Jayne’s September Children’s Books Reading List

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A Reviews / B Reviews / Book Reviews / Recommended Reads / 3 Comments

Madeline Finn and the Blessing of the Animals by Lisa Papp

When Madeline Finn attends the Blessing of the Animals with Bonnie and Star, she learns that everyone has a gift inside, which they can share with the world. And one way that Madeline Finn can share her blessing is with the animals at her local shelter.

It’s a special day! Madeline Finn is taking Bonnie and Star to the Blessing of the Animals. When they arrive, they see dogs and cats. There’s even a goat!

Madeline Finn watches closely as the Reverend Mary Alice spends time with every animal, giving each one their very own blessing.

“How do you know what to say?” Madeline Finn wants to know.

“Everyone has a blessing inside,” Miss Mary explains. “A special gift to share with the world.”

When Madeline Finn receives a blessing all her own, she has a new mission: finding the blessings in others. Surely, the furry and feathery residents at her local animal shelter have lots of special gifts to share. They just need someone to believe in them—someone to set those blessings free.

Review

I’ve enjoyed reading all the previous Madeline Finn books but this one is the best. Madeline Finn and her mother take Madeline’s dog Star and Star’s mother Bonnie to the annual blessing of the animals. The line is long and the variety of animals is amazing – everything from dogs and cats to ferrets, a goat, and a goldfish in a bowl. When they get to the front of the line, the dogs get a blessing and Madeline asks a question. How does Miss Mary know what to say? Everyone has a blessing in them, she replies. Madeline asks for another blessing – for the animals at the shelter. Miss Mary blesses Madeline with courage and then Madeline and her mother head to the shelter. 

Yes, I had to stop numerous times to wipe my eyes. Yes, I was crying. But they’re happy tears and hopeful tears for the animals Madeline blesses with things that might help the animals find homes. The illustrations are lovely and the message is heartfelt. We’re all special and have something to offer. A

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Memo and the Unexpected Gift by Funda Özlem Seran

There’s something unusual about the kitten Memo finds in his yard.

Memo lives in a small cottage with his grandmother. But his grandma can’t see very well anymore, and she falls asleep all the time. Memo starts to feel a bit lonely…until the night he discovers a stray kitten. The boy and cat become fast friends. But as the cat grows and grows (and grows), Memo realizes that this kitten may not be a cat at all. And it most definitely doesn’t belong in a cottage! Memo needs to make a plan so that his friend can get home safely. What will become of his big, furry friend?

Review

I love this one. The illustrations are great and obviously show the emotions of Memo, his Grandmother, and his pet. Memo takes care of his Grandmother and also his pet. When it’s clear that there’s a problem, Memo thinks outside the box to solve it. That’s a little bittersweet until The Package arrives! Kudos for having the gift be something other than I thought and for there being an explanation for how it all happened. The way Memo fixes the problem is a little weird and deus ex machina but for children, I’d bet they wouldn’t even notice. B

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Sam Francisco : King of the Disco by Sarah Tagholm

A toe-tapping adventure celebrating optimism in the face of adversity about a community of cool cats who just want to have fun.

Superstar DJ Sam Francisco’s party is keeping his neighbor Buzzkill Bill awake. Bill tries everything to shut it down—he sends his dogs, then pest control, the fire department, and the police! When Bill finally succeeds in pulling the plug, things look bleak, but luckily it’s the people (and the cats) who make a party, not the fancy equipment.

Written in verse, this exuberant celebration of dance, music, and self-expression begs to be read aloud over and over. Young readers and adults alike will delight in the humor, charm, and energy of Sarah Tagholm and Binny Talib’s fantastic felines led by Sam, the David Bowie of cats. Featuring a silver-foiled cover for full disco effect, readers are introduced to many musical genres, as each of Sam Francisco’s adversaries are gradually won over by the beat.

Review

Sam is a cat who knows how to DJ a party. He slinks out of his house, revs up the turntables and pretty soon he’s got all the neighborhood cats dancing (breakdance, can-can, hip hop, and headbang). Everyone from Queen Bee Jean who’s looking fierce in green to Billy-Bob Bananas who’s still in his pajamas is having a blast. That is until Buzzkill Bill at number two, is woken by the hullabaloo. I could feel for Buzzkill and his need for sleep but these cats are just too much fun. Enjoy the rhymes and enjoy the slickest DJ who won’t let anything stop the party. B

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George and Tao by Claude K. Dubois

A tiny, delicately illustrated picture book for young children and animal lovers that holds a world of emotion conveying a friendship between an energetic puppy and a new kitten.

Little dog George isn’t sure about the new kitten that appears in their home. George sniffs Tao, they look at each other, they wag and wave their tails. Then they start to play. George and Tao are best friends!

But George is too excited and Tao gets hurt. Now Tao is gone.

George looks everywhere, then waits—all morning, all afternoon, all night. Will Tao come home?

George’s overenthusiastic friendship comes to a sudden stop, turns to worry, a long wait, and then finally an outburst of pure doggy joy when Tao comes home. This puppy and kitten encapsulate everything about being small, and the intensity of the now-moment.

With beautiful and irresistible animal illustrations, this warm friendship story that touches the heart is an ideal gift book for pet lovers of any age. Ideal for families to use as a tool for talking about a new baby or sibling in the home with themes of friendship, overenthusiasm, different styles, and overreaching boundaries.

Review

Happiness, joy, uncertainty, patience, joy again. This book has all these emotions and conveys them in ways that small children will be easily able to understand. George the dog is curious then happy when Tao the kitten is brought home. The lovely colored pencil sketched illustrations show the two running and playing before Tao gets ambitious and scoots up the curtains. Through George’s actions we see him look here and look there then quietly wait by the front door (dogs know where the action begins). The joy when his new buddy returns is heartwarming.

I think the emotions are shown beautifully and the simple language by which the story is told will allow younger readers to understand and read many of the words as they follow along. B

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Dear Stray by Kirsten Hubbard

A prickly kitten and the child who chooses it revel in being kindred spirits while they both learn how to live with their wild side.

When a little girl adopts a tigerish stray kitten from the shelter, her family isn’t sure about her choice. But she can see that she and the kitten have lots in common as they both have a tendency to lash out when they’re uncomfortable. The little girl does her best to be patient and give her kitten plenty of space, treating it the way she likes to be treated. And in doing so, somehow they figure out just the right ways to help calm each other. A poignant text and evocative art make this story about two friends who share the heart of a tiger a standout.

Review

When you are little or afraid, sometimes a good offense is the best defense. Oh, yes. I’ve been both this cat and this girl. There are times when I just wanted to hiss and spit, to swipe at anyone within range. Luckily I’ve had friends to calm me down, whether they understood why I was mad or not. People have also just let me vent as this little girl lets her kitten express its feelings, fear, and uncertainty.

This story helps us understand patience, quiet and careful love, and just letting someone, or some cat, have a little space to work out emotions and feelings. There’s someone for everyone, or someone for every cat whether they are, as the illustrations beautifully show, pointy or spikey. B

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The Imaginary Alphabet by Sylvie Daigneault

Step inside the deliciously detailed pages of Sylvie Daigneault’s The Imaginary Alphabet. You never know what you might discover!

Agile alligators attempting an arabesque are just the beginning of this alphabetical adventure. Keep your eyes sharp and you might just spot the accordion, apple trees, and acorns hiding in the art. When you’ve read about the sleepy sloths swinging by the sea, stick around to spy the sailboat, snorkel, and sandals too.

In The Imaginary Alphabet, whimsical art brings the alphabet to life. Keen-eyed readers and listeners of all ages will enjoy finding everything there is to discover in each fantastical scene. Do you think you found it all? The book ends with a long list of every hidden detail.

Bookended by endpapers adorned with each jewellike illustrated letter, The Imaginary Alphabet is a mesmerizing book for word-lovers and art and animal enthusiasts everywhere.

Review

What a wonderful book. Each letter is illustrated by two pages of superb artwork. On the first page is the letter (with artwork illustrating a word that begins with that letter) along with alliterative prose using that letter. The next page is where the real fun starts as the alliterative prose is turned into fantastical images. But that’s not all. Tucked in around the main image are other tiny things also beginning with the letter. There is a list at the end so you can check that you caught them all. The cover is the F entry which has “Fancy Ferrets Feeling Famous and Fabulous” along with 15 other items (check here after studying the cover image)

The time and effort put into this book is amazing and well worth seeking out. B+

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Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 25 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there’s no TSTL characters and is currently reading more fantasy and SciFi.

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