Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Elf goes North

The blog will be quiet for the next little bit, as I’m heading north on holiday for two weeks, to the little bit of island paradise pictured above. It is a place of blueberry muffins, picnics on rocky shoals, girly cocktails, and as many books as I can get through while swinging in a hammock.

See you soon!


Zorro Gets an Outfit

I think pugs are pretty awesome because they are clearly big dogs trapped in little dogs’ bodies. Everything about a pug says “sassy.” The dog who is Zorro, could have been any kind of dog, but I think it is just right that he is a pug. I really liked the first book featuring these characters, Say Hello to Zorro. It definitely had a high “Awwww!” factor for me, but I think that in Zorro Gets an Outfit, Carter Goodrich does an even better job of capturing the doggy point of view.

Now, show me a dog owner who hasn’t at least considered dressing his/her dog up in an adorable and humiliating costume. C’mon folks, hands up. I’ve done it. Not embarrassed to admit it. On various Halloweens gone by, we had “Swimmer Malcolm,” “Elvis Malcolm,” and a favourite, “Malibu Malcolm.” So I know exactly what this kind of dog shame looks like.

Zorro gets a costume, or as his owner calls it, an “outfit.” He is not happy. He gets teased by all the other dogs on the way to the park. Mister Bud tries to cheer him up, but nothing works until a new dog shows up. A fast, cool, tricksy dog who also happens to be wearing an outfit. This changes everything.

This picture book is an example of how so much story can exist with minimal text, provided that the illustrations are evocative. It’s wonderful how the different personalities of the dogs comes through just by their posture, facial expressions, eyes, and ear positions. Goodrich knows dogs. (You can see a lot of the best pictures from the story on his website). The spread of the three dogs racing head on towards you is perfect. It’s pure doggy joy conveyed through illustration. This is a completely feel-good book that makes you want to read more little adventures featuring this quirky crew. It also kinda makes you want a pug super-dog of your own, and sadly for hounds everywhere, it only encourages most dog owners’ proclivities for dressing up Fido. Five bones out of five.

Zorro Gets an Outfit is published by Simon and Schuster.

Code Name Verity

Goosebumps. Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein is an unforgettable story that will leave you tingly it is so remarkable and heart-wrenching. On the one hand, I’m glad that I read this during the summer, when I wasn’t distracted and could give it my full attention. On the other hand, looking ahead at the next two months of reading time, I know it’s going to be very hard to equal this book so I’m having a tricky time of it choosing what to pick up next. First and foremost, I like this novel so much because it is just a ripping good yarn. There is nothing gimmicky here, rather an honest, exciting story, rooted in history and in characters that spring off the page. It’s a war story and a portrait of friendship and heroism. I think the stylish book trailer gets it right:

Set during WWII, the bulk of the book is told from Verity’s point of view. After she has been captured by the Gestapo, she makes a deal, promising to reveal the truth of her mission in exchange for more time. She writes on scraps of paper, telling about her past, her training, and most of all her friendship with the pilot, Maddie, who flew her to France. In the second part, Maddie takes over and continues the narrative, adding her perspective and providing new insight into Verity’s situation and character. There are many surprises along the way, and the tension mounts all the way to the most dramatic, cinematic, and emotionally powerful climax I’ve read in a long time. It is so refreshing to read a young adult novel where female friendship takes complete center stage. This is not another wartime romance. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a little wartime romance, but we need more young adult books where the relationship between friends is explored and portrayed with the sensitivity and depth that you’ll find in Code Name Verity. The plotting is spot on, the historical detail impressive and evocative, and most of all, the two girls at the heart of this novel are unforgettable – full of pluck and intelligence and humour. I can say that this book has earned a place on my shelf of favourites.

Read Code Name Verity and pass it on to everyone you know. It’s that good.

Code Name Verity is published by Doubleday Canada.