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Poppy the Pirate Dog by Liz Kessler, illustrated by Mike Phillips, 58 pp, RL 1.5

Before I say anything else about this great new book, I have to share one little serendipitous thing that I especially love about Poppy the Pirate Dog, the debut beginning reader book from the wonderful Liz Kessler, excellently illustrated by Mike Phillips. Both Mike and Liz have (and had well before they teamed up on Poppy the Pirate Dog) dogs named Poppy! I've reviewed several of Liz Kessler's books, and, while they are all middle grade novels, they do share some things with Poppy the Pirate Dog, like the ocean, boats and even dogs. Kessler tells Poppy's story with simple but snappy words, sometimes sharing Poppy's thoughts with readers, while Phillips's illustrations, which call to mind the loose lines and movement of  Sir Quentin Blake and Jules Feiffer, add to Poppy's character.
When we first meet Poppy, she is headed to the beach with her family for a week of vacation. Poppy is so excited to be somewhere new that she pulls on her leash and gets a bit out of hand, knocking a scarf decorated with skulls and crossbones off the rack at a seaside hat shop. Tim and Suzy think it looks great on her and next thing you know, she's Poppy the Pirate dog!

Poppy knows all about pirates because Tim has five books about them and she had spent hours looking at the pictures with him. So, she is especially excited when her family decides to try every different kind of boat excursion there is to offer. However, things don't work out quite how Poppy or the Brown family expected, leaving them to wonder if Poppy is cut out to be a pirate dog after all.

Poppy the Pirate Dog delivers everything you could want in a beginning reader - a likable main character, great picture cues and a story that is satisfying but also leaves you wondering what the main character could get up to next. And, while I adore the philosophical slant of Arnold Lobel's Frog & Toad books and the manic humor of Mo Willems's Elephant & Piggie (because, ultimately, they appeal to my adult sensibilities) there is a valued place and a definite need for books like Poppy the Pirate Dog that are simply sweet and gently exciting.

Coming soon, another Poppy tale!

Poppy and George, the new shipmate. It may not be smooth sailing ahead...


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