What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo?

What Do You Do if Your House is a Zoo?
John Kelly and Steph Laberis
Little Tiger Press
My immediate answer to the title question would be, ‘move out straighaway’. That is precisely what the human characters in this funny story do eventually, but that is getting way ahead of the action.

The whole sorry saga begins one Sunday when the boy narrator’s parents finally agree to their son becoming a pet owner. He’s overjoyed but undecided as to what kind to choose.

Monday morning sees him dashing off an ad. to go in the local paper.

Come Tuesday the responses start arriving, and by Wednesday the lad is inundated.

Dizzying confusion reigns.

On Thursday an animal invasion begins … which very quickly becomes a total take over and that’s despite Dad’s heartfelt “No more animals!” order.

Eventually in desperation the family decamps to the garden: surely that must be a haven of peace and tranquillity? ….

Now it’s Mum’s turn to insist: They’ve all got to go!” That does the trick: women rule OK!

Feeling a little sad at the animals’ hasty departure, the would-be pet owner admits that perhaps none of the applicants was quite the right pet for him. But then he comes across one letter that he’d previously over-looked, albeit a rather whiffy affair. Could this finally be THE one? Its writer certainly does appear to have a winning way with words.

A hilarious tale that will delight those with a penchant for pets especially; but those less keen on sharing their home with a feathered or furry friend will equally be tickled by the pet problems encountered by this particular family, as so amusingly related by John Kelly and visually documented in Steph Laberis’s zany scenes of mischief and mayhem animal style. The animals’ letters in particular, are a real hoot.

The Wondrous Dinosaurium / My Perfect Pup

The Wondrous Dinosaurium
John Condon and Steve Brown
Maverick Arts Publishing

Danny is thrilled when his mum finally agrees to let him have a pet and he knows what he wants. Not a common or garden cat or dog but something much more exciting – something prehistoric no less. And he knows exactly the place to go: an establishment belonging to Mr Ree.

His first choice, a Diplodocus requiring vast amounts of vegetation every day quickly proves too much, so it’s back to the shop for something slightly smaller.

In fact Danny returns to Mr Ree’s Wondrous Dinosaurium quite a few times, trying out a range of possibilities …

until finally he comes upon a box in a dark corner of the shop.

His mum thinks he’s brought home a tortoise but she’s in for a surprise when the creature comes out of its shell.

John Condon’s amusing tale about the pitfalls of not doing any research before choosing a pet will hit the spot with both dinosaur lovers and pet people.
Steve Brown’s illustrations of the dinosaur menagerie are at once droll and yet recognisably authentic dinosaur species: avid dinosaur fans may well be able to put names to all Mr Ree’s stock of creatures, one of which was new to this reviewer.

My Perfect Pup
Sue Walker and Anil Tortop
New Frontier Publishing

Siblings Max and Millie have definite ideas about what they’re looking for as they head for the Perfect Petshop, very different ideas. However they both fall for the same beguiling little pup.

Inevitably though, Tiny, as they decide to call him, doesn’t remain so for very long; nor does he live up to Millie’s ‘pretty’ requirement. In fact he’s so far from perfect by both siblings’ standards …

that one day they return him to the pet shop.

Tiny himself has ideas about the perfect owner and when Joe Barnaby arrives on the scene it looks as though he might just be the one.

Joe and his family live on a farm with sheep, and Joe loves to play, to run and sometimes to take a ride on the dog, now named Horse. What better place for a sheepdog?

Expectations, acceptance and being patient are key themes in Sue Walker’s enjoyable story for which Anil Tortop’s spirited illustrations really bring out Tiny/Horse’s personality.

Tufty/The Grumpy Pets

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Tufty
Michael Foreman
Andersen Press
Subtitled ‘The Little Lost Duck who Found Love’ this story starts in the grounds of Buckingham Palace where we meet a family of ducks and in particular the youngest, Tufty who we are told ‘always struggled to keep up.’

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The Royal residents of the palace – the Royal Duck and Duckess – (looking decidedly like the feathered residents) feed the duck family when they take their lakeside perambulations and keep them entertained with grand parties in the palace ballroom.

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With winter fast approaching, it’s time for the ducks to fly south to warmer climes Father Duck announces, and very soon, they’re on their way. Unable to keep up, Tufty is left behind and flies down to a subway on a traffic island where he discovers a kindly homeless man. The man takes Tufty back to his makeshift shelter in a hollow tree and there he looks after him …

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right through the long winter months.
Come spring, Tufty is much bigger and stronger and one day he sees his family overhead flying back to their lake in the palace grounds. Tufty joins them and as the number of ducks on the palace lake increases day by day, he notices one particular little duck that takes his fancy. Soon after, the two of them return to the lake in the woods where the kindly man warmly welcomes them.

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Foreman’s glowing watercolours are unfailingly wonderful, particularly in their portrayal of the contrasting scenes of the lush green palace grounds and the high-rise blocks of the city skyline; and the rainy urban roundabout and the peaceful hollow chestnut tree abode of the man beside the small lake.
Readers and listeners will warm to the plight of left-behind Tufty and the kindness of the man who gives him shelter and food, despite having very little of his own.

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The Grumpy Pets
Kristine A. Lombardi
Abrams
When a mother takes Billy and big sister Sara to Perfect Pets, the animal rescue shelter, it’s in the hope that it will give her somewhat disagreeable son something to smile about. Seemingly everyone else, including Sara, has managed to find their ideal pet …

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but young Billy remains decidedly sombre.

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Off he goes to look around the place, a place that seems full of happy animals, not his thing at all. But then he hears ’BARK!’, ‘GROWL!’, ‘Hisssss!’ which leads him to …

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and in particular one that’s ready to give as good as it gets and more …

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resulting in an “I’ll take him!” from Billy who knows when he’s met his match. Thus begins, one suspects, as we see boy and dog heading home, a wonderful friendship that will bring a whole lot more smiles where Billy is concerned.
Populated by endearing characters human and animal, this is a warm-hearted story of mutual rescue that is most likely to appeal to pooch lovers and those who sympathise with small, sometimes grouchy boys.

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What Pet Should I Get?

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What Pet Should I Get?
Dr Seuss
Harper Collins Children’s Books
This slip-cased edition of a never before published Dr Seuss story is in itself something of a treat, especially if you’re a fan of the great Theodor Geisel and I definitely am.
The book’s main characters are the brother and sister from One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, the story being narrated by the brother, as the two are faced with a tricky problem when they visit the pet shop to choose just one, and only one, pet. (Back in those days people didn’t go to animal rescue centres and the like to source a pet). In typical Seuss fashion, the children are confronted with all manner of animals – real and imagined – as they struggle to make their ultimate choice. There’s that hand-shaking dog, rather favoured by the brother whereas Kay would prefer the friendly-looking cat …

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The pup or that kitty? Or maybe a fish … no matter what, the order is

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Maybe not some of these beauties though, they might just be pushing the would-be pet owners’ luck just a little too far …

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but faced with so much choice, there’s only one thing to do and that is exactly what big bro does: “I picked one out fast,/and then that was that.”

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But as to the identity of the ‘that’ in question – the ambiguous finale leaves readers themselves to decide what’s in the basket those siblings proudly take back home.
Notes at the end of the book tell of Seuss’s love of animals, in particular dogs as well as how, after her husband’s death in 1991, his wife Audrey found of box of manuscripts, which she set aside at that time. Then, in 2013 along with his secretary Claudia Prescott, she rediscovered that box containing among other things, the manuscript of this story and some uncoloured artwork.
Was this a project that subsequently turned into One Fish, Two Fish? We’ll never know for sure; but what is certain is that here we have another jaunty script filled with crazy creatures that have been lovingly and thoughtfully coloured under the direction of art director Cathy Goldsmith and the result is classic Seuss nostalgia.

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