Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Early Reader Extravaganza #2

As mentioned in a previous post, Early Reader Extravaganza, when we first learn to read our perceptions about our world change.  We gobble up words to quench a hunger.  It is a hunger to know, to understand, to explore, to travel to places real and imagined, to have sensory experiences, to laugh, to cry, to have our hearts warmed, broken and healed and to meet people like us and completely different from us.  We feed this hunger as early readers by bonding with what we find within the pages of books; whether it is information satisfying our curiosity or characters and their situations that actively engage us.

For lovers of canines, two new early reader series supply loads of laughter and the antics of dogs living their best lives.  Doggo And Pupper (Feiwel and Friends, March 23, 2021) and Doggo and Pupper Save The World (Feiwel and Friends, March 22, 2022) written by Katherine Applegate with illustrations by Charlie Alder take us into the home of an older dog living with a cat.  Their humans decide to introduce another dog, a younger dog, into the family.  The results are comedic to say the least.

Chapter One
Same Old, Same Old

Every night Cat asked,
How was your day,

Every night Doggo said,
"Same old, same old."

Then he would wink at the 
smiling moon and say, "Could have
been worse."

In support of his same old, same old assessment, Doggo in rhyming two word phrases, seven couplets, describes his day.  He is quick to point out the value of quenching thirst and dispelling tiredness.  To up the funny factor, we discover what Doggo does when his humans are absent.

The subsequent six chapters reveal how Doggo's humans decide to add pep and purpose to his days.  Cat reminds and warns Doggo of the dire consequences of human intervention.  The presence of Pupper changes everything.  Doggo's days are wild because Pupper is wild.  Pupper needs to go to charm school.  He is not happy about this apparent requirement.

Upon his return, his humans are pleased with his behavior.  Doggo is pleased, too.  Cat is the first to point out that Pupper may have lost his wild ways, but he is hardly happy.  That night Doggo is the one with an idea.

His sleepy humans allow Doggo to take the car keys.  Road trip!  Pupper and Doggo play and play and play. Would you believe they went to a drive-in movie?  The duo silently sneak back inside their home.  Cat has a few things to say the next day.  Doggo replies with a familiar refrain.

Chapter One

In a sweet spot of sun,
Doggo dozed.
In a fine patch of dirt,
Pupper dug.
Life was good.

When Pupper spots a bird and her fledglings, he declares his desire to fly like Wonder Dog.  He also expresses his fear of giant squirrels.  Pupper believes he cannot be a hero because he worries.  Doggo says Pupper does not need to fly to be a hero.

When their humans leave, Doggo, Pupper, and Cat watch a hero show on television.  Pupper needs someone to save.  Doggo picks the next show reminding him of his days in a rock band.  Pupper decides being a hero might be less work than learning to be a drummer, but . . .

Pupper drums and drums and drums for more than a week.  Cat is not happy.  When Doggo announces a band is playing in the park the next day, Pupper can hardly wait to go.  He is also distracted by the baby birds learning to fly.

The next morning on their way to the park, Pupper hears a chirping in some nearby bushes.  Is it giant squirrels?  It is one of the baby birds.  It is all alone.  Pupper knows the baby bird needs saving.  The band is starting to play, but Pupper and Doggo wait until their work is done.  As the dog duo savor the remaining hours of the day, they understand several things about music and heroes.  We do, too.

Using a blend of short narrative phrases and sentences and lively canine/feline conversations, Katherine Applegate entertains readers from beginning to end.  The interactions between Doggo and Pupper (and Cat) convey bits of wisdom, each character informing the other through their personalities.  And in these short narrative phrases and sentences, conversations, and interactions, there is laugh-out-loud hilarity.  Katherine Applegate also uses rhyming and alliteration when it is appropriate.  This technique invites readers into the stories.  Here are two passages, one from each title.

"Watch out, Doggo," said Cat one day.  "I
think the humans have an idea."
She licked a paw.  "Remember the last time
they had an idea?

Doggo remembered.

It was not pretty.

They turned a corner.
The breeze was soft.

It smelled like ice cream.
It held happy voices.

Illustrator Charlie Alder using

a combination of collage and digital techniques

fashioned the full-color illustrations on the book case and throughout the book.  Doggo and Pupper are showcased in the center on the front of both books.  On the back of the book case, amid text you would normally find on the front and back end flaps of a dust jacket, Doggo, Pupper, and Cat are doing what they do best, enjoying each other and life.  The characters and title text on the front of both books are varnished.

The opening and closing endpapers in the first title are a darker shade of sky blue.  In the second title, the endpapers are the same darker orange we see on the front of the book case.  After the title and verso pages, a contents page is supplied in both books.  Small images are on these pages; a reflection of the characters and their activities in the chapters.

Opposite each chapter page is a full-page picture alluding to the chapter revelations.  Throughout the books, the illustrations vary in size to complement the pacing of the narrative.  There are two-page images, single-page pictures, edge to edge or surrounded by white space, groups of smaller images on one or two pages, framed and unframed, and there are vertical panels and horizontal panels.  We are usually close to the characters which makes us feel a part of the story.

The expressions on the faces of the characters depict their every emotion.  Some of the details, like Cat drinking through a long, striped curly straw, will have you giggling at the very least.  All we see of the humans are portions of their bodies.  We never see their faces.

One of my many favorite illustrations from Doggo And Pupper is a series of four images for the above-noted text.  In the first image, Doggo is dressed like a ghost for Halloween.  Cat, on top of a pumpkin, is howling with laughter.  Doggo is wearing a yellow and white polka-dotted raincoat and booties in the second scene.  In the third picture, Doggo's fur, ears, and tail are tied in a series of colorful bows.  Doggo has been trimmed to the max in the final visual.  Portions of Doggo's body are dyed pink to make it appear as if Doggo is a ballerina.  

One of my many favorite illustrations from Doggo And Pupper Save The World is a double-page picture.  It is a close-up of them finding the tiny bird, the fledgling, under the bushes.  Pupper is peeking through the bushes on the left near the bird.  Doggo has his head through the bushes on the right.  We feel as though we are a part of this moment with them.

These two titles, Doggo And Pupper and Doggo And Pupper Save The World written by Katherine Applegate with artwork by Charlie Alder, are stellar early reader books.  At the close of the first book is a list titled Doggo's Guide to Puppies.  These ten items speak simple truths about puppies.  At the end of the second book is another list of ten thoughts to guide readers.  They are titled Pupper's Guide to Being a Hero.  I highly recommend this series for your professional and personal collections.  You might want more than one copy of each.

To learn more about Katherine Applegate and Charlie Alder and their other work, please follow the link attached to their names to access their websites.  Katherine Applegate has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  Charlie Alder has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images for Doggo And Pupper and Doggo And Pupper Save The World.

This second series of books highlights a character older readers already know.  His name is Fenway, a Jack Russell terrier.  He made a name for himself in the upper elementary/middle grade novels, Fenway and Hattie, Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang, Fenway and Hattie Up to New Tricks, and Fenway and Hattie In the Wild.  With each title, readers are able to see the progress as Fenway and his human grow better together.  In Fenway And The Bone Thieves (G. P. Putnam's Sons, May 3, 2022) and Fenway And The Frisbee Trick (G. P. Putnam's Sons, May 3, 2022) written by Victoria J. Coe with illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, Fenway is still offering his spot-on insights in his own voice about his next-door neighbor dog friends, his humans, sneaky squirrels, and the elusive Frisbee.


Everyone knows that dogs are
better than squirrels.  Dogs make
humans happy.  Dogs live
in houses.  Dogs
ride in cars.
Squirrels do
none of these

In this first of ten chapters, Fenway and his humans, Hattie, Food Lady, and Fetch Man are visiting the large store filled with special things for dogs.  All Fenway can think about is treats.  His humans steer clear of the treat section, adding yucky shampoo to the cart.  It is only through sheer perseverance on Fenway's part, that a bone is added to the cart.  Unfortunately, it ends up in the trunk of the car instead of his mouth.

Finally at home, with the bone in his mouth, Fenway shows his treasure to his neighbors, Patches and Goldie, two dogs enjoying their Dog Park next to Fenway's Dog Park.  Then, Fenway hears a horrible and irritating sound.  It is the chattering of not one but two squirrels.  They are plotting to take away his bone.  After successfully chasing them away, Fenway decides the only way to enjoy his bone is to hide it from the squirrels.

After lunch, the rain begins.  Fenway is inside without his bone.  Now he is thinking his big idea is not such a good idea.  Nothing, not a single toy or game, can take away Fenway's desire for that bone, buried in the garden, outside in the rain.

The next morning when the rain has stopped, Fenway can hardly wait to get outside and dig up his bone.  There are two huge problems.  He can't remember where he buried it and the pesky squirrels are back.  Many holes later, Hattie and her friend Angel, Patches' and Goldie's short human, discover the damage done by Fenway.  As they chase him, he initially thinks it's a game, but it is most definitely not a game.  

After a flowery shampoo, a nap complete with a squirrel nightmare, and another encounter with the sneaky squirrels in his Dog Park, Fenway makes a startling discovery.  His perspective on the several days of the events are destined to have readers laughing and laughing.  As he is finally chewing on his bone on the back porch, he gets a whiff of hot dogs.  Yum!


Romping in the Dog Park behind
our house is pretty awesome.  But
riding in the car with Hattie and 
Fetch Man is even better, because
we're going to the Big Park.

Fenway is having a rousing romp with Hattie and Fetch man in the Big Park.  He loves chasing after the stick and returning it, sometimes reluctant to give it to Fetch Man.  But that is all part of the game.  Just when Fenway thinks the day can't get any better, he spots a Rottweiler leaping into the air to catch a Frisbee.

Fenway wishes with all his doggy heart he could do the same trick as Carmen.  She is amazing at jumping in the air at the right moment.  He tries to do her moves with a stick.  It does not work.  He needs a Frisbee.

No one seems to understand this need, not Hattie or Patches and Goldie.  What's a dog to do?  Several days later the Big Brown Truck arrives.  After Fenway barks it away, Food Lady, Hattie and Fenway gather around a box.  What do you think is inside?  

Fenway and Hattie rush outside so Fenway can catch that new Frisbee in the air.  He is so ready to perform a trick and receive the same praise as Carmen.  All of a sudden there are the sounds of 


Later, a frustrated Fenway, who has not caught the Frisbee yet because of the sneaky squirrels, goes on a walk with his canine pals and their humans.  Back home, Fenway convinces Hattie to throw the Frisbee in the house where there are no squirrel distractions.  As you might imagine, it ends in disaster.  That evening is very somber, but Fenway fails to understand.  The next day at the Big Park, unintentionally, Fenway creates his own special trick.  Try to read this without laughing.  It is impossible.  Oh, Fenway.

I've said it before, but I'll say it again.  Author Victoria J. Coe knows dogs, especially this dog, Fenway.  Each of the ten chapters in each book flows flawlessly with the same energy as if the words were written by a Jack Russell terrier.  The chapters end with a sentence inviting us to proceed with anticipation to the next chapter.  The upbeat narrative, Fenway's thoughts and conversations and those of the humans are thoughtful, exuberant, and funny.  Here are passages from both titles.

behind me.
Uh-oh! The first squirrel is
headed this way!  I should have 
known the two of them were in this 
I run faster.  "That bone is
mine!" I bark.
The big squirrel waits until I'm 
about to lunge.  Then he suddenly
hops up and scampers across the
Dog Park.
The chase is on!  "You don't
belong here!" I bark.  I follow
that squirrel 
to the wooden
fence behind
the giant tree.

I thrust my snout into the box.
Whoopee! It smells like a Frisbee
that no other dogs have played
with.  It must be my reward for
scaring away that truck.
Hattie reaches into the box and
pulls it out.  "Ready, Fenway?" she
I back up.  "I'm ready!" I bark.
"I'm so ready!"
Hattie's elbow bends.  She's going
to fling the Frisbee!
I leap onto the couch, racing
back and forth.  Hooray!  Hooray!
I'm going to catch that Frisbee in

You cannot look at the front, right side, of the matching and open dust jacket and book case for either book without smiling.  Who can resist the happy-go-lucky look on Fenway's face?  In both of these scenes, it is as if the illustrator has frozen a moment from the narrative.  The back, left side, of both books features short descriptions of the books beneath the series title, Make Way For Fenway.  Hanging from those banners is a bone-shaped dog tag with the words:

A little dog with a
GIANT personality!

The opening and closing endpapers for both books are creamy white, the same as the interior pages.  Illustrator Joanne Lew-Vriethoff has filled this book with images of varying sizes done in black, gray, and white.  With the exception of only two, Fenway makes an appearance in all of them.

The vibrancy of Fenway's personality is reflected in the artwork.  Even when he is still, it is as if he is ready to burst into action.  Readers will pause at every illustration to appreciate the details included in the pictures.  The facial looks on Fenway, the squirrels, Carmen, Patches, Goldie, and the humans leave no doubt as to what any of them are thinking.  You can't help but smile, giggle, or laugh out loud.

In Fenway And The Bone Thieves, one of my favorite pictures is a double-page image with a phrase and two sentences placed in the upper, left-hand corner.  On the left side a big squirrel with a gleam in its eyes, protruding teeth, and a big fluffy tail is ready to pounce on Fenway's bone which extends from the left side and over the gutter to the right.  Toward the top of the right side in the Dog Park is Fenway.  Flowers border the wooden fence behind him.  He is aghast at the audacity of that squirrel.  He is ready to run.

One of my favorite visuals in Fenway And The Frisbee Trick is a smaller illustration.  It is a perfectly captured moment by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff. (I should know because it happens frequently at my own home.)  The family sofa is placed in front of an arched large window.  Fenway is on the sofa, standing on his hind legs with his front paws on the back of the sofa.  He is watching the man from the Big Brown Truck carrying a package and walking toward their house.  Fenway is barking in full security mode.

To have early readers based on a beloved dog character is, in the words of my canine companion, woof-tastic!  Fenway And The Bone Thieves and Fenway And The Frisbee Trick written by Victoria J. Coe with illustrations by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff are brimming with humor and non-stop action whether read by an individual or as a read aloud.  Readers will hardly be able to wait for another installment in the series.  You will certainly need one or more copies of both books in your personal and professional collections.

By following the link attached to the names of Victoria J. Coe and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff, you can access their websites to learn more about them and their other work.  Victoria J. Coe has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Joanne Lew-Vriethoff has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior images and read an excerpt for Fenway And The Bone Thieves and Fenway And The Frisbee TrickThe cover reveal for these titles with author and illustrator interviews was hosted by educator Michele Knott at Mrs. Knott's Book Nook.

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