It’s the first time I have ever reviewed books based on the word “The” in the title. So let’s give it a go.

Red dog with tongue hanging out leaping over a fence with a squirrel in the tree above him.
Great story with fun illustrations about following your dreams.

The Dog Who Wanted to Fly

The Dog Who Wanted to Fly by Kathy Stinson ($21.95, Annick Press) is about a dog named Zora who wants to fly so she can catch a squirrel chattering away at her on the fence. She tries bouncing, flapping her ears and the power of science, all the while being discouraged by Tully, the cat, who insists dogs can’t fly.

But then something happens and Zora discovers, with the right motivation, anything can happen.

The illustrations by Brandon James Scott were fabulous – the expressions on Zora, Tully and the squirrel’s face are pretty priceless (particularly after Zora falls in the puddle. He has also captured the expression of a squirrel laughing hysterically). The story was cute. I loved the last page.

Front cover of a book with a hedgehog reaching out for a hug.
This flip book tells the story of Hedgehog and Tortoise.

The Hug

Hedgehog is feeling sad and just wanted a hug from any one of the creatures he meets, but Fox has to knock over a bin and the squirrel had to count all three of his nuts. It is owl who eventually breaks it to hedgehog – he’s a bit tricky to hug with his prickles, but reminds him there is someone for everyone. And in the middle of the book, Hedgehog meets Tortoise, who is feeling just as lonely and sad that no one wants to hug him because his shell is hard. So they find each other and hug.

Tortoise has his own story in The Hug by Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar ($23.95, PGC Books, Faber & Faber Publishing). When you get to the hugging part in the middle, you are to turn the book upside down to read the text. If you were me you would continue reading the book in the direction you were going, but you would be wrong.

You are actually supposed to flip the book over to begin the book again, but this time you learn about how all the animals avoid giving Tortoise a hug and owl eventually telling him it’s because his shell is too hard, but not to worry as he will eventually meet someone for him.

It’s a neat concept, but understanding how it work certainly didn’t come naturally to me. I did, however, like the idea of the book and the illustrations by Polly Dunbar. As a note, I would hug both Hedgehog and Tortoise.

Bright yellow trees make a pathway which a person with a blue backpack and a dog walk.
The Road Not Taken is by Robert Frost. The illustrations and colour choice by Vivian Mineker are beautiful.

The Road Not Taken

I really wanted to like The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost (and illustrations by Vivian Mineker, Raincoast Books, Familius) because it’s a beautiful book illustrated in bright yellows and greens. The illustrations make me quite happy. Poetry, on the other hand, does not, at least this one by Frost.

Illustration of a giant in his garden, which is half in spring and half in winter holding a liitle boy with a yellow shirt.
The Selfish Giant is by Oscar Wilde and illustrations by Jeanne Bowman.

The Selfish Giant

The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde (and illustrations by Jeanne Bowman, Raincoast Books, Familius) is another updated classic this time telling the story of a giant who comes back after seven years to discover children in his garden. He kicks them out, builds a fence around his property and takes its beauty for its own.

Eventually winter comes and doesn’t leave because the children are no longer welcome to come in and play in the garden. One day the children come inside the garden any way, bringing with them spring. The giant, seeing the error of his ways, knocks down the fence and allows children to come back inside his garden to play, including one boy who kisses the giant, but then disappears. The children come back, but the boy who kissed the giant never does. Eventually, the giant grows old until one day he finds the boy has returned – and in this part the story becomes too much for me.

Up until that point, I was enjoying the story and loved the illustrations, particularly how Snow and Frost, among the other winter characters, are portrayed.

Illustrations of an opened yellow suitcase with purple flower lining and legs of a girl wearing a dress and faces on her socks and sneakers.
The Yellow Suitcase talks about loss and a girl named Asha.

The Yellow Suitcase

The Yellow Suitcase arrives in India with Asha, who stuffs the suitcase full of presents for her grandmother, who she visits each year. But this time, the house is empty and incense and jasmine flowers sit near a picture of her grandmother, who has died. Asha is mad she has brought her suitcase, which will now remain empty. At the end of their stay, Asha discovers the suitcase isn’t as empty as she thought.

The story was lovely. It showed the sadness and loss that comes from losing someone, particularly a person Asha likely only saw once a year. Likely that loss didn’t feel real until she arrived as usually but didn’t find her grandmother on the porch as usual.

According to author Meera Sriram, The Yellow Suitcase (and illustrations by Meera Sethi, $25.50, PGC Books, Penny Candy Books) “was inspired by my own family’s experience, when my children lost their first grandparent in India in the spring of 2010.”

“The 32-hour journey from California to India, burdened with mixed emotions, was harrowing. Growing up in the U.S., my children were not exposed to funeral customs in India. They were uncomfortable and scared, while still going through all the stages of grief.”

A copy of these books were provided by Annick Press, PGC Books
and Raincoast Books for an honest review. The opinions are my own.