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Bundles of holiday learning gifts

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By Claire Green, Parents' Choice President

Bundles with dogs

For dog lovers new and true, these suggestions will assure tail-wagging far beyond the holiday season.

Detective LaRue: Letters From the Investigation
Ages: 4 to 8
Author (and illustrator): Mark Teague
Publisher: Scholastic Inc./Scholastic Press
Hardcover price: $15.95

Falsely accused in the disappearance of two cats, Ike LaRue (the dog) must take matters into his own hands to clear his name. He is a dog after all, and when the victims are cats, how can a dog expect justice? Think Raymond Chandler for second and third grade, told with rich language and humor. The story unfolds through newspaper reports and the letters Ike sends to his master. A less ingenious canine would resort to barking, but Ike LaRue knows how to foil this feline caper with style and smarts. Drego Little © Parents' Choice

Ages: 5 and up
Author (and illustrator): Robert J. Blake
Publisher: Penguin Putnam, Inc.
Price: $16.99

A beautifully told and handsomely illustrated dog story about Togo, a Siberian husky too small to be a sled dog. Sheer pluck and determination enable him to become lead dog on a team charged with bringing a serum to Nome to fight an outbreak of deadly diphtheria. Togo survives a harrowing trip across 300 miles of Arctic Iceland to accomplish the task. This tale of canine valor is made memorable, however, by the stunning oil paintings in icy blues and snowflake white that enable the reader/viewer to feel he is right there with Togo and his team. An exciting and rewarding book. Selma G. Lanes © Parents' Choice

Hachiko The True Story of a Loyal Dog
Ages: 5 and up
Author: Pamela Turner
Illustrator: Yan Nascimbene
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Children's Books
Price: $15.00

Based on true events, this is the story of a dog who went to meet the train at Shibuya Station at the end of every day for 10 years after his master died. The author has invented a young boy to tell the story in simple, child-like sentences. The content as well as the length of the text makes this suitable for early elementary though some might think it too sad for children. Because it is understated (even the book's size reflects it's modest, un-sensationalized approach), sorrow is replaced by wonder at such a long and devoted life. The illustrations are spare, gently tinted watercolors accented with vivid reds and yellows. Some are full-page, others are vignettes; all match the emotions evoked by this story of enduring love. An end note explains what is fact and what is fiction, and gives some additional background about the statue erected to honor Hachiko's vigil as well as the festival that is now celebrated on April 8th each year. This small slice of history will find a ready home in children's hearts. Kristi Jemtegaard © Parents' Choice

The Dog Who Sang at the Opera
Ages: 5 to 9
Authors: Jim West and Marshall Izen
Illustrator: Erika Oller
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams, Inc./Abrams Books for Young Readers
Hardcover price: $16.95

A glamorous dog performing an aria at New York's famed Metropolitan Opera House seems a fanciful premise for a children's story-except, it really did happen. In September 1997, soprano Renée Fleming was, much to her dismay, accompanied by the howling of a Russian wolfhound while attempting to sing a demanding section of the opera, "Manon." The dog was removed, but not before delighting audiences and attracting the attention of media nationwide. Years later, two men who worked as opera puppeteers that night turned the incident into this sweet and funny book, told from the perspective of the elegant wolfhound, Miss Pasha. Erika Oller's colorful illustrations highlight the humor in the situation, and the inclusion of both the New York Times coverage of the opera and Renée Fleming's reaction to her impromptu duet complement the story. Zarina Mullan Plath © Parents' Choice

Comments from readers

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