Don’t Lick the Dog

Making Friends with Dogs

Looking at Don’t Lick the Dog: Making Friends with Dogs, I had to remind myself to never judge a book by its cover. The book looked like a silly, frivolous picture book that was created just for fun, with bright, bold pictures and silly sentiments. So you can imagine how surprised I was to learn that the book had lots of substance—which, I reckoned, it should have, since I found it on a forum about books that pack a positive punch about animals.

Don’t Lick the Dog is a how-to guide when it comes to caring for and meeting new dogs. I even learned a lot of things myself while reading the book. For example, if a dog is jumping on you, did you know that you should cross your arms over your chest and turn away from him or her to discourage the jumping? That would have come in handy in so many situations!

Another good tip was to be still when a dog is growling—though I’m not sure I’d be able to do that myself, especially if the dog is big! I also learned that when you let a dog sniff your hand to get to know you, you are supposed to curl your fingers beneath your hand so they don’t mistake your hand for a treat or a presentation of treats. I have always extended my fingers straight under a dog’s nose, which must look pretty stupid to people who know how to do it right! You’re also supposed to stand still if a dog is smelling your shoe to allow him to get used to you.

Another great tip is to turn away from a dog and pretend that you are shy if a dog is too shy to approach you. This will allow her to build up her confidence and get used to you before you can pet her and show affection. I also like how it shows the “wrong” way to pat a dog, since many kids—particularly toddlers—do this when it’s the wrong thing to do.

Meeting a new dog is something that most people will do at some point in their lives, yet none of us are really taught how to meet them properly. Many kids aren’t even taught to ask, “May I pet your dogs?” as they are reminded to ask in the book. I think it’s a very important book to read to children in order to teach how to treat animals—especially if you end up getting a pet yourself!—and it would be a perfect addition to any library.

Stolen

Get ready for a quick, fun tale of magic and suspense.

Every time my husband and I make a bet, the wager includes a book for me if I win. You don’t want to know what he wins. Seriously, it’s usually some boring car part. Anyway, I had $4 to spend on Amazon.com recently and I was about to purchase a book that was recommend to me based on other books: Stolen by Vivian Van Velde. But I saw that the library had a copy in stock so I went with that instead and bought another Fablehaven installment for my collection.

After checking out Stolen, however, I may want to buy my own copy of that! Van Velde has written dozens of novels, so it was a pleasure to discover such a talent. The book is a fantasy, but it is also a mystery at its heart. The opening scene depicts a witch being hunted by a group of humans after she steals one child too many; after she casts two simple spells, the prologue ends, and we meet a stumbling 12-year-old-girl who is running through the woods. The girl, Isabelle, has no idea who she is, nor how she got there.

The rest of the story involves Isabelle trying to make sense of her situation and finding out who she really is, and nothing is as it seems. There are surprises throughout the book, right down to the last page, and though it was a very quick read, taking only about two hours, it was so exciting and surprising that I’d happily read it again, looking for the clues Van Velde left us to show what would ultimately happen.

Nearly every character is female, which is so different from what we are used to and a very welcome, pleasant surprise. I wish I could say the same about more fiction today. Nearly every character is not who he or she seems, either. It’s not nonstop action, so don’t go in expecting Percy Jackson adventure; instead, think of it as a fairytale mystery, which is always the best kind. There is plenty of rising tension as suspense builds in each chapter until you can finally predict some—but not all—of the tale as it unfolds.

Go read Stolen as soon as you can, then join me in checking out the rest of this wonderful author’s many works, which are largely of the YA genre, too.

Snow by Cynthia Rylant

My daughter and I are huge fans of Cynthia Rylant’s works. The author always presents such lyrical, gorgeous prose in her children’s literature (particularly in her Scarecrow book, which is my absolute favorite) and, coupled with such lovely illustrations by Lauren Stringer, they create the most lovely books you’ll ever come across for kids.

Recently we read her book Snow in honor of winter. It is no different than her other books in that it feels as if you are not reading a picture book but an actual poem—or a creative visualization, a magical journey inside your mind. The artwork is really a bonus. The snow is compared to a shy friend bringing one peace, sitting beneath a leafless tree in the front yard as you sleep.

The joy of snow’s gifts, from missing school or work—again, making it a timeless book to be enjoyed by both children and adults!—or simply playing in it, is also explored. Watching the snowflakes fall lightly, seeing winter birds nip in the white flakes, or just cuddling with a loved one and a good book are all winter time joys that can be found out of a single evening of snow. The power of the white fluff, from making trees bend to causing cats to curl up in response to the cold, is also explored.

It is usually hard to put into words the magic that is snow. We know that it affects life immediately as it presents itself in our lives each year, but it’s still sort of mysterious. When will it happen? How much will we get? Will it be dangerous, or a playful dusting? Will we need a ruler? And there is always the first bowl of snow in our house, which we take inside and eat, giggling with one another. I hope we’ll always have this cherished tradition no matter how old my daughter gets.

Perhaps the most delight in the season is portrayed by the children in the book as they rapturously roll down hills, squeal in the snow, and eagerly don thick, heavy outdoor clothing in order to experience the joy that is powdery snow in person. The very beauty of the world itself is conveyed through Rylant’s words and Stringer’s art, making you sigh with pleasure as you finish the book—as if it were a warm cup of cocoa on a snowy day.

The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People

Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have done it again! I am reading their amazing compilation of shapeshifter stories called The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People, and it may just be the best collection of fairy tales edited by the duo yet. Like many other collections by the two, this set contains re-tellings of many fairy tales that we know and love as well as more obscure ones we may not be familiar with. A common theme is taking a feminist spin on the tales, such as turning a helpless female victim from mythology or fairy tales into her own heroine. Plenty of male heroes are also included, of course.

The common theme in The Beastly Bride is that of the shapeshifter, perhaps one of the most intriguing fairy tale creatures of all time. The creatures in the book range from those who exist as beasts or hybrids of beasts and people, like gods; those who have been turned into beasts, such as those who are cursed; and those who may shift from human form to beastly form at will, such as werewolves or big cats or other creatures.

Many of us are familiar with some of the myths—such as one involving the Greek goddess Artemis and the boy who laid eyes upon her—or the stories—like Beauty and the Beast—that are adapted in the story, but less familiar faces, such as the god Ganesha from Hindu lore, and generic shapeshifters (rats, a puma, and many others) are also included. Some have a more modern feel, while others take place during the past; an old west story about retribution and love in particular won my heart, even though I’m not one for Westerns at all.

These stories are so enjoyable that it has been difficult for me to put them down; I keep sneaking off to the bathroom to “do my business,” when I’m really reading another short story! Part of me wishes I were savoring these stories rather than just speeding through them, but I am loving the ride so much, and so anxious to read them all. Plus, I’m a working mom who homeschools; I don’t have a whole lot of time to savor my reading!

Which Datlow and Windling collection is your favorite? I’d love to hear about them—especially the more modern ones that my library doesn’t carry as of yet. Still, we do have interlibrary loans…!