Animals

Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Shark vs. Train

The unlikeliest foes of all time are put to a series of tests. One is a fearsome predator, the other a powerful example of human innovation. Contests, races, and video games are all necessary when trying to figure out who is better. It's teeth vs. wheels. It's beast vs. machine! It’s Shark vs. Train!
 
What starts as two boys’ simple search through a toy box spirals into the possibilities of pitting these very different opponents against each other and predicting what might happen. Now I know what you are thinking: there are a million differences between a shark and a train, and that is part of the fun. This book is the extreme equivalent of comparing apples to oranges.

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black and Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea

We’ve probably all had the fantasy of seeing a Pig Parade flicker in our mind at one time or another. Don’t deny it. The orchestra of oinks matched up with little hooves marching down the street, it all just sounds so fun. Well…forget about it.

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea, by Michael Ian Black, is a point by point dismissal of what at first seems like an incredibly delightful idea. Pigs are whimsical, funny, and intelligent creatures, but Black, a comedian best known for his commentary on VH1 shows, has found his niche in the picture book world by being the ultimate bearer of bad news.

Glen Rounds: Cowboy Storyteller

Artist and author Glen Rounds was neither a tenderfoot nor a city slicker. He was the real deal of the nearly Wild West--though he wasn’t beyond telling a few tall tales, too, here and there. Born in a sod house in the Badlands of South Dakota, when he was just a babe he and his family traveled by covered wagon to the open spaces of Montana.

Spinning Tales for His Supper
 
Glen grew up on a horse ranch and worked as a mule skinner, a cowboy, and a carnival artist, but eventually his talents took him into the big city—Kansas City’s Art Institute where he studied for two years. In 1930, he moved to New York City and started taking night classes at the Art Students League and tried to sell stories during the day. He would visit publishers’ houses to sell his work, arriving in the late morning so he could grab a free meal—a trick he managed by starting a good story and offering to finish it over lunch. His artistic style was spare and rather rough, but it was perfect for the often funny, sometimes somber stories he wove about the American West.

Bless This Mouse by Lois Lowry

Bless This Mouse

Bless This Mouse, by Lois Lowry, is the heartwarming chronicle of the mice of St. Bartholomew’s Church. This community of church mice, led by Mouse Mistress Hildegarde, tries to live quietly, avoiding the notice of Father Murphy, the Altar Guild and other people of the parish. But as they consider preparations for the annual Blessing of the Animals on the Feast of St. Francis, which means cats in the church, they face an even bigger danger. They’ve been spotted. That means the Great X, something they fear even more than cats.

Hildegarde shepherds her charges on an adventure into the outdoors with the help of her friend and supporter, Roderick, and a former college library mouse named Ignatius. The characters are lively and well-developed from the ditzy mouse mother having her litters in the most inappropriate places to jealous Lucretia who envies HIldegarde her position as Mouse Mistress. Rohmann’s charming and whimsical illustrations bring the characters to life. 

Meindert DeJong: A Gentle, Persistent Spirit

Newbery Medal-winning author Meindert DeJong (pronounced De-Young) immigrated to the United States with his family as a young boy. The family came to America so that his older brothers would not be drafted to fight in World War I. The DeJong family had a difficult time in their new country. The family was poor, and the children were sent to a private, religious school where the children were bullied for being immigrants. Meindert DeJong never forgot the experience of being a lonely child, and he wove that perspective into many of his books.  

Lad, a Dog by Albert Terhune

Lad, A Dog

“He was a big and incredibly powerful collie, with a massive coat of burnished mahogany-and-snow and with absurdly small forepaws (which he spent at least an hour a day in washing) and with deep-set dark eyes that seemed to have a soul behind them. So much for the outer dog. For the inner: he had a heart that did not know the meaning of fear or disloyalty or of meanness.” – Albert Terhune

Think of a famous collie dog, and you’ll probably imagine clever Lassie or maybe motherly Fly from the movie/book Babe. But before these smart collies became known everywhere, there was a real-life dog named Lad who was as famous as either of them. He lived almost one hundred years ago, yet his adventures still make for good reading today.
 

Emmaline and the Bunny

Emmaline and the Bunny by Katherine Hannigan is a sweet, cautionary tale about the dangers of eliminating the messiness of nature from our everyday lives. Emmaline lives with her parents in the tiny town of Neatasapin which is run by the bad tempered Mayor Oliphant. The mayor's favorite pastime is making declarations about tidy people, tidy houses and tidy yards all in the name of keeping the town of Neatasapin as neat as a pin. Emmaline feels out of sorts because she enjoys playing in the mud, running and jumping and hollering the occasional "hoopalala!" When Emmaline's parents ask her what she would like for her birthday, she asks for a bunny to call her own.   Bunnies are messy. Bunnies are untidy. How can Emmaline make a place for a bunny in a place like Neatasapin?

Fall on the Farm

          Before you take your children to pick pumpkins or enjoy a hayride this fall, be sure to check out picture books showcasing farm life.

          Elisha Cooper’s “Farm” focuses on the farm family as much as on their daily work.   The two farmers and their two children plus a house, two barns, four silos and lots more make up a farm where feed corn is the main crop.
Tractors rumble back and forth on the bare dirt in early spring, March brings mud, and later the children plant tomatoes and carrots. The children have other chores, too, of course: feeding the cattle (the girl) and the chickens (the boy). Summer brings heat, and fall brings the harvest, with the farmer in his combine checking the corn’s yield on his computer and talking with other farmers on his cell phone.