8 Class Pets, Chaos!

 

Squirrel cover

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos

By Vivian Vande Velde, Illustrated by Steve Björkman

 

Published by: Holiday House; Reprint edition (June 1, 2012)

Available in: paperback, NOOK

At the time of this review this was a standalone book.

 

Wild ride.

8 Class Pets + 1 Squirrel ÷ 1 Dog = Chaos is a classic comedy of errors that builds in excitement and complexity while never losing its slapstick humor.

The book starts in the unique point of view of a squirrel who lives on the grounds of an elementary school. He’s funny and has some great points about the strange humans who go into the school. Within a few pages, the squirrel has a problem: a dog is chasing him. The squirrel escapes by finding refuge in the school.

Very quickly things literally get out of control. Throughout the dog-chasing-the-squirrel-through-school escapade, each chapter is in a new, different animal’s point of view. There’s a smart rabbit, a poetic parrot, a dizzy hamster, an aloof school of fish and more. The distinct voices bring an inherent humor with their personalities. It creates a vibrant, rich layer upon layer of plot, perspective and constant motion. All the while, the action is vaudeville-funny and slapstick-fast.

There’s also a little bit of math, which is a nice integration of study areas. The paragraphs and vocabulary can be a touch challenging, but the book is short. The illustrations are free and loose, a nice compliment to this active, physical and sly plot. The author had vision. And that’s a real treat.

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

Puppy Power

puppy power cover

PUPPY POWER

By Judy Cox, Illustrations by Steve Björkman

 

Published by: Holiday House; Reprint edition (March 1, 2009)

Available in: paperback, hardcover

 

Behave!

That’s what Fran, the main character, and her dog, Hercules, try to learn in this book. Fran is an annoying bossy pants, and Hercules just can’t seem to mind the rules… or the fence around the yard.

The neat thing this little chapter book does is show that both human and animal behavior—whether for little girls or puppies—is very similar. And no matter how bad a day one has, better times can be had if we learn from our mistakes. A little good training helps, too. That goes for both dogs and minds.

I won’t say the action in this otherwise decent book is stupendous, but I do think it’s one of the best opening scenes I’ve read in a chapter book. Fran finds her favorite kind of road kill (“No blood. No guts. Nothing gooshy.”), picks it up and teases another girl with it.  Okay, that’s original.

If kids love to read about animals, this author also has a few other animal-centered chapter books out, including The Secret Chicken Society and Butterfly Buddies.

Björkman’s loose and easy drawings compliment the tone of the text. As both Fran and Hercules struggle to be responsible and contained, the illustrations keep the tone fun and free. And if the text gets slightly preachy, the drawings seem to fly with joy. Neat trick.

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