Kid Lit Book Review – Paw Elementary: Roxy’s Adventure to the School Dentist by Katie Melko

Ever been scared to do something for the first time…especially if that thing is going to the dentist?  Heck, some adults (myself included) still get nervous going to the dentist.  That fear, and overcoming that fear, is the theme of the book, Paw Elementary: Roxy’s Adventure to the School Dentist by Katie Melko.

Overview

This book is a fun and fanciful read about a dog, Roxy, who is afraid to go to the dentist.  Her brother, Mason, does not help matters by teasing her about how awful it will be.  After worrying about it all week and trying to find excuses to skip out on the dentist, the day finally comes and Roxy finds out that there was never really anything to be afraid of in the first place.

Outstanding Points

The first thing that I noticed was that all the characters in the book had traditional “pet” names.  There was names like Roxy, Mason, Jasmine, and Harley. (No offense intended for any humans who happen to also have those names).  I thought that those names helped bridge the gap of making personification truly believable.

The illustrations were also very well done.  The book is visually pleasing with the illustrations being full and engaging without looking cluttered.  The characters are believable and expressive.

The plot is just long enough to fill the book without feeling likes it’s banal and overbearing.  I think that children will relate to each situation that Roxy is in and in turn engage with the book and story.

Discussion and Teaching Points

This book is perfect for all sorts of discussion and teaching points.

First, the message that is so obvious to adults is something that makes for good conversation points with children.  Parents/guardians who may be sending their children to school for the first time can talk about how Roxy was scared but there was really no reason to be afraid at all.  Parents/guardians who are encouraging their children to try something new can talk about how new things can be really positive if you can overcome the initial fear of things.

From a teaching standpoint, there are so many fun cross curricular  connections you can make.

In social studies, you could incorporate this book into something like Ruby Bridges.  Talk about how if we’re scared, like Roxy, of doing small things like going to the dentist, imagine how much more courage it took for her to do what she did.  Have students talk about some times in life when they’ve been scared to try something new and how those things turned out when they finally tried them.

TEETH! Lots of things have teeth!  My mind is literally exploding with all the science lessons you could teach on different animal teeth.  Talk about how each animal’s teeth coincide with their diet.  Incorporate the key words herbivore, carnivore, and omnivore.  After studying several examples, you could show just the animals’ teeth and have them first guess the animals’ diets, and then try to guess which animal each set of teeth belongs to.

Overall, I found this book to be really delightful.  I enjoyed it from start to finish.  It’S a great book for children from probably 3 until 7.

The author, Katie Melko, was kind enough to take the time to do an interview with me about her book.  Please keep reading.

Hi Katie!  First, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview as part of the book review process.  I think that it adds so much to the book to be able to hear some of the things that the author has to say about his/her own book.  

ES – So first, let’s just talk about your book.  Tell us the story behind the story. Where, when, and how did you get the idea/inspiration for a story about a dog who is scared to go to the dentist for the first time?  I assume it probably has something to do with your profession as a dental hygienist?

KM –  Yes, so I’ve worked in public health as an RDH for 10 years, treating children in schools, churchs, soup kitchens, and homeless shelters. The inspiration for the story came from those children that I treated and seeing how scared they were. I wrote this book almost three years ago now and put it away and didn’t take it back out until September of 2017, when my dog Roxy passed away. It was then that I decided to honor her life forever by keeping her alive in pages of children’s books for all to share.

ES – How long was the writing/editing process for you?  From the day you finished the first draft to the day the book launched officially, how long?

KM – Well, from the time I took it back out after it sat for over a year. I took a little over a year from that moment to getting the first print in my hand. I had to really push myself to believe in the journey and step out of my comfort zone to do this project.

ES – What does the writing process look like for you?  Do you bring in other people in the editing process or just step away from the book for a couple days then come back and reread it with fresh eyes to see what needs tweaked?

KM – So I write the story, let it sit for a week or so, reread it and tweak. Then repeat probably two more times before sending it to an editor.

ES – One thing that I loved was that all the characters in the book had names that would be considered good “pet names.”  Roxy, Harley, Jasmine, Luna, etc. Where did those come from/

KM – All of the pet names in the book, are actual pets in my life. Roxy, Noel and Mason are my dogs. Luna is my brothers. Jasmine was my family dog growing up. Harley was my aunts dog. Astoria is my cousins cat. They all have a meaning in my real life.

ES – So, your bio says that you also founded a publishing company, 12 Paws Publishing.  Can you tell me more about that?

KM –  I started 12 Paws Publishing, LLC in December of 2018. I wanted to build a business for my self published work. The name came from my three dogs (12 paws) and the logo looks like a yellow labrador (just like my rescue pups).

ES – Can you tell me a little about the process of finding your illustrator.  Who is she? How did you find her?

KM – Roksana Oslizio is my illustrator and see lives in England! I found her on a facebook group for children’s authors and illustrators and fell in LOVE with her work!

ES – Has it been difficult working with someone who lives on a different continent?  How have you been able to work through those obstacles?

KM – It has honestly been very easy, she is super quick with responding, we communicate via facebook messenger and dropbox! She is an absolutely pleasure to work with and love her work!

ES –  From the outside, it seems as if you have about a hundred different things you do in life right now? Does that ever get exhausting/

KM – I’m very busy, yes! But I love it, and by doing so many different things, I have finally found my passion which is public health dental and creative writing!

ES – Do you ever picture yourself stepping away from the dental hygiene profession and being a full-time author?

KM – This is my big dream, I would love to do this in the future! The main reason I work so hard, I also started writing romance novels! My first one will be out soon hopefully!

ES – Your website says that there is a second book in the works.  Can you tell me a little bit more about that?

KM – Yes! Paw Elementary: Roxy’s Adventure to the Hair Salon

The book walks you through Roxy’s fear of getting her hair trimmed for the first time. She talks to her friends and family about getting her hair trimmed at Honey Bear’s birthday party and why she is just so scared!

ES – Where can people find you, your books, etc.?  Do you have a Twitter, IG, or FB page?

KM – People can purchase my book on my website www.12pawspub.com/shop and follow me on IG, Twitter, FaceBook, and Pinterest @12pawspubllc

The kindle or e-book version is also available on https://www.amazon.com/Paw-Elementary-Adventure-School-Dentist-ebook/dp/B07NFC7C43/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1_sspa?crid=2Z2LNA3TYXAXL&keywords=paw+elementary+roxy+adventure&qid=1557931790&s=gateway&sprefix=paw+elementary+rox%2Caps%2C127&sr=8-1-fkmrnull-spons&psc=1

Kid Lit Book Review and Author Interview – Berkley: A Nose Tail by David Hillman

“It’s ok to be different, and to be able to take what some might see as a disadvantage, and turn it into an asset.”

In the words of David Hillman, author of Berkley: A Nose Tail, that is the message of his first book.  David was kind enough to conduct an author interview with me along with allowing me to review his book on the blog.  Enjoy.

In reading your mini author bio in Berkley, it seems that you were an artist first and then wrote a children’s book. Is that pretty accurate? What are some things you’ve done artistically before Berkley?

Yes. I’ve been a commercial illustrator for some time, and became a writer out of necessity. I have a lot of stories inside me that I want to tell through my illustrations, but in order to do that I knew I had to learn how to write as well.

Do you enjoy writing in general aside from children’s books? Could you ever picture yourself writing a novel?

As I continue to write I’m starting to enjoy the process more than I used to. While I don’t think I have a novel in me, I do have an idea for an ongoing series of chapter books for middle grade readers, but that’s still far down the road.

Can you take us through your journey a little bit on your way to becoming an author/illustrator? What were some important steps and moments throughout that process?

Illustrating children’s books has been something I’ve wanted to do for some time. I’ve spent the better part of my career drawing comic books and storyboards, as well as general illustration and I’ve enjoyed doing that. Now I’ve reached a point in my career where I want to leave behind something, something that readers will enjoy for years to come.

The most important step in the process is asking myself if the idea I have is a fun one, will it make me smile? If it’s fun and funny then I’m on the right track.

Berkley is your first book. Do you have any more in the works right now?

I’m currently working on the next Berkley story and I also have a few ideas for other stories. I’m also working on offering my skills to illustrate books for other authors.

Who/what was the inspiration for Berkley?

Berkley has been sniffing around in my head for some years. Just the image of a dog with a HUGE nose seemed pretty funny to me. It’s been only recently I started to wrap a story around him.

Has everyone in your family always supported you being an artist/author as a vocation?

Absolutely! My entire family has been very supportive throughout my career, but most especially my wife. She’s been incredibly supportive, and tolerant of my insanity, how she’s been able to put up with it is beyond me.

Who in your life has been your biggest mentor?

I’d have to say it’s been my father, a writer of children’s books himself, He used to give me some of his yellow writing pads for me to draw on, and I’ve been doodling ever since.

Sadly, he’s no longer with us, but when I’m having a problem with a story I’m working on I look at his picture and think to myself, “What would dad do?”

If you could summarize the message of Berkley into one statement for children, what is it?

That it’s ok to be different, and to be able to take what some might see as a disadvantage, and turn it into an asset.

What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring children’s book author like me?

Practice your craft because you love it, not because someone tells you should do it. Also, do the kind of work you feel inspired to, be true to your own style. Early in my career I had someone suggest that I should create illustrations of a certain type, and it just didn’t work for me. The work was stiff, flat, and I got bored with it very soon. Find what you really are interested in, and practice it every chance you get. Make the next story, or the next project better than the last, and the next, and the next…

My thanks to David for taking the time to do the interview with me and for allowing me to review his book, which I loved.

Overview

Berkley: A Nose Tail is a story about a dog who is born with a HUGE nose.  His nose is constantly getting him into trouble as he loves to stick it in places where it doesn’t necessarily belong.  However, when his owner’s friend is unable to find her cat, Berkley’s nose is the only thing that is able to help.

Outstanding Points

As I’ve done more and more book reviews, the diversity of illustrations and the obvious talent behind all of them irregardless of style is amazing.  The Illustrations in Berkley are fantastic.  The detail and intricacy of them are truly remarkable.  As you can see even from the front cover, just very excellent overall.  Mr Hillman, as you can read in the interview, began his career in visual arts and illustrating, and that fact is very apparent.

I love the message behind the book.  I enjoy books with messages but also enjoy that this one isn’t blatantly stated either.  I also love this particular message as it deals with an actual physical characteristic.  In the social media driven society that over-analyzes and scrutinizes every photo, a message of self-acceptance and self-appreciation is very appropriate and relevant.

There is another message, although much more subtle, that I also love.  Warning, I’m about to preach a bit.  One of the main characters is an African-American girl.  In the book, her father is a police officer.  I love that, although it is subtly ingrained, a person of color is painted (literally) in such a positive light.

The story itself is compelling and engaging.  I enjoyed reading it.  Although for an adult, the outcome is predictable, a child would definitely be locked in waiting to see how it will turn out.

From start to finish, the story and setup of the book is consistent.  There are about the same amount of words on each page appropriate to the age level the book targets.  The storyline is coherent and complete.

Discussion Points and Teaching Ideas

Becky, one of the characters in the story, automatically assumes the worst in the story.  I think it would be good a discussion about negative self-talk and imagining the worst possible scenario.  Talk about how many times we think the worst possible thing has happened when really it wasn’t anything like that at all.  Allow students to share stories from their lives.

Jeremy, Berkley’s owner, knew about how amazing Berkley’s nose was, even when most other people viewed it as a detriment.  So, when Becky needed his help, Jeremy jumped at the chance for Berkley to prove himself.  How can we be that way as friends, classmates, or siblings?

Is it easier to see the potential in others or in ourselves?  How do you think that this should affect how we treat each other?

Allow students to create an animal that has something crazy like Berkley’s huge nose?  Have them brainstorm how that animal might use whatever it has.

What should Berkley’s next story be?  How else might he be able to use his nose to help people?

Well, that’s all.  Overall, I really liked this book and was really impressed with the art in it.  You can find Berkley: A Nose Tail in several places.

You can go to Amazon at this link Here

It is also available from Barnes and Noble Here

Or you can go to the official Berkley web page Here

You can also follow David Hillman on Instagram at @dnahillman

I really do hope you will go check it out for yourself.  You will certainly  not be disappointed.  As always, thank you for reading.  I hope you enjoyed it.  If you want to follow the blog to receive email updated whenever I post something new, simply click on the link in the lower right hand corner of your screen.  Thanks again.