct you to your local library. There you can search in the catalogue for ‘dogs’ and ‘picture books’. I’m sure you’ll find lots more fabulous books, such as the Spot and Kipper series. There I go again…

 All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.

Picture books about dogs

Following on from last week’s post about story dogs, I have gathered together some picture books about man’s best friend. However, because there are loads of brilliant books out there, it was really hard to limit the list to just seven. So I have decided to share more with you next week, because you can never have enough books about dogs!

Picture Books About Dogs

Let’s Get a Pup!
Written and illustrated by Bob Graham

Let's Get A Pup!

At the Rescue Centre, there are dogs of all shapes and sizes. Kate knows which one she wants, though, the moment she sees him. He’s small and he’s cute and he gets all excited. To Kate, Dave is everything a dog could be.

But then she sees Rosy…

I love Bob Graham’s books. His writing is very lyrical and his illustrations are filled with wonderful details. This story begins with the line; “The end of Kate’s bed was a lonely place.” Tiger the cat has died and Kate wants to get a pup. She heads down to the rescue centre with her parents, where they find all kinds of dogs. Walking down the row of cages, they see Dave, who is full of life. When he is let out, “Dave climbed right over the top of Kate, who briefly wore him like a hat”! The family decide to take him. Then they see Rosy and it is love at first sight. But they can’t adopt two dogs, because, as Mum says, “We would take them all if we could, but what can we do?” That point in the story always brings a lump to my throat. But thankfully there is a happy ending when the family return the next day for Rosy. Yay!

Dave and Rosy, along with Kate and her parents, return in the sequel, “The Trouble With Dogs…” Said Dad. In this book, the family call in the man from Pup Breakers to try to train a certain little tearaway!

Harry the Dirty Dog
Written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

Harry The Dirty Dog

Harry is a white dog with black spots who loves everything…except baths.

So one day before bath time, Harry runs away. He plays outside all day long, digging and sliding in everything from garden soil to pavement tar. By the time he returns home, Harry is so dirty he looks like a black dog with white spots. His family doesn’t even recognize him!

It’s hard to believe this book is over 50 years old! Like all good classics, it has stood the test of time and its humour is still loved by children today. Harry the white dog with black spots hates having a bath. So he buries the scrubbing brush and runs away. He spends the day getting dirtier and dirtier until he returns home as a black dog with white spots. His family don’t recognise him, even when he shows them his tricks. Finally he bites the bullet, digs up the scrubbing brush and jumps into the bath. Soon he is Harry the white dog with black spots again.

Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham collaborated on another three Harry books: No Roses for Harry!, Harry and the Lady Next Door, and Harry by the Sea.

Little White Dogs Can’t Jump
Written by Bruce Whatley and illustrated by Rosie Smith

Little White Dogs Can't Jump

My dog, Smudge, has got really short legs.

Which makes it very difficult for him to jump.

Smudge and his family have a problem to solve-Smudge’s legs are so short that he can’t jump into the car. One of the children in the family devises a series of ingenious ways of getting Smudge into the car, but none of them work.

Who can solve the problem?

In this very funny story, Smudge can’t get into the family car. As a bulldog, his legs are just too short. One of the children tries different ways of solving the problem. Unfortunately none of her ingenious ideas are successful and by the end, “Smudge can’t jump, is afraid of small spaces, hates heights, is scared of loud noises and moving at great speed”! Then Mum steps in and comes up with a simple solution: a new car!

This book features the star of The Ugliest Dog in the World, which, of course, he isn’t!

Some Dogs Do
Written and illustrated by Jez Alborough

Some Dogs Do

All dogs walk and jump and run, but dogs don’t fly-it can’t be done…Or can it?

Whenever I’ve read this to children at storytime, they have been entranced by this book. The writing has a lovely rhythm, making it easy to read (and predict), and the illustrations are gorgeous. The story explores different emotions. When Sid is happy, he discovers he can fly. He tells his friends at school about this, but they don’t believe him and say he is lying. They go outside and ask him to show them how he flies. But Sid has lost his happy feeling and can no longer do it. After school and back at home, he feels sad. “He did the things he always did, but something wasn’t right with Sid”. Then Dad shares a secret with him; he can fly. The book ends with the question; “Do dogs fly? Is it true?” And the answer; “Some dogs don’t. and some dogs do”.

This uplifting book is from the creator of the BearDuck and Bobo books. Be sure to check them out as well.

Pom Pom, Where Are You?
Written by Natalie Jane Prior and illustrated by Cheryl Orsini

Pom Pom Where Are You?

Pom Pom lives with his family in a tall building in Paris. He longs to see more of the world, and one day his wish comes true…

Described as “an energetic and joyous story about a little dog with a big sense of adventure”, this book was created by the team who brought us Lucy’s Book. Pom Pom, who is small and cute (a little like Dave in Let’s Get a Pup!), lives in Paris with Henriette. One day, he seizes the chance “to see more of the world”, slipping his collar and running off with some other dogs. His adventures take him to the different landmarks around the city: Pont Neuf, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Tuileries Gardens and the Eiffel Tower. He is taken in by a kind man and his family. But the next day, he “smelled something that reminded him of home”. Hitching a ride on the baguette bicycle, Pom Pom is finally reunited with Henriette.

I love Paris, so this book was a joy for me to read. Once again, Cheryl Orsini’s illustrations  add extra details to Natalie Jane Prior’s words. They work so well together, as all good picture books should!

Dogs
Written and illustrated by Emily Gravett

Dogs

Gorgeous canines of every shape, size and colour are bounding through the irresistible Dogs by Emily Gravett. Can you choose one dog to love best of all?

With playful pencil and watercolour illustrations to delight children and adults alike, everyone will love to bark along with the Chihuahua and tickle the Dalmatian’s tummy. Emily Gravett has created another wonderfully satisfying book- with a twist in the tail.

(Synopsis by Pan Macmillan)

Starting with a Scottish terrier and ending with a pointer, different breeds pose on the endpapers of this fabulous book. Children (and adults) can have fun finding these in the illustrations. With each double-page spread beginning with “I love…”, the text explores the theme of opposites: big and small, hairy and bald, and slow and fast. The last page has a twist, which is a delight.

Emily Gravett’s books are always enjoyable, with beautiful illustrations. Check out Wolves, Meerkat Mail and The Rabbit Problem. Plus her groovy website!

Daisy All-Sorts
Written and illustrated by Pamela Allen

Daisy All-Sorts

Daisy was an ordinary dog living an ordinary life with Stanley.

Now she is an EXTRAORDINARY dog living an EXTRAORDINARY life-and all because of three lovely liquorice lollies…

This book always reminds me of when my niece was small. She loved the story and used to re-enact it with her toy puppy and trike. So I had to include it in this list. Plus it is brilliant, with a great combination of evocative pictures and rhythmical text. It isn’t rhyming, but Pamela Allen has such a way with words that it makes the book a joy to read out loud. Daisy develops a taste for liquorice all-sorts after Bella gives her some during her morning walk with Stanley (who looks like a bearded Where’s Wally!). The next day, she tries her hardest to get some more: dancing, singing, barking, bouncing and begging. But Bella doesn’t have any. Daisy won’t leave without her sweets, so poor Stanley has to carry her home on his bicycle. In the morning, Daisy rushes to see Bella with Stanley in tow. Bella hands a paper bag to Stanley, saying “For Daisy when you get home”. What is in the bag? Yes, that’s right: lovely liquorice all-sorts!

Pamela Allen has been writing and illustrating children’s picture books for more than 35 years. Those that feature dogs in them include Black Dog and Our Daft Dog Danny.

I hope you enjoy reading and sharing these wonderful stories. See you next week with another list of picture books about dogs.

All images taken by the author. All quotes taken from the blurb and contents of the book.

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