Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Dog Diaries #1 & #2 ~ Kate Klimo reviews

Ginger (Dog Diaries #1) (earc)
Tim Jessell, illustrator
Random House Books for Young Readers
January 8, 2013
160 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

"Born in a puppy mill, Ginger the golden retriever looks back on her life and the various people who have "owned" her. Abruptly separated from her mother, littermates, and the wire cage that was her whole world, Ginger is shuttled from one harrowing situation to another until she finally escapes, living as an outlaw with a pack of wild dogs. But freedom doesn't feel so good once she becomes hungry and cold and sick. Will Ginger ever find a furever family to call her own? With realistic black-and-white illustrations by renowned illustrator Tim Jessel, and an appendix featuring information about puppy mills, breed rescue groups, animal shelters, choosing a pet, and the history of golden retrievers, dog-crazy early middle-grade readers will beg for more!"
Starting from Ginger's life as a puppy, with her littermates and mother and following her through all of her different residences and humans,  Ginger (Dog Diaries #1) is told from Ginger's point of view. Seeing things through a puppy's eyes - and then a dog's as Ginger grows - is a unique way to look at things that we've likely either not looked twice at or never paid any attention to in the first place.

It's a great way to get the, sometimes heavy handed, message that Ginger has across. While it's definitely easier for readers to connect with Ginger with her telling the story than if it were told in the third person (or dog?), a few places felt like they were pushing a point just a bit more than necessary. A conversation one character has with a veterinarian, for example, seemed not very realistic but did make a point.

There is great information in Ginger on how to care for a puppy. As it's not the basic step-by-step how-to book, it may appeal to a different set of readers, as well. There are things in the novel that I think some adults even don't always consider when adding a new dog (a puppy, especially) to the family and it's great that they're included here.

The situation that the 'escape' in the synopsis refers to was a good point to have in the story - a good what 'not' to do. It's too bad there wasn't a what 'to' do either in the story or in the appendix (for reference, reassurance, etc).

Ginger and her story do well in telling what really owning a dog is like - that it takes responsibility, know how, patience, and forethought. Klimo's book isn't one that's going to glorify owning a dog and make everyone want to rush out and get a golden retriever, but it also shows the joys of having a pet, a true best friend.

While absolutely applaud Ginger for having the message that adoption of pets is better than from a breeder or, in Ginger's case, a puppy mill and pet store situation, but I felt it could have been done with a bit more grace, especially given the target age of the book. It seems possible to convince elementary readers that they should adopt their first/next dog without making them feel bad if the family pet they currently have was bought. It's possible the author and I just differ on how to get a message across.

Jessell's illustrations are fun and it's nice to be able to actually see Ginger at the different stages in her life. The black and white works very well within the book and the art contributes to the story.

Rating: 7/10

Dog Diaries #1: Ginger will likely present new things to think about in adding a canine to your family -- even what type and Dog Diaries #2: Buddy with Buddy the German shepherd is here to tell you about another breed of dog . . .

Buddy (Dog Diaries #2)
Tim Jessell, illustrator
Random House Books for Young Readers
January 8, 2013
160 pages
add to Goodreads/buy from Book Depo/or Amazon

A German shepherd—the first dog trained at Dorothy Eustis's famous Seeing Eye guide-dog school for the blind—looks back at her life. Chosen for her intelligence, obedience, and willingness to learn, Kiss knows there is more to life than chasing balls and chewing bones. She is a Noble Creature and Great Things await her. But after spending months learing to take care of her beloved trainer Jack, why does he suddenly want her to take care of Morris—a strange, clumsy man who wants to wants to change her name to Buddy? Could it be that Morris needs Kiss to take care of him even more than Jack did? Based on a true story, and featuring realistic black-and-white illustrations by Tim Jessell (plus an appendix with information about German shepherds, the history and training of guide dogs, hosting guide-dog puppies, and much more), this canine confessional is pitch-perfect for smart, dog-crazy, early middle-grade readers!

Buddy's story is a bit different from Ginger's. As the first Seeing Eye trained dog, Buddy doesn't experience the tumult in her life that Ginger does. Rather, Buddy's life is one of training and purpose.

I started Buddy only knowing that the book featured a German shepherd and not knowing what it was about. I'm actually glad I did that. It was fun to discover Buddy's journey in life as she did. Buddy is a very relatable character. She's a great narrator and tells her story in a very connectable way.

Like Ginger, Buddy is told from the first person(/dog) point of view and gives a unique look into how the character (the canine) views things in their life as well as in the human world. Things that would be viewed much differently if told from a human's perspective or even in the third person are given a great take by Kate Klimo and her canine main characters.

As Buddy progresses through her life and her training the things she experiences are ones that many readers will likely have read about or seen played out before in other tales about either sightless people or even about seeing eye dogs. What keeps this book so fresh and interesting - for even older readers interested in the subject - is who is telling the story.

Buddy doesn't have the same care and how-to that Ginger had, it doesn't tell you how to take care of a German shepherd or what to do if adding one to your household (Ginger does that for all dogs in a general sense). Rather, Buddy is the tale of the remarkable German shepherd who became the first Seeing Eye dog. The appendix has great information on the history of the breed as well as on Seeing Eye dogs.

Tim Jessell's illustrations are quite good and add enjoyment to the story as readers can see Buddy as she does her different jobs. We see her grow from a young dog, into a more mature one. The art makes it easier to imagine certain scenes and it seems like the correct scenes were chosen to be illustrated.

Kate Klimo seems to have started a really fun new series. I don't read many children's series, but I'll be on the lookout for #3 Barry in August).

Rating: 10/10


thank you to NetGalley & the publisher for my egalley of Ginger and to Nicole at Random House for my copy of Buddy!

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