My Dog’s a Chicken, by Susan McElroy Montanari, illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf published in 2016 by Schwartz & Wade Books
Lula Mae’s life on her family’s hardscrabble farm would be ever so much better if she could have a puppy, but as it’s “just another mouth to feed” she’s got to make do with the only available option — a chicken. Plenty of those to choose from.
After some consideration, Lulu nabs the chicken with the spunkiest attitude, names it Pookie, and announces to one and all that “it ain’t a chicken.” It’s her dog. Turns out, Pookie is many dogs, all rolled into one squawking, bawking, feathered figure. She’ll win your heart as quickly as she conquers Lulu Mae’s in this vivacious adventure.
Anne Wilsdorf’s vibrant, energetic illustrations add a wonderful splash of mayhem. A happy read for ages 3 and up.
Who Wants a Tortoise? by Dave Keane, illustrated by K.G. Campbell published in 2016 by Alfred A. Knopf
Just like Lula Mae, the little gal in this story desperately wants a puppy. In fact, it’s “the ONLY thing” on her birthday wish list. Alas, Dad is allergic to dogs, so her birthday present turns out to be…
…a tortoise. “WHO WANTS A TORTOISE?!” she rages. They don’t fetch. Don’t beg. Don’t greet you with excited waggings and lickings when you come home. What’s the good of them, anyway?
Hold on, though, because tortoises do have some excellent qualities. Unfortunately just as Little Miss Feisty begins to appreciate him, Mr. Tortoise displays one of his most exemplary abilities: hiding. Uh-oh.
Dave Keane nails the roller coaster of emotions and viewpoints of a passionate child and creates a hero from one trusty tortoise. K.G. Campbell’s exquisite illustrations capture all the postures and attitudes with zing and charm. A juicy read for ages 3 or 4 and up.
Hare and Tortoise, retold and illustrated by Alison Murray published in Great Britain, 2015; first U.S. edition by Candlewick in 2016
Speaking of tortoises, here’s the Most Famous Tortoise of All Time in his epic race against that hotshot hare.
Scottish illustrator Alison Murray has pared down Aesop’s fable to this nutshell version that’s perfect for toddlers. Using direct, bold narration in a storyteller’s voice, sprinkling in a healthy dash of humor and caprice, she whooshes us into one breezy, fast-paced race.
Vigorous, sunny illustrations flood the tall pages with color and verve. It’s a joyful version to share with ages 2 and up, with an added dose of kindness to soothe Hare’s ruffled feelings when the race is done. Champion fare!
How to Catch a Mouse, written and illustrated by Philippa Leathers published in 2015 by Candlewick Press
A different sort of chase is going down in this book. Clemmie, a darling orange kitten, self-identifies as “a fearsome mouse catcher.” So brave, patient, and well-informed, that nary a mouse dares enter her house, says Clemmie.
Truth be told — Clemmie is being fooled by a very clever little mouse with a penchant for disguise.
Young children will giggle with glee as they discover the mouse-that-Clemmie-overlooks on page after page of this warmly funny story. A nail-biting ending is the cherry on top! Ages 2 and up.
Next to You: A Book of Adorableness, by Lori Haskins Houran, illustrated by Sydney Hanson published in 2016 by Albert Whitman & Company
Finally, this small valentine to be shared between a doting grandparent or affectionate dad, and a favorite little squirt.
You think cute puppies and kittens are adorable?
You think this “squirrel eating a doughnut with his tiny hands” is dear?
Well, they’ve got nothing on you, dear! Because you’re the most adorable, irresistible one, ever! The casual, conversational tone of the text here keeps this book from becoming the saccharine mess you might fear. It’s got just the right touches of good humor and laid-back ease.
Meanwhile the illustrations have that whole Margaret Keane thing going on with those giant doe-eyes on every creature. Snuggle up with the wee apples-of-your-eye and let them feel 100% adored. Ages 15 months and up.