February 1, 2021

February 2021: It’s raining cats and dogs

As January was a very long month, celebrating the new spring season is definitely something to look forward to, especially the arrival of colourful and fragrant spring flowers. Speaking of sniffing the air, many of you might have noticed a large increase in families getting new pets. Whether cat or dog, budgie or goldfish, new or old, rescued or gifted, a new pet is a welcome addition to any home. One special way to welcome your new pet and help settle them is to read to them. Who doesn’t enjoy getting cosy with a good book, especially if you are reading to a new pet? Reading together or sharing a story is a wonderful way to connect.  

We have a number of picturebooks and chapter books featuring pets, in particular dogs and cats, on a range of topics to entice you to get cosy and curl up before settling down to a good read. Ignore the weather outside, grab a blanket and call Poppy, Muffin, Pirate, Uisce, Kitty, Tiger or Lucky over to join you.  

0–2 Very young readers will really enjoy Jane Foster’s Pets board book. Another great one for this age group is Irish artist Mary Murphy’s fantastic lift-the-flap book Happy! A First Book of FeelingsIt is a wonderful way to discuss the range of emotions we all feel. Murphy’s distinctive and expressive style will entice young readers to follow Puppy and his friends as they experience different feelings.  

2–4 Is it possible to have too many cats? No! Lorna Scobie’s Collecting Cats will make very young feline fans laugh out loud. The funny story and humorous illustrations are a perfect combination. Milo and Monty by Roxana de Rond touches on different personality types and acceptance as doggy best friends Milo and Monty try to settle into their new home. Terry Milne’s Charlie Star is a heartwarming picturebook highlighting anxiety and fears through the daily rituals of an adorable dachshund. When Charlie needs to rescue his friend, he forgets his fears. It’s an excellent story to address new pets fears and an insight into how animals also get scared. On a more sombre note, All the Dear Little Animals is a picturebook about love and grief, and ways to remember and recover from the loss of a pet.  

5–8 The dynamic duo: Julian Gough and Jim Field are back with another wonderful tale Rabbit & Bear: A Bite in the Night. You don’t need to have a pet rabbit or even a pet bear to relate to this witty pairs’ antics!   

On the subject of unlikely friendship, emerging readers will find the adventures of Jasper & Scruff by Nicola Colton highly amusing. Talented storyteller Philip Ardagh and gifted illustrator Elissa Elwick’s have created a very enjoyable series featuring Sally Stick and her dog fetch. Stick & Fetch Investigate: The Wrong End of the Stick. Join these super sleuths on another investigation. Just make sure your dog doesn’t get any ideas! Kitty Moss has created a lively caper in Where Bone? Join Balthazar the energetic black and white dog on his frenzied search for his bone. Readers will all relate to Balthazar’s mad scamper around the house to try to find his treasured object.  

We also have two deep and thought-provoking tales to share with you. For readers 10+ Dog by Shaun Tan is a beautiful and insightful story about connection and friendship and Rain Before Rainbows by Smitri Prasadam-Halls and illustrated by David Litchfield is a poignant, powerful story about facing challenges and building resilience. Readers will take time to gaze at the gorgeous illustrations while taking in the wonderful tale.  

If it’s raining cats and dogs outside, maybe it’s time to select another good book. Happy reading! 

For more recommendations, pick up a copy of Books Make Things Better available in libraries and bookshops or available to download on our website. For more, please visit our website: https://childrensbooksireland.ie/ 

Holy Shocking Saints: The Extraordinary Lives of Twelve Irish Saints by Síne Quinn and Margaret Anne Suggs is available in book shops and on line.www.veritas.ie. Síne Quinn, M.Phil Children’s Literature, is the managing editor at Cubicle 7 Entertainment. A Children’s Books Ireland book doctor and creative writing teacher with the Bookmarks programme at TCD, she also provides editorial and writing support to publishers.  

Jane Foster’s Pets by Jane Foster, Templar Books, ISBN 9781787413627  

From the arresting bold blue cover featuring an adorable black and white French bulldog with pink ears, Jane Foster’s Pets has instant appeal. This shiny and bright board book with eye catching colours features a range of animals set in a simple and stylish design. Young readers will love turning the pages and pointing, naming (one word per page) and talking to the various pets. From dogs, cats and rabbits to lizards, turtles and hamsters, Jane Foster introduces young readers to familiar domesticated animals and more unusual exotic pets. This is sure to become a favourite. Age 0–2 

2–4: Milo and Monty by Roxana de Rond, Child’s Play,  ISBN 9781786283511 

Centred on a story of the McKenzie family adopting canine best friends, Milo and Monty, this gentle and charming story touches on diversity, acceptance and love. While Monty is noisy and affectionate and craves attention; Milo is shy and prefers quiet time alone. When cousin Henry comes to visit, Milo finds a likeminded friend. Roxana de Rond’s heartwarming story provides lots of opportunity to discuss people’s differences, and ways to understand feelings and emotions. It also highlights how to help settle a new pet into the home. With simple colourful and expressive drawings, Milo and Monty is sure to be read a number of times. Age 2–4 

5–8 Jasper & Scruff by Nicola Colton, Stripes, ISBN 9781788950695  

Jasper & Scruff is the first book in this hilarious series – join the dynamic duo on their adventure. Jasper longs to enter the sophisticated world of felines but feisty Scruff, a puppy with boundless energy has other ideas. With the right balance of illustrations and text, this is an engaging story about an unlikely friendship for emerging readers with lots to amuse and entertain. Author-illustrator Nicola Colton is a natural and gifted storyteller. 5–8 

10+ Dog by Shaun Tan, Walker Studio, ISBN 9781406397147 

‘One day I threw my stick at you. You brought it back. 
Then we were walking side by side as if it had always been this way.’ 

Picturebook fans will be no stranger to renowned artist and gifted storyteller Shaun Tan’s incredible work. Dog lovers new and old, will cherish this story, which explores the deep connection between humans’ and canines’ special friendship. Told through extraordinary and exceptional art with limited text, Tan’s story provides much for the reader to consider, and gives space to bring the reader’s own interpretation to the story. Highlighting the value of loyalty, trust, understanding and nonverbal communication, there’s much to treasure in reading about this special bond, but also in feasting your eyes on this sublime book. 10+ 

More? Try These

Watch – Ollie

Watch – Ollie

Listen – CAKE

Listen – CAKE

Play – Nelly & Nora

Play – Nelly & Nora


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