Captain Pug

captain pug cover

Captain Pug (The Adventures of Pug)

By Laura James, Illustrated by Eglantine Ceulemans


Published by: Bloomsbury USA Childrens (March 14, 2017)

Available in: paperback, hardcover, Kindle, Nook

At the time of this review, there were three books in The Adventures of Pug series.



Captain Pug is a rollicking, drooling cruise for crumbs and other adventures. While at first glance it seems this is a book especially good for girls, by the end it shows itself quite a seaworthy vessel for boys, as well.

The text is short and easy, featuring playful romps through madcap scenes mostly from the point of view of our hero, the pug. Consider this a beginning chapter book for those kids just transitioning into independent reading. Also consider this a focused tutorial on the priorities of a pug—food driven at all times.

And yet, this is not a simple story of a dog yearning for treats. The plot is rich with original action and perfectly timed humor that make this more than a silly caper.  A keen use of stylized typeface to highlight important words also adds depth.

The contemporary tale is sweetly evocative of historic storybook fiction with the use of a regal miss, who at first seems bossy and peevish but proves herself a real plucky upstart. The appearance of royalty is not the only nod to books gone by—the illustrations echo two classic picture books, Madeleine and Eloise. The bouncy, free drawings propel the eye across the page with the same momentum crafted into the prose.  And like Eloise, the book uses restrained color, opting for a three-color process that is gay and bright without being overly designed. The whole package comes together in a marvelous frolic.

Kudos as well to illustrator Ceulemans, for capturing the perfect, romanticized depiction of the classic pug-sit pose.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….


lulu cover

Lulu and the Dog from the Sea

By Hilary McKay, Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont


Published by: Albert Whitman & Company (March 1, 2014)

Available in: hardcover, paperback, Kindle, NOOK

At the time of this review there were three books in the Lulu series.




Lulu and the Dog from the Sea is a sweet, simple tale about a family, two dogs and a vacation that takes an unforeseen detour. The sentences are short and bright, the vocabulary basic, and the ideas and emotions are easy to follow. For beginner chapter book readers, this is an ideal fit.

How deceptively simple this sounds—because McKay exhibits serious writing chops. Lulu is an elegant, spare story of wit, charm and superb use of the language for the beginning reader. Characterizations are subtle and alive with authenticity. Descriptions are lovely and inventive. Action moves forward with metered pace. And the hoped for denouement is both a joy and an unexpected surprise.

As a dog lover, I especially love the treatment of the two mutts in the story. One, an old family member, is treated with respect kids will appreciate. He needs a special beanbag to sleep with, so the father checks the car 12 times to make sure it is packed for the road trip. The dog gets nauseous in the car, so they drive slowly over a rough road. And so it continues. The new dog in the story, the dog from the sea, has emotions and recognitions that are unique, and keep the story empathetic. They are truly more than pets in the world of Lulu, they are the touchstones of humanity, importance and all that is good.

Lamont’s gray scale illustrations, happily prevalent every other page or so, are warm and inviting. The friendly depiction of both humans and animals are loose and realistic, and brim with ease. This is life, but better.

What do you say teachers, parents and writers? Use the comment below and let’s chat….