A young boy loves to frequent the Bronx Zoo but feels very sad
when he sees the plight of animals living in empty cages and barren rooms.
These feelings are especially intense when he visits the jaguar exhibit. Seeing
these big, majestic cats living in unnatural, desolate surroundings makes him
want to change both his and their futures. And he sets out to do just that.
A Boy and a Jaguar,
is the inspiring autobiographical account of Alan Rabinowitz, who through his love of animals,
managed to overcome a personal obstacle that seemed overwhelming at first.
Alan is a stutterer. During his childhood years, he sometimes
had his head and body shake so uncontrollably when attempting to speak, that his
teachers placed him in a class for disturbed kids and pronounced to his parents
that, “He is broken”.
However, there are two ways that Alan can verbally
communicate without stuttering. One is to sing, and the other is to talk to animals.
He starts off by telling his pet hamster, gerbil, turtle, chameleon and green
garter snake about his dreams and they seem to listen to him. He also promises
that if he ever finds his voice, he will also be their voice, and that no harm
will come their way. He then goes to the Bronx Zoo great cat house and
“fluently” whispers the same vow to the resident jaguar through the cage bars.
When he starts college, he is enrolled in an experimental
program for stutterers which relieves him of his speech impediment, but not his
continuing feelings of being somehow broken on the inside.
Pursuing his passionate interest in animals, Alan prepares
for a career as a wildlife conservationist. He hikes the Smoky
Mountains to study black bears, and then
lands in Belize
to study his favorite species, the jaguar, in it’s natural habitat.
Jaguars are severely threatened by human encroachment into
their jungle environment. Alan decides to use his new found voice to help the
big cats. He presents his case to save the jaguars from hunters directly to Belize’s Prime Minister. And his
fifteen minute presentation produces success! His wish that the world’s first
jaguar preserve be established in the country, comes true.
I love the message that this book delivers about people and
animals who can’t speak for themselves. Complimenting the story are Catia
Chien’s colorful and evocative illustrations that deliver just the right amount
of visual dynamism.
A little book with a big hearted message that should be thoroughly
enjoyable for readers of all ages.
Since overcoming his stutter, Dr. Alan Rabinowitz has
dedicated his life to wildlife conservation. He is also a spokesperson for the
Stuttering Foundation of America.
For more information visit www.panthera.org
and www.stutteringhelp.org .
When Fraser Met Billy
is an engaging true account written by Louise Booth, the mother of two kids;
Fraser and Pippa.
When Fraser was just several months old, Louise was aware
that her son was not completely normal. Her intuitions are confirmed when at 18
months, Fraser is diagnosed with autism. Besides this, he also has hypotonia, a
rare muscular disorder that makes his joints loose.
At an early age, Fraser finds it difficult to communicate, often
has tantrums, emotional meltdowns and easily withdraws into his own private
world. Depending on the circumstances with which he is confronted, his behavior
is unpredictable and volatile. Fraser begins speech and behavioral treatment,
but his therapists soon come to the conclusion that Fraser will never attend a
normal, mainstream school. This is devastating news to Louise and her husband
Prior to this crisis, the Booth family had always loved cats.
In fact, they share their space with an aging cat named Toby, who is mostly preoccupied
with sleeping and eating. Louise starts wondering if a much younger pet would
prove to be a positive influence on Fraser; a “special” friend of sorts that
her son could interact with and bond.
Shortly thereafter, the parents contact the Cat Protection
League. A caregiver there senses that one of two identical cats, Billy or Bear,
found together earlier in an abandoned house, might make a good fit for Fraser.
Prior to meeting the cats, Fraser studies their photos and
keeps these by his bed. Unlike most adults, he is right away able to distinguish
between the two. When Fraser and his parents meet the cats at the rescue, he instantly
latches onto Billy. Upon arriving home, he declares that “Billy is going to be
Fraser’s very best friend”, a statement that truly predicted their present and
future relationship in more ways than one.
The two become inseparable and this rescue cat transforms
Fraser’s life. As Louise puts it “Billy had the ability to enter Fraser’s own,
private universe, a place that none of us could penetrate. It had made that
universe a less lonely place for Fraser but not only that; it had encouraged
him to venture out of it so that he was more and more part of our world”.
As time goes by, Fraser is able to enroll into a mainstream
school and is currently doing remarkably well.
I found this book difficult to put down. I read it in two
sittings and love its reaffirmation of the power of the animal/human bond;
something that can never be overestimated.
As all of the farm watches an egg – they hear nothing. Then a CRACK! Each animal answers ….crack /moo? Crack/baa? And so on until out pops a baby duck.
Baby duck laughs, waddles, and plays all the while peep, peep peeping. The animals yawn, peep. The chickens sing a lullaby, more peeping. That baby duck won’t sleep! The cows and the sheep try peep, peep, peeping. All the animals go outside to sleep but they can’t – too much peeping. Finally, Duck takes off his headphones and puts them on sleeping Farmer Brown. Duck puts baby duck in a bucket, covers her in a blanket and takes her outside. All the while baby duck keeps peeping. Duck climbs into the tractor, buckles their seatbelts and backs out of the barnyard. And you guessed it… Duck drives back and forth – peeping continues until finally little duck falls asleep. When Farmer Brown wakes up he doesn’t hear any animals but he sees Duck and little duck on the tractor sound asleep. Duck drove all over the farm – he was not a good driver - but mission accomplished!
Kids will love the animal antics while parents and caregivers will laugh at the premise. And really who hasn’t tried that age old trick of taking the baby for a car ride in hopes of having them go to sleep.
I love the Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin combo of stories and illustrations. They are so child pleasing but with that added adult humor which is so much fun to find in picture books. Enjoy sharing this book over and over again.
The Good Luck Cat: How
a Cat Saved a Family, and a Family Saved a Cat is a heartfelt memoir written by Lissa Warren, who in
addition to being an author, is also an editor and publicity director residing
on the East Coast. This chronicle revolves around Ting-Pei, Lissa’s family’s
Korat cat. The Warrens’
had always been a cat loving family. Ting’s feline predecessor, Cinnamon, had
lived with them for over 19 years, when kidney disease finally claimed her.
So in 1996, when Lissa’s father Jerry retired, had quadruple
bypass surgery, and needed a companion to help him pass the time during
recovery, Ting was adopted. Despite the fact that she weighed a mere seven
pounds, Ting was a kitten full of vim, vigor, and a pronounced mischievous
streak. Using her abundant intellect and winning personality, she quickly
established herself as a prominent member of the Warren clan. Being on very friendly terms
with everyone, she especially bonded with the father, and was an integral part
of his daily life right up to the time of his death due to a heart attack in
Not too long after that loss, Ting begins to act strangely; stumbling,
swaying back and forth and just staring into space for prolonged periods of
time. A visit to the veterinarian reveals that Ting had become “syncopal”.
These episodes of semi-loss of consciousness were being caused by a lack of
blood reaching the brain as the result of cardiomyopathy; a condition where
there is a weakening of the heart muscle thereby decreasing it’s ability to
Ting’s prognosis is grim unless she has a pacemaker implanted;
a common procedure for humans, but not so much with cats. However, neither this
knowledge nor the rather high cost involved, daunts Lissa, and she transports
Ting to Boston
where the procedure is completed.
After surgery, Ting recuperates at the Boston clinic for about a week, and after a
few more weeks at home, recovers completely. As of the book’s publishing date,
she was still doing fine at 19 years of age!
Unfortunately, three years after Ting’s pacemaker
implantation, Lissa was diagnosed with MS. Once more, Ting becomes a valuable
This book focuses on Ting and how she changed the lives of
Lissa’s dad and Lissa herself. It is also a moving tribute to a family’s power
to love, rejoice, deal with illness, grief, fear and accept their own fates.
Jonathan London first introduced Froggy to readers in 1992 with the publication of: Froggy Gets Dressed. The 25th title in the series is: Froggy’s Birthday Wish, c.2015. Froggy is funny, forgetful, sometimes insecure, and very similar to a typical child and Jonathan uses scenarios from the lives of his own two sons for the topics of the Froggy stories.
Froggy’s mom frequently calls his name throughout the many books with a: FRROOGGYY! and Froggy emphasizes doing an activity such as getting dressed with a Zip! Zoop! Zup! Zut! Zut! Zut! Zat! He moves with a flop flop flop as would a frog who walks and, of course, talks! In the story: Froggy’s Birthday Wish, Froggy wakes up excited as ever to celebrate his special day, but, his family pretends that the day is nothing special, Froggy begins to think that maybe his family FORGOT his birthday, so he visits his friends, but they’re not home, did they FORGET his birthday too? Poor Froggy! When he returns home, however, something awaits him and it is a SURPRISE PARTY! Will Froggy’s birthday wish for Chocolate Covered Flies come true? Yum!
KPL has many titles in the Froggy series. Here are some titles to begin your summer reading challenge with: Froggy Goes to School; Froggy Goes to the Doctor; Froggy Learns to Swim; Froggy’s First Kiss; and Froggy’s Day with Dad.
Visit Jonathan London’s website at http://www.jonathan-london.net/ for more information about his books.
In these times, it’s rare to find a story, whether written for kids or adults, that has an unabashedly “...and they lived happily-ever-after” ending to it. That’s not surprising since we live in a cynical period, where to show any interest in a tale soaked through with unrealistic happiness sometimes feels like an unpardonable sin. Well, I fear that I have committed just such a sin by falling in love with Cat & Dog, a picture book written and illustrated by Michael Foreman. And it feels great!
The story is very simple. Homeless mother cat finds a dry place under a highway bridge to curl up with her three kittens. Next morning, she sniffs out a fish delivery van and tells her youngsters that she will be back soon with breakfast. But the van drives off as soon as the cat jumps inside.
While mom is away on her accidental adventure, a scruffy old dog comes sniffing around and ends up befriending the feline brood. Before long they are all asleep in one cozy heap together. Mom returns with stories of the seaside; fish, fresh salt tinged air and of the very nice van driver who finds her in the back and returns her to her kittens.
At the end of the tale, all agree that they should move to the seaside which, thanks to the good graces of the fish van driver, they then do. The van driver also lets them all move into a shed he owns by the harbor, and together they watch the wonderful aquatic world that lays before them at the end of a pier.
This is a touching story with beautiful watercolor illustrations; (the kittens’ facial expressions are especially endearing). It is a heartwarming, gentle tale of new found friends and salvation, that should appeal to young children and all other human beings willing to temporarily suspend reality in the pursuit of joyful feelings.
A Library Book For
Bear by Bonny Becker with illustrations by Kady MacDonald Denton is a
humorous picture book about a bear who had never been to the library.
One morning, Bear hears a tapping at his door. He sees the
bright-eyed face of his fervent friend
Mouse who is excited to take Bear to the library to show him around, and
because he thinks that it’s just a doggone fun place to visit. While previously
Bear did promise to accompany Mouse, today he thinks that this expedition will
be a complete waste of his very precious time. After all, he already owned a
grand total of seven books and believed that this private collection would more
than adequately cover his needs for the foreseeable future. But a promise is a
promise, so off they go.
Upon their arrival, a very grumpy Bear is once again quick
to criticize. In his estimation, the library building is much too big and contains
“far too many books”. All this, he declares, is nothing more than pure excess.
But enthusiastic Mouse persists with positives, pointing out
that the library is quite exciting and declares that he will find Bear a
perfect book about pickles, since pickles is the one topic that Bear seems to
find most intellectually stimulating. But no matter which title Mouse suggests,
Bear is dismissive of the selections and voices his displeasure in a very loud
and disruptive manner.
Before long, he is shushed into quiet by two mothers (one
squirrel, the other raccoon), whose youngsters are gathered around a smiling
librarian conducting story time. Bear is upset at being told to quiet down and
wants to leave the library pronto.
However, on his way to the exit, he overhears the librarian
read a story about a very brave bear and a treasure chest filled with very
special pickle slices. Oh my, Bear becomes entranced, and it is now he who
quickly tells Mouse to quiet down!
After story time, Bear checks out a number of new books
including one titled “The Very Brave Bear and the Treasure of Pickle Island”,
which Bear reads to Mouse back at his home that very same day.
Wonderfully expressive illustrations compliment this top
notch choice for young children, that gently promotes libraries and all that
And it’s a great selection to celebrate “Read Across America
Day”, March 2nd, 2015.
Hoot Owl is hungry. He is also clever, and a self proclaimed master of disguise. This wonderful new picture book, Hoot Owl by Sean Taylor, shows Owl first disguising himself as a large carrot to catch an unsuspecting rabbit. But Rabbit, not fooled, hops on by. Owl devises costumes as a birdbath, and as a sheep, with no success. How he manages to snag a tasty meal of pizza makes for a clever solution.
Illustrator Jean Jullien has perfectly captured the spirit of the story, and his large, colorful pictures add to the silliness. This is a wonderful book for sharing with a child!
This is a delightful book by Kazuaki Yamada with simple double page landscapes featuring a yellow bus on its way to pick up various passengers consisting of one little girl and several friendly animals. The little girl is holding a red balloon attached to a string which she intends to show to her friends. Suddenly, the wind blows it away! With each turn of the page we are anticipating the balloon’s whereabouts and capture by the animal at the next bus stop. At each animal’s bus stop the sign pictures the animal whose stop it is. Will the rabbit catch the balloon? Will the penguin catch the balloon, or the elephant, or the giraffe catch the balloon as it floats up into the clouds? They follow it high above the mountains and when they almost catch the balloon, a bird pops it! The little girl cries and her very caring friends say: “cheer up”! They distract her and point to the sky and encourage her to look up and wave at another huge red balloon and they watch it as it slowly sinks into the horizon.
C. Roger Mader has done it again! He’s the author of Lost Cat, a children’s picture book I had
previously blogged about. Supposedly, this newest work Tiptop Cat is based on reality as it mimics the adventures of his
niece’s cat living in Paris
...“who roamed the rooftops of her neighborhood and survived a six story fall”.
As the story and pictures describe, a young girl gets a
black and white cat for her birthday, who becomes her most favorite gift. Although
the cat enjoys his indoor life, he also especially likes the outside balcony.
This cat is no slouch – so he roams and jumps from one rooftop to another and then
another, and then one more until he finally reaches “Le Grand Prix”; a prime
sitting spot on a chimney that happens to have the best view of the Eiffel
Tower in all of Paris.
However, one day he submits to his baser animal instincts
and pounces upon a pigeon intruding on his balcony domain. Unfortunately, it’s
a misjudged jump. As a consequence, he falls many floors down, right through a café
canopy and into the arms of a man who just happens to be in the right spot, at
the right time! Luckily, the cat doesn’t
break anything except maybe his spirit for hunting. For a while, he shies away
from the balcony and rooftops until one day he once more spots someone landing
on his domain; this time an irritating crow. And then he can’t help but give
The author states that he himself lives in the Normandy countryside of France with his wife and a petite
cat named Pete, who is not allowed to hop on rooftops in search of excitement. That’s
very good to know. Because you should never, ever let your cat wander over
balconies, rooftops or anything else located high off the ground! The depth
perception of domestic cats is not as keen as their agility, so accidents
happen much more often than is commonly known. And in the end, the danger of
losing your feline friend for a lifetime is just not worth their temporary
A wonderfully spirited book with many bright, evocative
illustrations. Just remember one thing: Unless you’re a stunt cat, don’t try
this at home!