Rave Reviews Log: Animal Stories

January 09, 2012

The Cheshire Cheese Cat: A Dickens of a Tale

By Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright
Rating: 4 1/4 stars

Skilley is a street cat who wishes for a home.  When he discovers that the Cheshire Cheese Inn is overrun with mice, he manages to sneak in and make a show of catching one to impress the owner and earn a place to stay.  But when he is out of sight, he spits out the mouse and tells him to scram.  The mouse is named Pip, and Pip happens to have learned how to read and write when he befriended the daughter of the innkeeper, Nell.  Pip quickly learns Skilley's secret--he loves to eat cheese, not mice.  The mice agree to keep Skilley fed with the award-winning cheese at the inn if he agrees to pretend to hunt them without eating them.  And thus, a friendship is born.  But trouble comes along when the most disreputable of street cats, Pinch, also makes his way into the inn.  And Pinch had no problems with eating mice.  Add a mysterious hidden visitor living upstairs whose safety may help save England from war, and you've got a good story!   If you are familiar with Charles Dickens (also a character) who wrote such books as A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, then you will be happy to hear the names of various characters and will be pleased with the plot, as they are just as he himself might have written it.  A wonderful story that animal lovers or just regular folks will like.

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April 29, 2011


By Catherine Hapka
Animal: Horse
Rating: 3 1/2 stars

This is part of the Horse Diaries series (#6). Horse lovers, especially those in grades 3 to 5, will enjoy these quick reads about horses in different time periods and places.  The horse tells the story in the first person.  In this entry in the series, Yatimah is an orphaned Arabian filly, living with her nomadic Bedouin tribe in the 9th century.  In this culture, mares are highly valued, particularly in the use for raiding other tribes for their animals.  At first, Yatimah is ignored by the tribe leader, Nasr, because her birth caused the death of his favorite mare.  But as Yatimah grows in beauty and skill, even Nasr is won over by her.  Readers will enjoy the interesting setting and background of the story.  With handsome black and white illustrations scattered throughout, horse and animal fans will learn a lot about the Bedouin lifestyle along with the story.  There's even some extra information about Arabian horses at the end of the story. 

March 18, 2011

Animal Rescue Team: Hide and Seek

By Sue Stauffacher
Rating: 4 stars

This is book 3 in the Animal Rescue Team series.   Keisha's family runs the Carters' Urban Rescue, a business where they rescue wild animals.  The family gets a call that young deer gets a plastic pumpkin stuck on its head and if it isn't found and removed in time, the deer may starve.  As the Carters do their best to locate the deer, another new animal makes an entrance--a puppy that is a coyote/dog mix that keeps howling at the moon.  If the puppy can't learn to be a bit quieter, no one will adopt him.  Keisha is immediately in love with little Racket, but her brother Razi is afraid of dogs.  Can Keisha still convince her parents to keep him?   And how are they going to figure out how to save the deer when even catching a glimpse of him is proving difficult?  Everyone must put their heads together to solve the problem.  This is a great series, with wonderful characters and lots of information mixed in about the animals.  Animal loving kids will love it!

January 03, 2011

The Last Loon

By Rebecca Upjohn
Animal: Loon
Rating: 4 stars

Evan can't believe that he is being forced to go stay in the middle of nowhere in Canada while both his parents are out of town.  He is used to living in the city, not living with his crazy Aunt Mags in a straw bale house on the edge of a lake.  Evan is even more confused when his aunt seems totally interested in a lone loon on the lake.  When she explains the loon should have migrated by now and would not survive the winter, Evan understands a little bit more.  But as he makes a nearby friend and learns more about living in the woods and about loons in general, he begins to feel sympathy for the trapped creature.  And then, when things begin to look bleaker for the loon's survival, Evan decides he needs to make a last ditch effort to rescue it--whether or not he knows what he's doing.  This is a quick-moving, exciting story of learning to care about the wild animals around us and about trying to do the right thing.  Good stuff!

March 15, 2010

Lone Wolf

By Kathryn Lasky
Animal: Wolves
Rating: 3 1/2 stars

This beginning of a new series called Wolves of the Beyond takes place in the same world Lasky's Guardians of Ga'Hoole did. Faolan is born with an oddly splayed paw with some wavy lines imprinted on the pad. But it is clan law that any deformed cubs be taken away and left to die, and so it happens with Faolan. But as luck would have it, an old grizzly bear who recently lost her own cub finds him and decides to adopt the wolf. So Faolan and Thunderheart form a loving bond of mother and son, despite their differences, and Thunderheart teaches Faolan some very bear-like moves that wolves never learn. And it is this basic difference that troubles both bear and wolf alike--will Faolan be able to go and live with a pack? What and where is his place in the world? What is the meaning of the pattern on his paw? As Faolan struggles with his identity, one thing eventually comes clear--he will need to meet a pack, but as to his place in the world? He will be the one to decide what it will be. Although sometimes the narrative wanders a bit, most readers (especially fans of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole) will eagerly seize upon the story and look forward to what the sequels will bring.

November 30, 2009

The Georges and the Jewels

By Jane Smiley
Animal: Horses
Rating: 3 3/4 stars

Set in 1960's California, seventh grader Abby has been riding horses forever, but she never gets to keep one. Her father buys and sells horses for a living, and each gelding is named George and each mare is called Jewel so that no one gets attached to the horses. Now that her rebellious older brother has left the house, her father advertises the horses with "even a little girl can ride him." But this year, Abby is feeling the strict life her parents have her leading is just a little too small. She begins by defying her father and refusing to ride the horse she privately calls Ornery George because he bucks every time she gets on him. Then when one of the mares drops a colt, Abby insists on calling him "Jack" instead of George. Things are no easier at school, where her friend Gloria makes new friends with a girl named Stella, who seems to have a mean streak. But then a couple of trainers enter her life and start showing Abby there are different ways to do things than what her father does...maybe even better ways. Can Abby learn to balance her life at last and come out happy on the other side? Horse lovers will be thrilled with the detailed horse talk in this story and will come away with hope that Abby will have a happier future

Emmaline and the Bunny

By Katherine Hannigan
Rating: 4 stars

In this charming story, Emmaline wants nothing more than to have a bunny that will scoot-skedaddle, hop hop hop, and dig in the dirt with her. But unfortunately for Emmaline, she lives in the town of Neatasapin, where concrete is everywhere, weeds are not allowed, and everything needs to be quiet and tidy. Then one day, Emmaline hears of an Untidy place and when she journeys there she meets the bunny of her dreams. But how can she turn Neatasapin into the kind of safe, untidy, inviting place a wild bunny will come to live in? Readers will be drawn into this quick, fun story, where a lonely girl's determination to find her No More Only leads to a brighter world for everyone.

June 02, 2009

The Underneath

By Kathi Appelt
Rating: 4 1/4 stars
Newbery Honor 2009

Deep in the swamps lives a twisted and hateful man who chains an old hound dog and never lets him go. Deep in the swamps lives an ancient snake, trapped in a jar underneath the roots of an old tree, waiting for her revenge. Deep in the swamps lives an alligator that is 100 feet long that no one has ever been able to kill and lives deep underneath the water. And into this swamp comes a cat, who befriends the hound dog and lives underneath the porch of the man's house. And that calico cat has two kittens, Sabine and Puck. One day the mother cat and Puck are captured and taken away by the man when Puck leaves the safety of the Underneath. And because of this separation, a chain of events will unwind that will eventually bring everyone together: the cats, the dog, the snake, the alligator and the man. There will be pain and darkness, but there is also light and love. Much more than just an animal story, readers will be drawn into the legendary feeling in this book. Good stuff.