December 2 – National Mutt Day

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About the Holiday

National Mutt Day, also known as Mixed Breed Dog Day, was established in 2005 by animal welfare advocate Colleen Paige to raise awareness of the plight of mixed breed dogs abandoned and in shelters around the country. Approximately 80% of dogs in shelters are mixed breeds and often lose out on finding permanent homes to purebred dogs who are adopted much more quickly. Mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier, behave better, and often have sweeter temperaments than their purebred cousins, making them wonderful family pets. If you are considering adding a pet to your family, consider a mixed breed. You’ll be happy you did!

Wolf Camp

By Andrea Zuill

 

Homer is a regular dog—except when he’s feeling wolfish. He loves the lure of the hunt, and likes to pounce on stuffed Mr. Moose unawares. He thinks this is because it’s been proven by science that “all dogs have a bit of wolf in them.” When Homer takes to daydreaming, his mind wanders to the joys of living as “a real wolf,” running with the pack on the open plains. Then one day in addition to his kibble, a flier for Wolf Camp pours from the dog food bag.

The flier seems to offer everything Homer wants. “Have you ever felt like howling at the moon? Come join us!” it reads. Homer knows he has to go, so he makes sure his people see the notice—whether they are in the bathtub, in bed, relaxing, or just walking through the house. Finally his people relent, and on the designated day he boards the Wolf Camp bus and is off on an adventure.

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Copyright Andrea Zuill, courtesy of andreazuill.org

Once at camp, Homer is “greeted by Fang and Grrr,” the counselors. Then he meets his fellow campers, big Rex and tiny Pixie. Fang gives a safety speech that includes staying together, refraining from chasing dangerous animals, and other rules. Their first lesson is “marking.” Could Homer help it if he was a little too close to Fang’s feet? Next comes howling. Grrr and Fang sing out a chilling “Ahh-whooooo…” Pixie pipes up with a small “Yeeiiiiiip”; Rex gives an indeterminate  “Wahwawawawa…”; and Homer offers his best “Phooooooof…”

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wolf-camp-running-bunny

Copyright Andrea Zuill, courtesy of andreazuill.org

When they learn to track, Rex can’t contain his excitement and shouts out “Look! A bunny!” “Shhhhhhh…,” Homer and Pixie remind him. At last the campers are shown how to hunt, even if Fang and Grrr do run ahead and with Grrrs, snarls, growls, and a cloud of dust acquire dinner by themselves. The meal has “an interesting flavor,” which prompts Homer to write a letter home: “Dear People, How are you? I am fine. The food here is yucky and has hair on it.” He asks his family to send his favorite bacon-flavored doggie snacks as well as flea medicine “because there are a lot of bugs and they are gross.” He even includes a real “smashed bug” in the corner of the paper.

celebrate-picture-books-picture-book-review-wolf-camp-running-letter-home

Copyright Andrea Zuill, courtesy of andreazuill.org

Living and sleeping in the wild have their challenges, but day-by-day the dogs adjust, becoming experts at marking rocks, howling “Ahh-Whoooo,” and hunting. And while taking down a moose may still be daunting, chasing squirrels is easy. The end of the week comes quickly and as Homer receives his “Honorary Wolf” certificate, he feels sad to be leaving his new friends. They howl “one more time as a pack,” and then it’s time to ride the bus back home.

While it’s good to be home with his people, his soft bed and electric blanket, and his familiar toys, Homer feels different. As nighttime falls he goes to the window and sings out a chilling “Ahh-whoooo-Ahh-Ahh-Whooowhooo….”

Andrea Zuill’s funny story of a regular dog who dreams of being more by embracing his bolder heritage will delight dog owners and dog lovers alike. Endearing Homer, with his wagging tail, sweet smile, and unflagging perseverance, is an enthusiastic hero who inspires readers to never give up in the face of obstacles. Humorous dialogue and commentary by Homer, Rex, and Pixie as they perform their camp lessons are presented in speech and thought bubbles and will make kids giggle. Zuill’s nod to “people” camp makes Wolf Camp an accessible story that will resonate with any child facing a new situation, learning new skills, or being away from home for the first time.

Zuill’s vivid, cartoon-inspired illustrations are loaded with personality and expression. Kids will root for earnest Homer, shaggy Rex, and scrawny Pixie, and, while needle-nosed Fang and Grrr initially seem intimidating, they are counselors who have their camp charges’ best interests at heart.

Ages 4 – 8

Schwartz & Wade, 2016 | ISBN 978-0553509120

To learn more about Andrea Zuill and Wolf Camp, as well as view a portfolio of her illustrations, visit her website!

National Mutt Day Activity

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Funny Mutt Coloring Page

 

Mixed breed dogs make wonderful pets with lots of love to give. Here’s a printable Funny Mutt Picture for you to color!

Picture Book Review

July 23 – National Day of the Cowboy

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About the Holiday

Observed annually on the third Saturday of July, the day commemorates the “contributions of the Cowboy and Cowgirl to America’s culture and heritage. The heyday of the cowboy and cowgirl came after the Civil War when Texas experienced a booming wild cattle population. As the United States grew and people moved West, the demand for beef in the Northern states grew. Cowboys and cowgirls drove nearly 5 million head of cattle north, sparking tales, legends, and a rich history of the Great Plains in their boot and hoof steps.

Cowboy Camp

Written by Tammi Sauer | Illustrated by Mike Reed

 

In the first moments of Cowboy Camp, Avery sizes up the other kids (both boys and girls) and decides he “was all wrong.” Not only is his belt buckle too big and his hat too small, but his name is completely UNcowboy. When the Camp leader, Cowboy Dan, introduces himself, Avery thinks he is “the realest looking cowboy” he’s ever seen. Cowboy Dan promises to turn the “little ragamuffins” into real walkin’, talkin’ cowboys. But first a chow time of grits and beans!

All the other buckaroos dig into their plate eagerly, but Avery spits out his very first bite and is relegated to eating cheese and crackers. “Whoever heard of a cowboy who doesn’t like grits and beans?” Avery thinks. Next up, announces Dan, is horse riding. All the kids saddle up. “It wasn’t but a minute later” though that Avery starts sneezing and has to ride a cow instead.

Surely, lassoing will be easier, he reasons. “It wasn’t but a minute later,” however, that his hands are red and chaffed with rope burn and he has to practice with yarn. “Whoever heard of a cowboy who got rope burn?” he thinks. A bit dejected, Avery sits in front of the campfire trying to think cowboy thoughts after all the other kids have “turned in for some shut-eye.” “It wasn’t but a minute later that Avery discovered he wasn’t alone.” Creeping out of the shadows is the meanest looking cowboy Avery has ever seen.

“‘I’m Black Bart,’” the mean looking cowboy says. He tells Avery that he’s there to put a stop to Cowboy Camp because “‘Cowboy Dan and his gang of good cowboys are makin’ it too hard to be a bad guy.’” Avery does some quick thinking. He doesn’t want anything to happen to Cowboy Dan or the camp. He stutters out that this isn’t Cowboy Camp, but Space Camp. Black Bart isn’t so easily fooled. Sensing disaster, Avery gives himself up as proof: “‘Sir,’” asks Avery, “‘Do I look like cowboy material?’”

To root out the truth Black Bart gives Avery three tests. First he opens a can of beans from his saddlebag. “‘All cowboys eat beans,’” Bart exclaims. Avery takes a tiny taste from the can and begins coughing and wheezing. “‘Hmm…’” says Bart. Next he sets Avery on his horse. “‘All cowboys ride horses,’” Bart exclaims, but as soon as Avery sits astride the horse, he begins sneezing. “‘Hmm…’” says Bart. He hands Avery his rope. “‘All cowboys know how to lasso,’” Bart exclaims. Avery grabs the rope and immediately begins crying in pain.

Black Bart has seen enough. “‘You’re no cowboy,’” he agrees. With time a wastin’ to find and stop the real cowboys, Black Bart saddles up and turns his horse toward the rising sun. “‘It wasn’t but a minute later’” that the other campers and Cowboy Dan arrive. Dan congratulates Avery on his bravery and quick wit and proclaims that “‘No one but a real cowboy could outsmart the likes of Black Bart the way you just did.’” Avery smiles. He finally feels like a “real honest-to-goodness cowboy.”

In Avery, Tammi Sauer has created a welcome hero—a boy who uses his individual talents of intelligence and bravery to defeat the bad guy and comes to realize that he does fit into the group. Sauer’s witty plot line is a joy to read and offers real surprise when Black Bart appears on the scene. Bart’s “cowboy test” in which Avery’s supposed failings become his greatest assets is inspired. The realistic dialogue with a Western twang transports kids to the Great Plains and is fun to read, while the repeated “uh-oh” moment—“It wasn’t but a minute later that Avery discovered…”—elicits suspense and will have kids reading along.

Mike Reed beautifully captures the allure of the Wild West in his humorous, sometimes larger-than-life illustrations. The golden plains of Cowboy Camp stretch to the red-rock plateaus in the distance while scrub grass and cacti pop up here and there. Cowboy Dan has a chin almost as long as his 20-gallon hat is tall, and Black Bart is perfectly scruffy and menacing, with a long black coat and bolo tie, as he creeps out of the midnight blue shadows to confront Avery by campfire light. Kids will both sympathize with Avery’s travails even as they giggle at his evocative pexpressions.

An ingenious bit of illustration occurs in Reed’s depiction of Avery. Although Avery feels as if his belt buckle is too big and his hat too small, in reality both of these are the same size as the other kids. Moreover, a side-by-side comparison with Cowboy Dan, the “realest cowboy,” shows that Avery looks almost identical to his hero with both wearing grey vests and hats. (You can even measure the hats for yourself!) In addition, the other campers are all different in some way, emphasizing the idea that everyone is unique and has their own place in any group and the world in general.

Both for the wonderful story and the burst of confidence building provided, Cowboy Camp belongs on every young reader’s bookshelf.

Ages 4 – 9

Sterling Publishing Co., 2014 | ISBN 978-1454913603

To view more of Tammi Sauer’s books and learn what she’s working on next, visit her website!

National Day of the Cowboy Activity

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The Best Durn Tootin’ Cowboy and Cowgirl Coloring Pages

 

Well, buckaroos, here’s your chance to create your own Wild West scene. Just print out these Best Durn Tootin’ Coloring Pages and have a rip roarin’ blast!