Ah, Love

Love is a complicated problem. However, it is a wonderful experience and can last a lifetime, if you work at it. Young love is especially difficult because the lovers aren’t even sure of their own feelings and they’re generally not used to dealing with tragedy or rejection, so they take all bumps in the road as catastrophes. These two books deal with young loves ins and outs quite nicely.

 

The first one has many twists and much amusement in it. And Ms. Rider really makes the reader relate to the trials and tribulations of being stranded in a large city during a blizzard. But she also makes the reader understand the beauty of such a storm.

 

Kiss Me in New York

Catherine Rider

Charlotte is on her way home to England after spending a semester in New York. Two weeks before the story opens with her checking in for her flight, her American boyfriend breaks up with her, rather cruelly. She arrives five hours ahead of her flight and is killing time looking for something to read in an airport bookstore, where she meets a hipster hottie who buys her the book she was looking at, “Get Over Your Ex in Ten Easy Steps!” He shows her the cheesy T-shirt he bought his girlfriend and asks her opinion. As they walk out of the bookstore, they witness a very embarrassing breakup of two kids about their ages. Leaving the shunned boy standing with a dozen red roses, hipster hottie embraces the girl and does a very passionate lip-lock with her. To make things even more frustrating, Charlotte’s flight is canceled because of a blizzard shutting the airport down. She doesn’t want to spend her last New York night in a boring, probably beige, hotel room. She ends up sitting next to the kicked-to-the-curb boy, Anthony, and they start talking. She persuades him to accompany her around Manhattan and follow the ten-easy steps outlined in the book hipster hottie bought her. They have a lot of adventures, including co-adopting a dog, and not only get over their exes, but discover a bond between them. Though Anthony lives in city, he does not want to spend Christmas with his family. He doesn’t think they’re trying to deal with of his mother’s death the previous spring. At Charlotte’s insistence, the two go to his house where he discovers that his whole family is dealing the tragedy. This is sweet and funny story, with lots of good advice from the self-help book.

BIBLIO: 2017, KCP Loft/Kids Can Press/Corus Entertainment Inc./Working Partners, Ages 14 +, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-77138-848-1

 

This second book focuses on learning how to love even in times of difficulty, when the pair aren’t reading each other’s body and emotional clues. It’s a good reminder to not shut down your conversation with your partner.

 

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Dash, nee Dashiell, fell in love with Lily in the first book of this series, about a year before this story opens. Things go swimmingly until Lily’s precious grandfather has a heart attack. But when Lily is consumed with taking care of him, Dash blames her cool behavior on having too much to worry about. He tries all kinds of things to get her to open up, but nothing seems to work and Christmas, Lily’s favorite holiday, is getting closer. Lily’s older brother, Langston, who is not at all fond of Dash, is so worried about his sister, he even takes Dash to lunch so they can plan something special to bring Lily back to her usually sweet self. Everything Dash tries fails miserably and everything Lily tries to make things better fails miserably. Of course, in the end, Dash and Lily work their problems out and are even more in love. The story is told alternately in Dash and Lily’s voices, and is quite humorous in many places. All the characters are genuinely caring, smart and believable. Dash’s friend Boomer is a hoot. The book is a good read and a useful opening for discussion of personal relationship dos and don’ts.

BIBLIO: 2016, Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-0-399-55380-6

ISBN: 978-0-399-55381-3

ISBN: 978-0-399-55382-0

ISBN: 978-1-5247-0110-9

 

Hope you enjoy the books. I think I’ll do books about Autumn next week. Stay well, Sarah.

 

Are Stories Old Hat or Not?

How many ways can the same concept be told? How many picture books can be different? Presumably, there are only so many concepts in the world and only so many ways of telling the same story. But, I wonder if that is true. Two of the picture books I’m reviewing here are about common childhood problems. Not being able to fall asleep is fairly common problem.

I remember at the age of four being sent to bed for my afternoon nap. Well, my older brothers and sister didn’t have to take afternoon naps, so, why should I? I remember being tucked into bed by our maid/nanny with shades drawn and the lights out. Richard, Anne and Bill were in the garden having a fine time playing. Hardly seemed fair. I got out of bed, walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. I looked up at Ruth, a very large and stern woman.

“I don’t need to take a nap,” I said with my hands on my hips.

“Oh, yes you do,” said Ruth.

Without another word, I turned on my heel, marched myself back upstairs, climbed into bed and promptly went to sleep. Sound familiar?

Being the youngest sibling, I was frequently not allowed to have my way. Since these are my memories, I don’t remember being the bossy one ever, but I probably was upon occasion.

 

 

The first story addresses the problem of a child learning not to be bossy or selfish.

 

Me, Me, Me

Annika Dunklee

Illustrated by Lori Joy Smith

Annie, Lillemor and Lilianne are best friends. That is, until they decide to enter the school talent show as an all-girl trio. When the girls meet to plan what they’ll wear and sing and who will be lead singer, Annie hogs the show. She picks the song, what they’ll wear and what they’ll call their trio. Lillemor and Lilianne are angry because their protests are answered by Annie saying it was her idea. The two are happy when Annie decides to go as a solo act. But when Annie practices singing her song, she discovers something is missing, so she asks Penny and Ella to sing with her. Unfortunately, Ella and Penny don’t let Annie be in charge. In the meantime, Lilianne and Lillemor realize they can’t sing the high notes the way Annie does. Annie decides to ask her two friends if they’ll forgive her and sing with her at the talent show. Rather than call themselves the Mi, Mi, Mi trio, they agree on All One. The characters are different looking and come from different parts of the world. Teachers can use this story to discuss sharing and ethnicity.

BIBLIO: 2017, Kids Can Press Ltd/Corus Entertainment Inc., Ages 5 to7, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-77138-660-9

 

The second story I review here has the theme of a child not being ready for bed.

Getting a child to settle down for sleeping time can frequently be a problem. After all, there’s a lot out there to explore and do. Why waste it sleeping?

 

 

Monkey not Ready for Bedtime

Marc Brown

Illustrated by Marc Brown

It’s Monkey’s bedtime, so he pulls on his jammies, brushes his teeth and puts his favorite toy bunny in bed with him. Only problem is he can’t fall asleep. What’s a young monkey to do, if he’s thirsty and not tired and it’s too dark in his room? Mommy gives him warm milk and Daddy rubs his back, but Monkey is not ready for bed. The problem is that Monkey is too tired the next day to pay attention in school or play with his friends. Finally, his big brother suggests Monkey count his favorite things, because that might help him fall asleep. But counting bugs or red crayons or toys or even raspberry ice cream cones doesn’t do the trick. Ah ha! he remembers. Dinosaurs are his favorite animal. He starts counting them and then imagines playing with them. Soon, animals and Monkey are sound asleep. Most children love having stories read to them at bedtime and this one has enough charm to it, that reader and child will enjoy reading it again. In the future, though, the author and his editors might be a bit more careful about verb tense, though the listener probably won’t notice the mistake and the drawings are cute.

BIBLIO: 2017, Borzoi Books/Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, LLC, Ages 2 to 6, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-101-93761-7

ISBN: 978-1-101-93762-4

ISBN: 978-1-101-93763-1

 

Everybody I know enjoys looking at and reading silly stories. The pictures make us laugh and words keep us engaged.

 

Roger Is Going Fishing

Koen Van Biesen

Illustrated by Koen Van Biesen

Translated by Laura Watkinson

Next in the series of stories about Roger and his adventures, this book shows Roger pedaling his bike along a busy street. A child named Emily is riding with him holding a big fishing rod that stretches behind her waving its line and hook. In the front of the bicycle is Bob the dog standing in the carrying basket holding a book while his very large ears flap in the wind. The trio is riding along a busy city street where they pass a young postman carrying lots of boxes. Oops, the hook snags the top box. Emily hollers to Roger that she has a bite, but he tells her she can’t fish yet. Not until they get to the lake. Next, they bumble-de-bump past an elegant woman and snag her umbrella and again Emily is told she can’t fish yet. Eventually, Roger, Emily and Bob reach the lake followed by the postman, the woman, a saxophone player, a daddy pushing his baby in a carriage, a guy playing a drum, three sheep and a cow. Roger can’t stop before he runs off the dock and sends Emily catapulting into the lake. He grabs his fishing rod and calls out to Emily that he’s caught a great big…fish? No. He’s caught Emily. The drawings are quite comical and will make readers of all ages giggle.

BIBLIO: 2017 (orig. 2015,) Eerdman’s Books for Young Readers/Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Ages 3 to 8,  ??.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5491-9

 

 

 

Are You Truly Good?

Have you ever pondered what’s good or innocent and what’s bad or corrupt and how do you tell who’s what? That’s what this anthology is about.

 

Evidently, there is a subset of people called “BookTubers,” who are a subset of people who publish regular information or reviews on YouTube. Before reading this anthology, I’d never even heard of such a group, but then I’m an old codger and proud that I am at least computer savvy enough to write a frequent blog.

 

Anyway, a group of booktubers and a group of YA story authors got together to write stories about good and evil, or about innocents and villains. They came up with 13 wonderful stories that make the reader ponder who is an innocent and who is a villain. The booktubers’ responses are just as provocative as the stories themselves. This is most decidedly worth the read.

 

 

Because You Love to Hate Me

Edited by Ameriie Mi Marie Nicholson

Are the protagonists in these thirteen tales villains, or not? What do the “booktubers” answer? This book is so complex and thought provoking, there’s no way to write a 300-word review and get in the names and details of each story. Do read the book to find out what issues are discussed, but also the sheer pleasure of reading them. All the stories are well written and the answering comments will mill around in your mind for quite a while afterward. The stories are told so subtlety, it’s hard to determine who is the villain. Dig deeper into your consciousness and look past the obvious to think about who the real villain is. Be sure to discuss this book with friends. Admire the artistry presented by the authors and enjoy the humor displayed by the commentators. It is deliciously irreverent. The stories range from retelling of such classics as The Beauty and Beast, werewolf myths, Jack and the Beanstalk, Irish Selkie myths to the exploration of what a psychopath is. As you’re reading, take your time to savor the stories for themselves and then what modern-day issues they raise. You’re guaranteed to want to read them again.

 

Renée Ahdieh’s “The Blood of Imuriv” is about sibling rivalry amongst a royal family and how much control we have over our emotions. Christine Riccio gives us the warning signs evil taking over your soul.

Ameriie writes a take on the old folk tale, “Jack and the Beanstalk,” but not necessarily with Jack as the hero. Tina Burke asks us to compare giants and tyrants and poses the possibility of our misunderstanding what/or who is good.

Soman Chainani’s version of the King Arthur legend, is told in 21st Century teen communication of texting and answered by booktuber, Samantha Lane, who enters the Persephone fable into the mix.

Susan Dennard puts an interesting twist into the Sherlock Holmes story. Sherlock is now Shirley and Moriarty is Jim and Sasha Alsberg answers with Jim’s excuse for his behavior.

In “Blessings of Little Wants,” Sarah Enni’s protagonist searches for a way to save magic, but she has to choose whether it’s worse the price. Sophia Lee’s rebuttal will leave you pondering lots.

Marissa Meyer’s protagonist, Nerit, is a sea witch in the making and is forever trying spells to get her way. Her hope is to have handsome Prince Lorindel make her his queen. When she’s shamed for trying, she surfaces and suns herself on the beach. She meets Samuel who charms her into believing he loves her, so she changes into human form. Alas, Samuel is tricking her and leaves her destitute on the shore. Things do not go well for her. In her response, Zoë Herdt asks us to decide where we stand in the discussion of good and evil.

Cindy Pon’s intriguing story, “Beautiful Venom,” tells of a beautiful young virgin who’s been groomed to be the Emperor of China’s latest consort, and how an evil man beguiles her, ruining her chances of success. The Goddess of Purity changes her into a snake. Benjamin Alderson suggests the villain is actually society’s belief that women provoke rape.

Victoria Schwab’s “Death Knell,” a fascinating description of death’s persona, is compelling. Is it always the same figure? Jesse George asks questions of death in his rebuttal.

Samantha Shannon’s story “Marigold,” is told as a fairy tale, but the truth of the matter is that women in the 1800’s were doomed to a life of obedience to men’s wills. No wonder they didn’t want to return when abducted by Erl people of the woods. Regan Perusse presents a different take on it in her story, “Evil Revealed.”

Adam Silveria’s protagonist in “You, You, It’s all about You,” is a drug dealer, not of heroin or other potent drugs. Rather she’s the provider of memory-erasing drugs, mesmerizing drugs, drugs that seriously screw up your psyche. She wears a mask made up of the rotting flesh of her dead father’s hand. Catriona Feeney takes the mask for her discussion of how we all wear masks of some sort.

Andrew Smith’s hero in “Julian Breaks Every Rule,” is either the luckiest guy on the face of the earth or a bona fide psychopath. You decide. Raeleen Lemay gives you some possibilities.

April Genevieve Thucholke ponders whether werewolves are to be killed or pitied or accepted in “Indigo and Shade.” This is actually a charming love story on one level.  Whitney Atkinson discusses what the reality of a particular situation is and whether one’s reaction is a good one.

Nicola Yoon reminded me of the main character in The Bad Seed, a little girl who is born evil, only to ripen into a real demon. “Sera” ripens into murderous, loathsome child. But nobody but her mother can see how evil she is. Steph Sinclair and Kat Kennedy illuminate the concept of being a villain in “The Bad Girl’s Guide to Villainy.”

BIBLIO: 2017, Bloomsbury Children’s Books/Bloomsbury Publishing, Inc., Ages 14+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-68119-364-9

ISBN: 978-1-68119-365-6

 

 

 

 

 

Social or Anti-social?

What is social or antisocial behavior? Can you be social, but not spend all your time with other people? Are you antisocial if you like to spend time by yourself? Or are we all a little bit of both? I thought I’d give reviews of three books that address some aspect of the question. Hope you enjoy what I’ve chosen.

 

Antisocial

Jillian Blake

Anna, who suffers from social anxiety disorder, is having to deal with her return to Alexandria Preparatory Academy in Virginia, after the Christmas break. To make the return even more stressful, word of her break up with her one and only boyfriend, baseball star Palmer, has swept through the school. Since she’d abandoned her friends while trying to fit in with Palmer’s crowd, she is now alone. As she heads toward a vacant lunchroom table, she’s hailed by Jethro, who is in Anna’s old group—the group she ditched. He gets her to join their table, where she is treated with icy indifference by most of the group. But things get much worse for the whole school, when someone hacks the school’s social network site and then burrows into everyone’s phone, finding all kinds of personal information. The hacker then shares everyone’s secrets about bad things they’ve done. Anna is terrified the hacker will spread the awful things she wrote to Palmer about the kids in her group. Brought even closer together by the breaking scandals, Anna and Jethro spend more time together and eventually have sex. Jethro is suspected by the police of being the hacker and disappears, losing his opportunity to go to MIT. She and her friends do finally get back on an even keel in their relationships, and Anna learns good things about her ability to deal with social stress. The book is a little bland in its approach to the subject of hacking, but the damage the spreading of other people’s business is made abundantly clear.

BIBLIO: 2017, Old Curiosity Shop/Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/ Penguin Random House, Ages 14+, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-101-93896-6

ISBN: 978-1-101-93897-3

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6470-8

 

Human relationships are complicated and people do things to one another that might be unintentional, but do have consequences.

 

Hear the Wolves

Victoria Scott

Sloan is an excellent shot and used to be brave, but when her mother ran off a couple of years earlier, Sloan turned into a clingy, fearful soul, who won’t let her father and sister out of her sight. Dad decides Sloan needs to get over her fear and leaves her alone in the family’s cabin as he and Sloan’s sister, Maren, head to Vernon, the closest large town, for the monthly trek for supplies and to vote. Sloan realizes she needs more kerosene to keep the cabin generator going and the cabin livable. She forces herself to dress for the already starting blizzard and head out to the town’s church where the kerosene reserves are stored. The minister is not there, but the town’s only school teacher, Mr. Foster, comes in looking for fuel. Then a kid, Elton, leads a badly wounded, elderly woman, Ms. Wade, in. Sloan decides their best option is to trek to the river and float down to Vernon. After Pilot and Farts, his basset hound, join the group and finally Pilot alcoholic father insists on coming, they head off into the woods. But the wolves keep getting closer, Ms. Wade gets sicker, Pilot’s father is wounded and Mr. Foster is in danger. The story ends with all the adults dying and becoming wolf food, but the three kids and Farts end up at the river. They take the boat moored there and head down river to Vernon. Sloan is much braver and looking forward to new adventures. The author researched wolf behavior to make sure she told her story correctly. This book is a good read, with lots of interesting information in it.

BIBLIO: 2017, Scholastic Press/Scholastic Inc., Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle Reader

ISBN: 978-1-228-04358-7

ISBN: 978-1-228-04747-9

 

 

How important is it to have friends? How important is it to do things for others? How important is it do things for one’s self?

 

How the Queen Found the Perfect Cup of Tea

Kate Hosford

Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

The queen is tired of the same old tea, day in and day out, so she decides to travel the world by hot-air balloon in search of the perfect cup of tea. Her first stop is in Japan, most likely, since she meets a young girl named Noriko who says it’s time for the queen to snuggle with a kitten. The queen helps by finding the water faucet and watching Noriko make the tea. She enjoys her tea and says goodbye. Next, she flies to India, perhaps, since the boy she meets is named Sunil. He says it’s time for the queen to learn how to dribble a soccer ball. This time she helps her new friend make the tea by not only finding and turning on the water faucet, but then filling up the kettle, before watching Sunil do the rest. The two sit down to drink their tea and have a chat.  Two cups of tea they drink, before the queen flies away. She lands possibly in Thailand, otherwise known as Siam, because the girl she meets is dressed in Thai clothes. Here she learns to dance, because young Rana says it’s time she tried dancing. This time the queen adds boiling the water to her growing list of tea-making skills. Rana and the queen talk until they’ve drunk three cups of tea. Once aloft in their balloon, the queen and her butler head home because the queen now knows right where to find the perfect cup of tea. The queen awakes early the following Saturday to get ready for her tea party. She dresses herself and makes the tea herself, because she has learned the best cup of tea is made by the drinker and shared with friends. What a grand book, with perfect illustrations.

BIBLIO: 2017, Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, Ages 5 to 8, $18.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-4677-3904-7

 

Nah, Is That Really True?

Sometimes fiction seems real and sometimes it’s fun, but most decidedly not real. Still either piece of fiction, if well written, lets the reader “suspend his disbelief.”

 

*******************************************************

The first book fits the not-real category, but still is worth reading, and may even encourage you to have a food fight.

 

Fakespeare: Star-Crossed in Romeo and Juliet

M. E. Castle

Illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

Becca is caught up in a mysterious and magical tale based on William Shakespeare’s play, “Romeo and Juliet.” Becca has a great imagination and loves to write stories, but she does not like her new stepbrother, Sam, whom she considers obnoxious. She goes to her friend Kyle’s house to retrieve a library book she’d left there. Kyle is not there, though he’s supposed to be, but a book is, not that it’s supposed to be. Obnoxious Sam starts to read it, and before the kids can react, the book swallows them up. They wake up in a pile of straw, well, actually a pile of hay, in the town’s market. And they seem to be involved in the story of Romeo and Juliet and are about to be skewered by a swordsman or two. The Narrator from the magical book gives them advice, which they follow and hide behind a cart full of ripe tomatoes. Soon the stepsiblings become involved in sword and tomato fight between the Capulets and Montagues, who are fighting over who makes the best pizza. Along the way, Sam and Becca show Romeo how to captivate Juliet’s heart and how to end the war between their two families. Plus, Becca discovers that Sam actually isn’t so bad to have as a brother. The story is silly and fun, with enough of Shakespeare’s play in it to be a good introduction to the storyline and nobody dies.

BIBLIO: 2017, Paper Lantern/Get Lost Book Club/Imprint/Macmillan Children’s Publishing/Macmillan Publishing Group, Ages 9 to 12, $13.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Middle-Reader

ISBN: 978-1-250-10162-4

ISBN: 978-1-250-10161-7

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Have you ever told a lie, even a teeny, tiny fib? I expect all of us have told at least one untruth in our lifetimes. As honest and truthful as we all try to be, sometimes it’s just easier on everyone to not tell the whole story. See if you can find the culprit in this murder mystery.

 

One of Us Is Lying

Karen M. McManus

Yale-bound Bronwyn, a rule follower to the core, Homecoming Princess Addy, drug dealing Nate, and all-star pitcher Cooper are all sent to detention for having cell phones on them during school hours.  Also in detention is Simon, the creator of a gossip app which tells all of the students’ darkest secrets. It’s been rumored that Simon is going to spill the beans on all four of his detention mates the next day. When only the five students are in the closed-door classroom, Simon drinks water from a paper cup that’s been laced with peanut oil and dies of anaphylactic shock. The police investigate all four students and discover their secrets. During the investigation, the kids learn about each other and that their outward personas are not all there is to them. Each kid knows he’s not responsible, but wonders about the others. Each kid admits to and accepts her imperfections. They all grow emotionally during the story. The reader will enjoy figuring out who the murderer is and will learn more about accepting himself. Teachers will find much to use for classroom discussion. The book is a winner, even if a bit formulaic.

BIBLIO: 2017, Delacorte Press/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House, Ages 14 +, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Young Adult

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1468-0

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1469-7

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1470-3

Happy 4th of July! Have fun and say thanks for the good in our country.

 

 

A Horse is a Horse…

As you’ve probably guessed, I love reading about animals, especially dogs and horses, but other animals are good to read about as well. I like fiction better than non-fiction, though I’ve read a number of good non-fiction animal books.

My husband loves to sing the first verse of the opening song for the old TV sitcom starring the “Mr. Ed,” hence the title of this post.

My favorites are:

Free and Easy, about young Stella O’Dare who pines for a horse of her own, but can’t afford one. She ends up helping at a neighboring farm and is allowed to train a filly. She begins to think of the mare as her own and gets jealous if other people take an interest in the horse. Things get more complicated when a young man takes an interest in the mare and then in Stella. I learned a lot about horse training, and about horse breeds. The filly is a purebred Narragansett Pacer. The breed no longer exists, but does show up in the bloodlines of Tennessee Walking Horses, Rocky Mountain gaited horses, and Saddlebreds. All these breeds have gaits other than just the usual walk, trot, canter, gallop. Not all Walking Horses trot and not all Walking Horses pace, but they all do the long, easy gait that is as fast as most horses’ trot, but with no bumping up and down.

Yeah, but what does that mean, to pace or to trot?

A horse’s walk, no matter how slow or fast, is a four-beat gait. Let’s say you’re looking at the horse from the left side, first the left hind foot moves forward, and as it lands, the right front foot moves forward, then the right hind and then left front.  A Walking Horse’s extended walk should be so smooth and straight, you could pass along rows of cornstalks and not touch the corn with your body. And you should be able to ride for hours. These horses were bred to carry the landowner as comfortably as possible while they checked on their plantations. Some horse shows used to have classes where the rider had to ride a certain distance holding a full glass of water without spilling a drop.

Next comes the trot, which is a two-beat gait. Again, watching from the left side, that hind foot and the alternate front foot leave the ground together, and, when they land, the other diagonal pair move. Once you learn to move with the push of the horse’s hind legs, it’s lots easier to stay with the horse instead of bouncing around. Now, this is where the gait called a pace comes in. Not all horses have it, but those that do can be quite comfortable. The difference is which legs move together. In the trot, it’s a diagonal pairing; in a pace, it’s a lateral pairing—left hind and left front. Your body must adjust to roll with the gait, instead rising to the gait. A slow trot is called a jog and, with the right horse, you can sit to it for miles. Our orange and white Pinto, had an outstanding jog trot, but he also had a glorious extended trot. I could feel his hind legs land under my seat and see his forelegs stretch past his muzzle.

Our wonderful Thoroughbred had a nice, steady trot, but his best gaits were his canter and his gallop—like riding on a fast-moving cloud. This is a three-beat gait—left hind, front legs mostly together and right hind. You should be able to sit to this gait.

The next gait is the gallop, which is what Thoroughbreds do when they’re racing. Similar to a canter, it is, of course, much faster and all four feet are off the ground in one stage of the stride. It’s so exciting it can take your breath away.

My husband and I had Tennessee Walking Horses on our farm. Two of them were good jumpers and very willing to go where ever we wanted them to go.  I loved that we had a breed which carried the bloodlines of the horse in my favorite horse story.

Other of my favorite books:

King of the Wind: the story of the Godolphin Arabian, and other books about horses, all of them illustrated by Wesley Dennis, taught me a great deal about horses. Her books about the Chincoteague ponies still resonate with horse lovers. The first of that series is Misty of Chincoteague.

Smoky, the Cowhorse written and illustrated by Will James, who was a cowboy and taught himself to draw.

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, who was another favorite of mine for horse books. And though this information says the book was copyrighted in 1969, I think it was first published much earlier than that.


My Friend Flicka
and the rest of the series by Mary O’Hara will always have a place inmy heart. Flicka is about a young boy’s struggle to please his domineering father and the solace he finds in gaining the trust of a filly.Any of the C W Anderson books will do, but see if you can find his Favorite Horse Stories. I believe his last story was of a pony named Blaze. I loved the pen and ink

drawings scattered throughout the pages. He was also quite well known for his

drawings of horses, perhaps even better known for them than his books.

Enid Bagnold’s National Velvet is another much loved and much filmed story about a

young English girl, who trains and rides a black and white pinto to win the grand prix

of steeple chase races in England at the time when girls weren’t supposed to do things

that. Elizabeth Taylor and Mickey Rooney played in the original film version.

Of course, just about everyone knows about Black Beauty, whose story was put to paper by Anna Sewell and was intended to inform the public about cruelty to horses, in particular harness horses. The book itself plays a part in my middle-reader novel, which I hope to have out by the end of this year. My book is titled Emily’s Ride to Courage.

Obviously, there are many more stories involving horses, but this is enough for now. Thanks for reading. Sarah Maury Swan, author of Terror’s Identity.

Adventures of all Kinds

I still am gathering books to talk about books about animals, so I’m going to give you reviews about books I just read. Two of them do have animals as main characters, but they’re not part of the collection in my heart.

 

The first one is about Henry who sees the museum he visits with his classmates in an entirely different way. The illustrations are funny and remind me of Peter Arnold’s drawings in the New Yorker, ages ago when I was young.

 

A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum

Davide Cali

Illustrated by Benjamin Chaud

Henry’s trip to the museum isn’t quite the same as what his classmates experience. Instead, he and his stalwart dog encounter a charging triceratops. But Henry and his dog take refuge with a Neanderthal family.  As thanks, our intrepid friend shows them how to design creatures using balloons, until he is chased away by a herd of buffalo. Saved from that, Henry and dog trigger a volcano to explode and, in running away to keep from being plastered with lava, the two heroes run smack into an exhibit of dinosaur bones, set up to represent the various types of animals. Their reconstruction is not quite as precise as it might have been. Even in the hall of sculptures, Henry has a different experience than the other students. But, in the end, he has made the museum an even more intriguing place for future visitors. The drawings are delightful and the story will have children wishing to go to a museum. But do be careful not to get caught in Henry’s kind of adventures. Teachers will happily gather discussion points from this book.

BIBLIO: 2017, Chronicle Books LLC, Ages 7 to 10, $12.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Chapter Book

ISBN: 978-1-4521-5593-7

 

This charming story talks about making friends and understanding where one belongs in the scheme of things.

 

Amanda Panda Quits Kindergarten

Candice Ransom

Illustrated by Christine Grove

Amanda wants to be a school bus driver when she grows up, but, first, she wants to go to kindergarten. And she wants to do all things her brother, Lewis, did. She plans to write her name in big letters on the chalk board, so everyone will know who she is. She’ll build the tallest block tower and then she’ll run faster than everyone else, provided they’re only running downhill. The first day of school, Amanda gets to the bus stop only to discover a girl her age dressed in brilliantly-bright pink. Amanda tries to ignore her, but the pink girl follows her onto the bus and sits down next to her. Bitsy is her name, she announces, but Amanda doesn’t feel like being polite, so she doesn’t answer. Bitsy writes her name on the board, taking up most of the room, leaving Amanda only a very small area for her name. No matter what Amanda tries to be best at, Bitsy gets in her way. After recess, Amanda sneaks into the line for Lewis’ grade and sits next to him in his class. Amanda’s feet don’t reach the floor and she can’t read the words on the board. Just when she’s feeling very low, Bitsy shows up at the classroom door, looking quite lost and sad. Turns out she had gone looking for Amanda and got lost. Amanda realizes her mistake in quitting kindergarten, so she takes Bitsy’s hand and back they go to their classroom. Amanda discovers it doesn’t hurt to be kind. This is a sweet story with adorable illustrations combining panda traits with human traits. Teachers have many discussion points to use in class.

BIBLIO: 2017, Doubleday Books for Young Readers/Random House Children’s Books/Penguin Random House LLC, Ages 4 to 7, $17.99.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-0-399-55455-1

ISBN: 978-0-399-55456-8

ISBN: 978-0-399-55457-5

 

 

This story is a winner, with a charming message and wonderful drawings.

 

No More Noisy Nights

Holly L. Niner

Illustrated by Guy Wolek

Poor Jackson Mole works hard all day, moving boxes of stuff and furniture into his new house, which makes him very ready for bed and a good night’s rest. Promptly at nine p.m., he settles himself in, expecting to sleep soundly, but the “oooEEEeee” wail coming from the attic keeps him awake all night. Jackson has a hard time staying awake the next day and does such silly things as putting ketchup on his toast. At bedtime, Jackson goes up to the attic and asks the ghost to be quiet.  The ghost, says he’ll try to be quieter, but what’s he supposed to do? Jackson says he’ll think about. The next evening he sets a box on the attic floor. But does he get to sleep that night? Noo. The basement Boogey Monster, boogety woogety wooos all night long. Jackson asks the monster to make less noise at night, but the monster doesn’t know how. Jackson leaves a box at the foot of the basement stairs. Now he is sure he’ll have good night’s sleep.  Nope. The Piano Pixie starts plinking out her music. Is he ever going to have a peaceful night’s sleep? Of course, the next morning, Jackson asks the pixie to not make all that noise at night. She says she’ll try, but what’s she supposed to do. He puts out sheet music for the pixie and goes to sleep with the soft sounds of a puzzle being assembled above him, a toy train chugging along below him, and a pixie lullaby coming from the piano. What can be better than a not-so-noisy house and new friends?  This book is adorable, with cute illustrations and a good message of cooperation.

BIBLIO: 2017, Flashlight Press, Ages 5 to 8, $17.95.

REVIEWER: Sarah Maury Swan

FORMAT: Picture Book

ISBN: 978-1-936261-93-2