War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus

War Dogs: Churchill and Rufus by Kathryn Selbert

book cover war dogs

BIBLIO: 2013,Watertown: Charlesbridge Publishing Inc.
Ages 5 to 9, $8.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture book; History
ISBN: 978-1-58089-415-9

Taking the main perspective of Rufus, Churchill’s dog, the Second World War is looked at through an innocent’s eyes. Selbert expresses Rufus observations about his important owner working hard to keep his country together. Repeatedly, Rufus is being shown as a comfort and constant companion to the prime minister. The war is described in vague terms including bombings of London, interactions between the big three ( USA, England, and Russia), D-day, and the announcement of victory. This story expresses the difficulties of war through the quotes taken from the gifted orator Churchill and the descriptive, short paragraphs. The stylistic choices of acrylic and collaging add a charming effect to the rather solemn content. The art adds emotion and warmth to the story making it more child friendly and showing a softer side to the “English Bulldog” Churchill. Included in the back is a war timeline and brief biographical entries. Great way to introduce the serious topic of war and create interest in WWII.

The Boy and the Book

The Boy and the Book by David Michael Slater, illustrated by Bob Kolar

Book Cover

BIBLIO: Watertown: Charlesbridge Publishing Inc, 2015. Ages 3 to 7, $16.95.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Picture book
ISBN: 978-1580895620

Learning proper book care and etiquette can be tough for young overexcited little kids. This simplistic Adobe Illustrator built book focuses on a boy and his treatment of the blue book. On the first page it becomes apparent that the little boy has a reputation for mistreating book and all of the books are alarmed at his arrival in the library. The next several pages show the boy tearing, bending, throwing, folding, and dragging the book around and the book looks scared and in pain. The mom collects her son and the book is tossed on the ground to be rescued and repaired by his book friends. When the boy returns the blue book hides in terror but he gets caught, the other books rescue the book. The boy is really sad, not understanding why the blue book was so unhappy and the book feels bad and returns to the boy, who figures out how to treat the book nicely, ending with the two reading at bedtime. Throughout the book in the background it is obvious that other library users know how respect the books, reading quietly at the tables holding the books correctly. There is very little thought put into the resolution of the book, frustratingly the boy seems to magically learn his lesson making it hard to explain the correct ways of caring for books because there is never a clear demonstration. While it has its flaws this book is functional as a gateway to proper library use, book care and repair, and how to get excited about books.


Angelfish by Laurence Yep

Angelfish book cover

BIBLIO: 2001, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Putnams Books for Young Readers, Ages 8 to 12, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Gwen Harter.
FORMAT: Middle Grade book
ISBN: 0-399-23041-6

Yep’s novel Angelfish is a captivating tale about a Chinese-American girl Robin. This charming story uses the archetypal story of the Beauty and the Beast to create the storyline and subplot of the book. Robin is a young ballet dancer who has gotten the role of Beauty in the upcoming recital. She dances with her friends Amy, Leah, and Thomas, her counterpart the Beast.

On their way home Thomas teases Robin and she throws her bag at him but instead breaks the storefront window of The Dragon Palace, the pet fish store. Rather than getting grounded and having to give up the recital Robin agrees to work for the surly manager, Mr. Tsow (Cao).

Upon working for Mr. Tsow, Robin is convinced she has met the real Beast. When she tells Grandmother about this awful old man she is reminded that most people are turned bitter by experience, not born that way. Robin reflects on the story of the ballet and vows to find out why Mr.Tsow has turned so sour and uses her experiences in the fish store in her dancing.She notices that Mr.Tsow has a hidden kindness which he shows in particular to his angelfish.

In her search for the humanity inside of Mr.Tsow Robin learns more about China’s history and discovers Mr.Tsow’s dancing fame and helps her Beast rediscover his love for the art.

This is a coming of age tale that shows compassion, heritage, and determination. This book brings up some serious topics such as racism, dark parts of history, gambling, and the effort needed to be part of a family (two busy parents) in a way that is true but easy to comprehend opening up a wide range of discussions.

A great addition to a classroom setting as a way to explore different cultures in a fun way and a great read for kids in general, especially those who have very specific interests such as ballet and fish.

More titles in the Series:
Ribbons book coverThe Cook's Family book coverThe Amah book cover