Author Archives: susandepner

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One Hundred Sausages by Yuval Zommer

This is a cute British picture book about a dog wrongly blamed for the theft of sausages from the local butcher shop who tracks down the real thief to clear his name. Scruff LOVES sausages, all kinds of sausages, and he spends time outside the butcher shop each day looking longingly at the sausages in the window. So when all the sausages are stolen, he is blamed for the theft. With the help of his canine friends, Scruff tracks down the real culprit – a rival butcher. As a reward for his service, he and the other dogs are treated to dinner at a fancy restaurant. What’s on the menu? Sausages, of course. With zany illustrations that add to the fun.

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My Pillow Keeps Moving! by Laura Gehl and illustrated by Christopher Weyant

This is a fun picture book about a homeless dog who really wants to be adopted by a certain gentlemen, but he isn’t so sure, so the dog does everything she can to win him over. The bespectacled man walks into a pillow store to buy a pillow. Outside are the dog and a cat, huddling together for warmth. The dog follows the man into the store and sneaks out with him in his bag. But the man is unhappy with his pillow – it keeps moving! The store won’t take it back, though. “Is your pillow soft?” “Is your pillow fluffy?” So the man keeps the pillow. Next he goes to buy a footstool and then a jacket with the same results: the footstool barks and the jacket is stinky, but they are both comfy, warm, and don’t tip over, so no returns. On each trip to the different stores, we catch a glimpse of the cat outside the store, keeping an eye on his dog friend. Finally, the man decides that though not much as a jacket, the dog makes a fine companion. He names her Jackie. Very sweet. I especially love the ending, when the man goes out to buy a hat, and the dog doesn’t forget her cat friend who is also in need of a home, but comes through for him so they both find a loving home. Delightfully silly and warm with hilarious cartoon illustrations.

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The Deer Watch by Lowery Collins and illustrated by David Slonim

A quiet, contemplative book that celebrates the wonder of nature and wildlife and the bond between a father and child. A father and his son, on vacation at a cottage on the shore, go out very early one morning to catch a glimpse of the local deer population. They see other wildlife as they walk to the woods, including an egret, a pheasant, and rabbits. The moment when a doe and her two fawns appear is a magical one for the boy, that he will always remember, when “our two worlds crossed for just a magic while.” With lyrical prose and lovely oil color illustrations done in an impressionistic style.

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Lucy Rescued by Harriet Ziefert and illustrated by Barroux

A young dog named Lucy is adopted from the shelter by a family – a little girl and her parents. When Lucy first arrives in her new home, she is afraid and howls constantly. The family tries numerous things to stop the howling, including treats, a comfy dog bed, and even a trip to a dog psychologist, who suggests playing soft music for Lucy. But nothing works. Her family is at their wit’s end and considers returning Lucy to the shelter. The little girl tries one last thing: she gives Lucy her favorite stuffed animal. This does the trick! Lucy stops howling and settles down to sleep with the stuffed animal. However, the little girl is upset when, the next day, Lucy takes more of her stuffed animals, including one she doesn’t want to share with Lucy. This problem is resolved when the little girl generously allows Lucy to keep that stuffed animal and also shares some other toys she is willing to part with and her parents buy Lucy some new plush dog toys. Now Lucy is happy, playing with her toys during the day and sleeping with them at night.

This book imparts an important lesson for both children and their parents when adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue group. Dogs who have been abused or abandoned may be damaged psychologically and frightened. They need time to adjust to a new family and home. It doesn’t mean they don’t make wonderful companions; just that they may need time before they are comfortable in their new surroundings and with their new people. Kindness and patience is the key. Rescue dogs need comfort and security, which Lucy found through the stuffed animals.

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Red and Lulu by Matt Tavares

A cardinal pair live happily in the evergreen tree of a family’s yard. They especially love winter, when the family decorates the tree with lights and people gather round to sing the carol, “Oh Christmas Tree.” But one day, while the male cardinal, Red, is out looking for food, the tree, with Lulu still in its branches, is cut down and loaded onto a truck. Red, flying home and seeing their tree being driven away with Lulu calling from its branches, flies frantically after the truck, but loses it. He keeps flying, though, trying to find it. He finds himself in a strange place, a big city, far different from the suburban area he is used to. Red spends days searching for Lulu, then the familiar singing of Christmas carols brings him to a square, where his tree is lit up and surrounded by a large crowd of people singing. Red flies to the tree and he and Lulu are joyfully reunited! It turns out the tree was cut down to be displayed in New York City’s Rockefeller Center. After the holidays, the tree is once again taken down. This time, Red and Lulu remain together and make a new home in a nearby park. Each year, they visit the big tree in Rockefeller Center and listen to the carols. The end of the book includes information on the history of the trees used in the Rockefeller Center display.

The illustrations, in watercolor and gouache, are gorgeous and really make the book stand out. With panels, full-page spreads, and double-page spreads, first we see the cardinals’ tree in different seasons of the year, then an aerial view of Red’s flight from suburb to the big city, finding the tree and Lulu, and ending with the cardinals’ new home in the park in different seasons of the year, back to the brightly lit tree in Rockefeller Center the following year. The book is also a lovely story of dedication and devotion, as Red refuses to lose Lulu and his determination leads to their tender reunion.

One thing I don’t like about the book is that I don’t like to see healthy trees cut down, especially trees growing wild or in people’s yards, rather than a tree farm, but the book does address this by showing a sapling growing in the family’s yard on the final page of the book.

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It Starts With a Seed by Laura Knowles and illustrated by Jennie Webber

This is a beautiful picture book, printed on heavy cream paper with lovely, scientifically accurate ink-and-watercolor illustrations done in earth colors, about the life cycle of a tree and its role in the ecosystem. The book is written in gentle, rhyming verse as it describes how “it starts with a seed,” then the text and illustrations show how the seed takes root and begins to grow. Over seasons and years, the tree grows and supports various wildlife, providing shelter, food, shade, and a place to nest or roost. The animals depicted in the illustrations include ladybugs, snails, squirrels, various songbirds, rabbits, owls, and deer. The final pages fold out, showing the fully grown tree in all its splendor in the autumn, surrounded by wildlife, with its seeds soaring in the wind, ready to fall to the ground and begin the process all over again. The book also provides additional information at the end about sycamore trees, the type of tree depicted in the book.

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Frank the Seven-Legged Spider by Michaele Razi

A picture book about self-acceptance, particularly in the face of disability or physical differences. Frank is a spider who enjoys spinning beautiful, intricate webs and scaring humans with his webs. Then one day, he wakes up missing one of his eight legs. One of his spider friends asks him, “Are you still a spider?” This question upsets Frank a lot and makes him question his identity. He loves being a spider, he wants to be a spider. So he thinks he must find his missing leg. After getting the hang of walking with only seven legs, Frank sets out on a journey searching for his leg. The illustrations convey humor as we see Frank looking in several places, including the nose of a man sleeping on a park bench (no, that’s not Frank’s leg, just a nose hair), but the leg cannot be found. Frank is desolate, wondering what he is now if not a spider. Then he meets a group of ants. He shares his story with them and they don’t see the big deal; after all, one of them lost an antenna, but is still an ant. This makes Frank think and he realizes that he can still do all the things he used to do: spin webs, move, and jump. This confirms that he is still a spider and he is happy again, smiling and making webs to scare the man in the park. It’s all about attitude in the face of difficulties is the message conveyed in this uplifting story.