Thursday, October 22, 2015

“The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have”

“The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have” is unsettling and odd. Nino (a boy of about seven) has an imaginary dog, depicted in sketchy lines over the landscape. The pet crawls alongside Nino as they stalk a scruffy cat, then he leaps on Great-Grandma’s lap. When Nino takes a rowboat out on the lake, the dog dives into the deep water.  

Nino’s father (a pilot) phones from faraway, and the dog hears what Nino hears, and loves “the taste of salt water” in the boy's tears. The mother and great-grandmother are pictured, but you don’t see their faces. This enforces the disquieting feel of the book, as does the untidy, retro, lakeside yard. The A-frame house, 1960s station wagon, and toys are drawn with impressionistic looseness. The illustration style resembles silkscreen with its limited earth toned pallet. The world is handsome, mysterious and unanchored.

Nino is shown digging a muddy hole with his imaginary friend, and the text reads, “Sometimes the dog acted so crazy and dumb that people started to notice.” His mother’s back is turned. But presumably she notices Nino’s feelings, for on the following page there is a big gift box—Nino has been given a real dog (a lively terrier). 

But this is not the end. Rather it’s the beginning of a new and bigger fantasy life. A make-believe deer, giraffe, hippo, rhino, bear, zebra, and “a few more dogs!” ward off loneliness and add richness not found in reality. Closing with a powerfully atmospheric scene of the boy dreaming under a full moon, “The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have” is not your typical happy ending story.
HARDCOVER; Published: 10/8/2015
ISBN: 978-0-8028-5451-3
34 Pages
Ages 4 to 8

Friday, October 09, 2015

Thursday, October 08, 2015


Jonathan Bentley has written and illustrated a playful picture book about a toddler who wishes to be big, like his older brother. The boy imagines what it might be like to have "big legs like a giraffe," "big hands like a gorilla," and a "big mouth like a crocodile," and finds that there are strategic advantages to being little.

The images of the large animals are both dramatic and comic. The pictures, created with “watercolors, pencils, and scanned textures,” are loose and lively. This is a fast, fun read aloud.

jpeg from

Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date:

Age Range:                          3 - 7 

Saturday, September 26, 2015


Originally published in Dutch, MIKIS AND THE DONKEY takes place on the Greek island of Corfu. Mikis, a boy of about eight, often visits his grandparents on the hill. 

One day his grandfather surprises him with a donkey. To Mikis, Tsaki the donkey is a friend. But to his grandfather she is a “tractor with four legs.” 

The grandfather piles firewood so high in Tsaki's baskets, that her belly is cut by the weight. Mikis and the village doctor force the grandfather to change the cold-hearted way in which he thinks about the donkey.

(spoiler alert)
When Mikis and his friend Elena take Tsaki to meet another donkey, the two donkeys get along “really, really well.” 

Mikis spends his summer vacation making a new stable for Tsaki. But the donkey refuses to enter her new home until her foal is placed inside.

Sketchy brown on ivory drawings depict the countryside, village square, classroom, and funny old faces. The loopy, loose lines are both detailed and airy.

Short chapters and colorful characters make this an easy read. The relationships—between family members, between the sweet/vulnerable teacher and her students, and between villagers—are distinctive and ring true. Love and understanding win out.

HARDCOVER; Published: 10/6/2014
89 Pages
Ages 8 to 12
To see more of Philip Hopman's work visit


Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thursday, September 03, 2015

City Atlas

Illustrated by the wonderful German artist Martin Haake, 'City Atlas'  takes us on a delightful tour of 30 international cities with Haake's inimitably stylish and witty maps. Written by Georgia Cherry and published by Wide Eyed Editions... 

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Free Period Press

What's hot in the publishing world this minute? Coloring books for all ages, and here are a few fun ones from Free Period Press. Full of patterns, scrummy flowers (by Caty Zocco) and animals ('Creative Creatures' by illustrator Melanie Mikecz), and they've also created sets of colorable prints, produced on thicker paper. Teachers can download a free PDF for the classroom, too. Check it all out here

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Friday, August 07, 2015

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Spanish author Daniel Nesquens has written a goofy short chapter book about a talking hippo's quest to return home to his jungle in Africa. Mr. H, the hippopotamus, asks a young zoo visitor to open his cage so he can leave his unfulfilling life in captivity.  

The path to the jungle is an urban one filled with traffic, a mysteriously acquired suit and tie, fun in the park, and dining in a fancy pizza restaurant. The hippo and the plot meander (in a good, Syd Hoff kind of way) and the story comes to an open-ended/existential ending.  

The confident, airy and stylish paintings by Luciano Lozano are reminiscent of Roger Duvoisin and Miroslav Šašek, with a little James Marshall in there too, and add to the breezy feel of the story. 

jpeg of illustration from MR. H from Mr. Lozano's  wonderful blog

  • ISBN-13: 9780802854407
  • Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 2/1/2015
  • Pages: 61
  • Age range: 7 - 10 Years
Thank you to Eerdmans for the review copy.

Friday, May 15, 2015