If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino
A girl dreams of having a horse as a companion and imagines their experiences together. There is no real plot here, but the illustrations are magnificent and the text is inspiring: in the girl’s dream, she grows in character as a result of her relationship with the horse, becoming strong, brave, adventurous, and fearless, and being a kind and loving friend. The girl and the horse are illustrated in silhouette on double-page spreads, using lush, colorful paintings. Beautiful to look at and celebrating imagination and dreams.
Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship by Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes and illustrated by Scott Magoon
This is a beautiful, heartwarming story inspired by the true story of the author, who lost both her legs after being injured in the Boston Marathon bombing and was teamed with a service dog to help her adjust to her disability. The book alternates between a Labrador retriever named Rescue as he goes through training to be a service dog and a child named Jessica as she goes through the ordeal of losing her legs and her recovery and physical therapy to learn to walk using prosthetic legs. Jessica feels fear and frustration as she learns to walk again and Rescue worries if he can be a good service dog after failing training as a guide dog for the blind. Then the two meet when Rescue is assigned to be Jessica’s service dog. Rescue helps Jessica heal emotionally and adjust to her new life while Rescue feels a sense of purpose and pride in his role. The devotion and intelligence of service animals is celebrated as well as the resilience of people with disabilities and the deep bond between the two.
Can I Be Your Dog? by Troy Cummings
A touching story of a homeless dog finding a family told through humorous letters. Arfy is determined to find a forever home. He currently lives in a cardboard box in an alley off Butternut Street. In an effort to find a home, Arfy writes letters to the inhabitants of Butternut Street, asking if he could be their dog and listing his attributes. The first letter he writes is to the family of the nicest house on the street. They have children and a cat. Arfy says he is potty trained and willing to work with the cat, but the family replies that he cannot be their dog because their cat is allergic to dogs. Arfy then tries the butcher, who gives him short shrift, the fire department, who inform him that their position of fire dog is already filled, the junkyard man in desperation, who tells Arfy to get lost, and finally, the resident of the dilapidated house at the end of the street, but his letter is returned undeliverable. Poor Arfy is lonely and cold and sad, when a letter arrives for him! It is the mail carrier who has been delivering all these letters back and forth, asking Arfy if she can be his person. Arfy says yes and the two joyfully hug. This is such a sweet story and funny too. It has colorful, bold illustrations and the final page includes a list of things you can do to help a homeless animal, which include adopting a shelter animal, volunteering at a shelter, spaying or neutering your pets, and donating to a local rescue group. A great book for dog lovers and to promote adopting pets rather than buying from a pet store or breeder.
Bear and Wolf by Daniel Salmieri
This is a quiet and peaceful book about the joys of companionship and nature. A young bear and a young wolf meet while both are out walking in the snow. They walk together through the woods to a frozen lake where they observe fish sleeping under the ice. While walking, they enjoy the feeling of snowflakes on their fur, the smell of the woods, the noise of the crunching snow, and the sight of an owl flying above them. After their walk, the two animals part, the bear to hibernate the winter away and the wolf to join his pack and hunt caribou through the winter. In the spring thaw, the two meet again and enjoy a walk through the awakening woods. A beautiful, contemplative picture book with soft colored-pencil illustrations that show the woods covered with pure white snow and in lovely shades of purple and pink and then a glorious spring filled with pastel colors. It celebrates friendship – Bear and Wolf are comfortable in each other’s company and can enjoy their walks together in companionable silence – and the beauty of the natural world.
One Red Apple by Harriet Ziefert & illustrated by Karla Gudeon
This is a gorgeously illustrated picture book that shows children the life cycle of an apple. It begins with a family of farmers picking apples in their orchard and driving them to a farmer’s market to sell. There a family buys a basket of apples and a little girl enjoys eating one. She leaves the core on the ground at the park for songbirds to eat. The wind scatters the seeds and we see one take root and grow from a seedling to a full grown tree filled with sweet pink blossoms. Honey bees drink nectar from the blossoms, thereby pollinating the blossoms, which then become apples that people pick from the tree and the cycle starts all over again. The book celebrates nature – highlighting the critical role of the sun, the wind, bees, and birds in the growth of apple trees. The text is simple – it is the paintings that really make the book stand out – they are done in a folk art style with bright colors, depicting a beautiful countryside with flowers, birds, and bees. Many of the pages have charming floral borders and the end papers are a collection of apples, birds, blossoms, and bees. A lovely way to teach children about where our food comes from and the critical importance of bees to our food supply.
Vincent Comes Home by Jessixa Bagley and Aaron Bagley
This is a sweet story about love and family and the meaning of home. Vincent is a cat born on a cargo ship. He has never been off the ship, which sails around the world delivering cargo. He often hears the sailors speak about “home” and Vincent wonders where home is. When the ship docks and the sailors say they are home, he follows a crew member to find home. The sailor goes to a house where family members greet him. Vincent realizes that “home” isn’t a specific location, but “where the people who love you are.” He questions if he has a home. But then the ship’s captain arrives – he was worried about Vincent and searching for him. He scoops him up and says, “Let’s go home.” So Vincent realizes that he does have a home – the captain is his family and the ship is home. With soft, detailed pen-and-watercolor illustrations that include beautiful coastal scenes, Vincent’s favorite spots on the ship, and the city where the ship docks. A heartwarming read.
The Cow Said Meow by John Himmelman
This is a funny and silly almost wordless picture book that will get toddlers and pre-schoolers laughing. During a rain storm, a cat meows at the door of an elderly woman wearing thick glasses. She lets the cat into her house. A cow standing nearby eating grass notices this and decides to give it a try to get in out of the rain. She meows at the door and the nearsighted lady lets her in, being fooled by the meow. This is followed by a succession of animals employing the same ruse: a pig, a chicken, a donkey, a ram, and a duck. The donkey’s meow sounds more like heeow and the chicken’s meow is accompanied by buk buk buk, but still the lady lets all the animals in. The cat decides enough is enough as the living room is overrun with animals and noise and the now wise-to-the-scheme lady escorts each animal out the door, excepting the cat of course. On the last page, a dog comes to the door – watch out cat!