Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sparkes the Fire Safety Dog

Title: Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog
Author: Firefighter Dayna Hilton
Photographer: Bruce Boyajian and Dayna Hilton
Publisher: Firehouse Dog Publishing, LLC
Genre: Fiction – Picture Book
Ages: 2 to 6
Rating: 5 paws out of 5
Available at: ,

Synopsis: This Labor Day weekend is a marvelous time to introduce a memorable working dog. Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog is a delightful Dalmatian who travels with Firefighter Dayna Hilton to teach children about fire safety. Dalmations are energetic and fun loving dogs; originally bred to run in front of horse drawn fire wagons and clear the street. They have been closely connected with firefighters ever since.

The book follows a typical day as Sparkles and Dayna get ready and present their fire safety demonstration to a group of school children. Safety tips are well presented in a way to which children can relate. Ms. Hilton and her dogs donate their time and energy to fire safety. Together, they have given hundreds of demonstrations to children throughout Arkansas. Sparkles the Fire Safety Dog is highly recommended.

The Trainer Reads: Sparkles appears to be Ms. Hilton’s life changing dog. They are lucky to be able to work and live together; each one enriches the other. This little Dalmatian is the connection that draws children and is entertaining enough to hold their attention. Pictures throughout this book show the deep bond that Dayna and Sparkles have. Sparkle’s face has such a sweet expression as Dayna slips the vest over her shoulders. Particularly, I love the shot of Sparkles smiling into the camera, her tail wagging so vigorously it’s a blur. What a great idea it was to teach Sparkles to crawl in order to demonstrate crawling under the smoke layer of a burning building. Kudos to Dayna.

Sparkles is an excellent example of how dogs can be a service to the community. She is a wonderful ambassador for her species and her breed. Contrary to protests that abound from PETA, well trained and socialized dogs most certainly belong in schools. Animals reach children in ways no human will ever touch. They bridge a much needed connection not by demanding, cajoling or threatening, but just by being themselves. I wish the very best success to Dayna, Sparkles and all of the others who represent one of the noblest occupations one can have.

While not all fire departments have a Dalmatian in their midst, most have a safety program that can come to your school or community center. This is information every child should know. Contact your local fire department for details. For more information on Sparkles, Dayna and their friends, visit .

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Boy Who Spoke Dog

Title: The Boy Who Spoke Dog
Author: Clay Morgan
Publisher: Puffin Books
Genre: YA Fiction
Ages: 8 - 12
Rating: 5 paws out of 5
Available at:, Barnes and Noble,

Puffin Books and more

Synopsis: Cabin boy Jack washes up on the shore of a mysteriously deserted island. He finds two packs of dogs that have achieved a shaky balance. One pack guards a herd of sheep, the other group wants to kill and eat them. Left alone for years, the dogs have given a near legendary status to humans. A young border collie, Moxie gives her heart to Jack the first human she has ever seen. The boy’s presence upsets the rivalry and a great battle is set to happen.

The Mom Reads: It’s hard to find good, wholesome books that can attract boys, especially by the time they reach middle grade. The Boy Who Spoke Dog features a twelve year old boy in a conflicted, life and death situation. Clay Morgan artfully shares point of view from both Jack and the dogs. The language is clean, active, well paced and visual. Several questions are left unanswered at the end of the book, but those can often serve for some great discussions.

The Trainer Reads: The Boy Who Spoke Dog explores how dogs communicate in both a realistic and mystical manner. In one passage, Moxie rolls in the odor of the boy in order to bring it back to the pack. The author has uncannily captured the temperaments and likely characters in the breeds that are featured in the story. It seems fitting that a border collie bonds with Jack and a German shepherd leads the pack. It highlights the loyalty of dogs and the need for connectedness humans share with these marvelous animals. This book is highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

See how Dear Hound is illustrated

Many kids may find learning about how a book is produced interesting. There is so much more to publishing than simply the craft of writing. Explaining contract language and editorial rights might be a bit dry for a youngster, but learning what is front matter and back matter and how and why ISBN-13 numbers are created can bring a greater appreciation to books. Probably one of the most interesting things is how illustrations are produced for a particular book or character.

Coming soon is a promising children's dog book out of the UK called "Dear Hound" written and illustrated by Jill Murphy by Puffin Books, due out in October. It is the story of Alfie, a sensitive Scottish Deer Hound separated from his owners and his adventures finding his way back home.

Check out the Puffin Blog at: . There you can see a Puffin meeting where they are going over potential illustrations for Dear Hound. I particularly like the second picture which shows two head shots of Alfie the deerhound with different types of ears and which one was picked.

This may lead to more exploration of the world of publishing for you and your child.

Good reading!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog

This is not the usual review. Please join with me in welcoming award winning author Barb Techel and her dachshund Frankie. Barb’s book “Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog” is making news all over both the online and the dog community. The story of this little dog’s paralysis and long therapy is an inspiring example of courage, acceptance and love. Barb has come to answer a few questions in our first author interview.

The Trainer Says: There are those that come into our lives for a day, a week or a lifetime. But, in that period, they leave a mark on our hearts that puts us on a new and better road in life. Frankie has had this effect on Barb. She has enriched other people’s lives as well. Read “Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog” for yourself and then read it for someone who needs to hear it.

Q: In your book Frankie wants to show her “spunky personality” when she first sees you. What went through your mind when you first saw puppy Frankie?

Barb: I was head over heels in love (still am)! She was just so tiny. The place I bought her had this long gravel driveway and the lady went up to the kennel to get her. Frankie walked so nicely beside her, and promenaded down the driveway.
I had no intentions when I left my house that morning to bring her home that day. I was just going to “look” to see if I wanted her. But when I saw her I got big tears in my eyes and just knew she had to go home with me that day.

Q: Dachshunds always seem like a dog on a mission. They go about the house with purpose. What are some of Frankie’s self-appointed tasks?

Barb: You know dachshunds well, Charlotte. Yes! They always seem to be on a mission. Frankie’s main mission in life is to eat. She is very motivated by food. And if you have read the book, you will know how handy food came in when she got her wheels. J
Frankie is also the Queen of letting us know whenever someone walks by the house, a leaf blows, a bird chirps, a squirrel climbs up a tree… I think you get the picture. She is always in tune with everything.
This has actually made her a very good therapy dog. Whenever we get to the hospital, senior assisted living facility or hospice that we visit, she seems to know exactly why she is there.

Q: Do you feel that Frankie’s accident and her long therapy brought you closer; perhaps a deeper understanding or greater empathy of each other than before?

Barb: Without a doubt! I sometimes can’t believe how much I love this little dog. That was really put to the test when she was first hurt. I wanted to do all I could to help her heal and walk again, while at the same time realizing I had to be concerned about finances. But really, I was able to do what I could and it all turned out as well as could be. I would have loved to have had her walk like a normal dog again, but I also see and know how happy she is. It is why I am so happy to share her story and show others it can be done.

Q: Frankie’s story is an inspiring one. What story about her example first comes to mind?

A: I realized about 2 ½ months into her recovery that the odds were against us that she would walk again. The surgeon told me statistically these little dogs will walk within the first three months after surgery if they are to walk again. When I realized she may not walk again I went through a bit of depression for a few days. But one day I realized Frankie never felt sorry for herself. She was still Frankie and continued to be happy even though her back legs didn’t work. It made me apply it to my own life and realize I had a choice as to how I was going to face the reality of her being this way the rest of her life. I was just so grateful she was not in any pain, she was happy, and eventually would walk with the help of a doggie wheelchair.
Frankie really is such an inspiration because she continues to thrive and be the dog she always was, despite having to get around a bit differently. I often tell people, “I don’t think she even realizes she has wheels. She just knows she can run and play, and so she does.”

Q: Frankie is your life changing dog. She has brought unseen aspects of your personality to light. What life lessons have you learned from your end of the leash?

A: The biggest lesson is to face challenges in a positive way, and to always look for the blessings hidden in my challenges.
Frankie has given me a confidence in myself that I never really had. I am so passionate about her story and how she persevered that I love sharing it with others. That meant having to overcome being afraid to talk in front of a crowd. But her story and the message are so important to me I can’t help but want to share it.
I also believe Frankie has made me a more compassionate person. I try very hard not to judge others by outside appearances or even by what others may think. I also have way more patience now too! That affects so many parts of my life in a very positive way.

Q: You now work with other organizations that provide homes and services to injured and crippled dogs. Can you tell us about a few of them?

A: I came across and when Frankie was initially hurt. Both were instrumental in helping me feel better about my situation, and providing information to ease my mind. Whenever I can, I talk with people (especially dachshund owners) who are going through their own dog suffering from IVDD and try to help them with their fears. Sometimes just talking to someone has actually been through this can take away some of the stress and fear.
I often refer others to Dodgers List and Handicapped Pets also so they can educate themselves on what they can do to help their pet.
It is one of the things I truly enjoy doing, which is reaching out to others who are going through this. I didn’t know where to turn to at the beginning and really had no one to talk to in person who had been through this. Thank goodness for Dodgers List and Handicapped Pets.

Q: On the writing side, did you send Frankie’s story to the major publishers before deciding to form Joyful Paws? What benefits have you seen?

A: No, I did not submit to a major publisher. I had attended a writer’s conference, as well as did much research on the subject. Being a first time author I felt I had a better chance doing this on my own instead of hoping a publisher would accept my story. I was concerned by the time a publisher might accept my story that Frankie may have passed on. It was so important to me to start getting out there and talking about her story of hope and inspiration. I also like the fact I can control a lot of the different aspects of how I want my book to be, and the marketing parts of it, and how I want to share my message.
The benefits have been amazing!! There is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel so good for what I am doing by sharing Frankie’s story. Whether we are doing therapy dog work, visiting a school, sharing our message on the internet, or being involved in community projects, it has all been wonderful.

Q: What new ventures are ahead for you and Frankie?

A: Well, Frankie’s NEW Activity Workbook will be out SOON, if not already with this interview on your blog. You can pre-order on my website and they are expected to ship around June 6th.
Also Frankie will have a new book out early next year called, Frankie, the Walk ‘N Roll Therapy Dog Visits Libby’s House. This is about Frankie’s therapy dog work at a senior assisted facility we visit once a month. Most of the patients have Alzheimer’s or dementia. She has such a positive affect on them, as well as the residents do on me and Frankie. It is very rewarding work.
Frankie and I continue our therapy dog work visiting the hospital and hospice, as well as doing presentations for local schools and organizations. It has truly enriched my life.

Thank you so much, Charlotte for hosting Frankie and I on your blog today!!
To learn more, and to order a copy of this multi-award winning picture book, please visit
There will be a SPECIAL OFFER FOR VISITORS TO THE VIRTUAL BLOG TOUR. Each guest who comments on a post in Barbara and Frankie's tour will be entered in a drawing for some fun, unique gifts that will especially appeal to Frankie fans and other dog lovers. We will give away several items from Frankie's store:
These include two Frankie t-shirts and two Frankie tote bags.

Be Gentle with the Dog, Dear

Title: Be Gentle with the Dog, Dear
Author: Michael Baek
Illustrator: By the Author
Publisher: Dial Books
Genre: Picture Book
Ages: 3 to 6
Rating: 5 Paws out of 5

Synopsis: Tag, the gentle family dog loves and is loved by Baby Elisa. She squeezes, tackles and pulls Tag’s tail. Mom and Dad tell her to “be gentle with the dog, dear.” But, when she takes Tag’s favorite toy, she has gone too far. As the book says, “What is a good dog to do?” How Tag solves this problem is exactly the way most dogs resort to solve conflicts.

Michael Baek is a Korean born writer, artist and graphic designer. His words are concise and tell the story with compassion for both the dog and the baby. The colorful illustrations are kept simple, but really capture the dog's body language and innocence of little Elisa. Particularly well drawn is the picture of Tag growling with ears flat and teeth bared.

The Trainer Reads: Mr. Baek illustrated this all too common story found in homes today. An otherwise good and gentle dog is taxed by the new baby growing and exploring. Parents must understand that toddlers aren’t mature enough to have a sense of empathy for other creatures. It’s crucial to remember that the dog whose pack structure fits so beautifully into our family unit is still a descendent of the wolf. Small children are litter mates at best. This story leads to a happy ending for Tag and the baby. Elisa learns her limits and they become friends again. “Be Gentle with the Dog, Dear” is an excellent book for parents to share with toddlers to begin the road to an empathetic, caring and responsible adult.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Frankie and Barb Coming to Visit

We are pleased to be welcoming Barbara Techel and Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog to our first interview as part of her virtual blog tour on June 8th. The author will discuss how her little dachshund Frankie has overcome paralysis to inspire others and continues to live a full and happy life. Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog is a beautifully produced picture book and truly deserves the awards it has gathered, including the Dog Writers of America Merial Human-Animal Bond Award and the 2008 National Best Book Award (soft cover picture book).

Frankie is truly the life changing dog for Barbara and an inspiration to so many. Today, they tour both the virtual and real worlds speaking on several topics:
  • Teaching adults and children about compassion
  • Helping readers overcome difficulties
  • Providing encouragement to children with disabilities and their families
  • Helping people see their challenges as an opportunity to grow
  • Showing animals that animals with disabilities can still be a service to the community
  • Helping owners and veterinarians understand paralysis in Dachsies and that a wheelchair is a viable option.
It has been a delight to find such an inspiring message filled with the human animal bond. Frankie the Walk and Roll Dog is a must read for parents whether or not challenges have touched yours or your children's lives. Such difficulties as Frankie and Barb have met will be encountered in each child's life and empathy for others is a quality our society deeply needs.

We were flattered to be asked to be part of Barb's virtual tour and hope that you will all welcome her to Children's Dog Books and Reviews.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Curious George and the Puppies

Title: Curious George and the Puppies
Author: Margaret Rey
Illustrator: H.A. Rey
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Genre: Picture Book, Fiction
Ages: 4 through 8
Rating: 5 paws out of 5
Available at:, and more

Synopsis: Curious George and his companion, the Man in the Yellow Hat visit a pet shop to see the animals and find a mother dog with a large litter of puppies. George goes from wanting to pet the puppies to the usual chaos and puppies are everywhere.

Curious George’s childlike antics have been a part of kid’s lives since first published in 1941. Today, the many subjects involving George’s monkey business are varied and each holds the same charming innocence. Curious George and the Puppies is a very good story for emerging readers. The humor keeps it light and all is well in the end. This might be a keeper for your child to share with their children.

The Trainer Reads: Curious George and the Puppies is a great way to demonstrate to children the need for responsible actions around animals. This might be a good time to let children know never to open a gate or door to pet a dog. More than one child has caused a much greater disaster than the one Curious George created. This is a great children's dog book for sharing at bedtime and laughing over. Few baby boomers today have not shared a Curious George story with Mom at bedtime.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Title: Crash
Author: Mayra Calvani
Illustrator: Anna Pylypchuk
Publisher: Guardian Angel Publishing
Genre: Fiction – Picture Book
Ages: 2 to 6
Rating: 5 paws out of 5
Available at:,,, B& and

Synopsis: On his fifth birthday little Marcelo gets his wish, a Golden Retriever puppy of his own. He tries hard to be a good caretaker and learns to walk, groom and feed his new puppy, but there is a problem. Dad told him that a dog’s name should reflect his personality. So Marcelo spends several days getting to know his puppy until the right name comes along. Crash is a great book to read aloud to small children to introduce them to the responsibilities that come with owning a dog. The author’s language and sentence structure and pacing is perfect for the age group and appropriate for emerging readers as well.

The illustrator, Anna Pylypchuk was only 16 when she drew the pictures for Crash. It was a smart technique to make Marcelo’s eyes mirror the shape and size of the puppy’s. She is a talented artist who shows great heart in her work. Ms. Pylypchuk is bound to have a wonderful future.

The Trainer's View: Ms. Calvani beautifully captures how the bond between dog and human evolves. Here is a quote: “In bed at night, the puppy fell asleep with his head and paws on Marcelo’s stomach. Maybe the puppy liked the rise and fall of Marcelo’s chest. Or maybe he liked listening to the pounding of Marcelo’s heart. Maybe it reminded the puppy of his own mother’s heartbeat.” What a great description of the puppy knot, where the litter sleeps comforted, warm and happy intertwined among each other. Allowing children to have a voice in naming the new puppy is a great way to help bring them a feeling of ownership in a new pet. Read and discuss Crash with your children to prepare them for a new puppy in the home. Kudos for Ms. Calvani; she found the voice to teach children of this age just what they need.

I am pleased to report that Ms. Calvani is donating 50% of the proceeds from her royalties to Almost Heaven Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Complete Dog Book for Kids

Title: The Complete Dog Book for Kids
Author: Official Publication of the AKC
Photographer: Mary Bloom
Publisher: Wiley, John & Sons, Inc.
Genre: Juvenile Non-fiction
Ages: 9-12
Rating: 5 paws out of 5

Synopsis: This is a must have reference for kids or adults. Chapters include subjects such as: health and nutrition, canine sports, buying a dog, and more. It includes an extensive, well organized section on breeds that indicates area of origin, and characteristics. Age appropriate Fun Facts are listed throughout the book as well as an excellent Glossary and thorough Index. Of particular note is a size comparison logo for each breed showing how large in comparison to a child and adult the grown dog will be. The American Kennel Club is the largest registration organization of purebred dogs and supports an extensive junior program. The photography is beautifully done by Mary Bloom.

The Trainer's View: As an instructor of kids and k9 classes for over 12 years, The Complete Dog Book for Kids serves as an excellent reference book. I usually bring it to the first class and let the kids and their parents scan through it. The Fun Facts seem to be great favorites among the students. The language and depth of information is perfect not only for kids, but most of the adult dog fancy as well. It leans a bit heavily into conformation handling for this companion sport trainer but after all, that’s where the AKC’s bread is buttered. Whether or not you have a dog, if your child is a dog lover this is an excellent book for them.

Homeschoolers would find this book along with the great printable handouts on the AKC website a good basis for a curriculum focus on dogs. Feel free to contact me privately for more information on kids working with dogs.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog

Title: Stickeen: John Muir and the Brave Little Dog
Author: John Muir, as retold by Donnell Rubay
Illustrator: Christopher Canyon
Publisher: Dawn Publications
Genre: Nonfiction
Ages: 4 to 12
Rating: 5 paws out of 5
Available at:,, and the publisher

Synopsis: In this true tale, John Muir both gives and receives the miracle of friendship from Stickeen, a small camp dog big in the lessons of life. John Muir, a man of rare character was known to have often told this tale of a dangerous trip exploring Taylor glacier in Alaska with Stickeen. Donnell Rubay edited the actual words of John Muir and has kept the spirit and rhythm of his 19th century dialogue intact. This story begs to be read aloud with character. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Stickeen's lessons, like any really good story are on many levels. This country owes so much to the foresight and extraordinary influence of John Muir. Stickeen is beautifully illustrated by the award winning Christopher Canyon. Canyon captured the body stances of little Stickeen quite well.

The Trainer's View: This is a true story of the bonding experience of both dog and man. In the beginning, Stickeen is aloof and independent, bonded to no one human in the camp. While sharing a treacherous journey over the day, the little dog accepts John Muir as leader. Muir sees Stickeen's emotions and realizes the responsibility of a caregiver. The famed naturalist may not have needed a lesson in the connectedness with nature that dogs bring us, but it appears his heart was deeply touched by Stickeen. As he wrote, “I have ever since been looking with deeper sympathy into all my fellow mortals.” Is this not the best we can strive to be?

Saturday, April 18, 2009

97 Ways to Make a Dog Smile

Title: 97 Ways to Make a Dog Smile
Author: Jenny Langbehn
Photos: Pat Doyle
Publisher: Workman Publishing Company
Genre: Nonfiction
Ages: 10 and up
Rating: 4 paws out of 5
Available at:,

Review: This is a fun little book that would be good gift for developing readers who may lack reading stamina and prefer books in pieces. After a brief introduction, each page has a suggestion for a novel way to make a dog smile. Our dogs particularly like the "Which Hand Game" in which they get to guess which hand is holding a treat. They always win. The photos by Pat Doyle have perfectly caught a variety of dogs in happy and contented expressions. The print is large and makes good use of white space.

The Trainer's View: Yes, dogs smile. Ok, call it a happy face, if you will. While Ms. Langbehn states some of the 97 suggestions would not work for all dogs, some might not work for all owners. The author is also a veterinary technician and obviously knows her subject. This book is essentially a listing of environmental enrichment activities. Anything that relieves the boredom that so many dogs live with everyday and increases the positive interaction of dogs and their owners is a good thing, indeed. This is not just for children, but all dog owners.

Sable, by Karen Hesse

Title: Sable
Author: Karen Hesse
Illustrator: Marcia Sewell
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Chapter Book
Ages: 7-10
Rating: 5 paws

Synopsis: A scrawny dog wanders into the Marshall’s yard and into the heart of young Tate who has wanted always wanted a dog, but Mam is terrified of them. Tate struggles to be responsible and creatively manage the issues of her new friend. When the dog proves to have some common behavior problems, the parents find Sable a home far away. While Sable has obviously been starved and neglected in her life, no animals are irretrievably harmed in this book. It has a happy ending.

This is a rather predictable plot, but reads fresh in the capable words of the award winning Ms. Hesse. Her imagery is visual and vibrant as in this quote, “Sable smelled like dried leaves and dust and pine trees.”

The Trainer Reads: The dog acts very much as a strays do under the circumstances. She even mentions how at first Sable won't look her in the eyes. The mother is torn with the dilemma of a parent who was mauled as a child, but whose daughter needs to express her love for this silent innocent. It is heartwarming to read such a delightful account of the human animal bond. There is nothing like a kid well matched with a dog.