What I learned from ‘Most Valuable Puppy’

Maybe I should become a full-time reviewer of children’s books, because in my brief time doing this blog, my praise for “Most Valuable Puppy” represents the second time I have written about a work that is for kids.

“Most Valuable Puppy” is about children pet-sitting an energetic dog, and though it’s fiction, it’s relatable.

I imagine a child would never get tired of their mother, father, grandmother or grandfather reading this happy story to them and pointing to the illustrations because “Most Valuable Puppy” is cute, sweet and funny.

It’s an engaging combination of entertainment and education, and perhaps the book’s biggest benefit is that it’s a vocabulary builder.

The word “kimchi” appears in the book and I bet kids would love to learn what it means and play with the pronunciation of it.

I’m sure the story would also make children curious about San Francisco, where the book takes place, and the breed of the star of “Most Valuable Puppy,” a Jack Russell named Bouncer.

I imagine boys and girls asking, “What is this Fran Sancisco? Who is Russell Jack? Can we get a Russell Jack to play with all the time?”

I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Most Valuable Puppy” on 8-13-19 and I’m no kid. Heck, I’m almost 68 years old and the preferred age range for the book is 6 to 8.

Many thanks to author Carol Kim and illustrator Felia Hanakata for the wonderful time.

Many thanks, too, to North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press and NetGalley for an advance digital copy of “Most Valuable Puppy.”

I’m looking forward to seeing the print edition in my favorite bookstores.

Be careful if you do a Google Search for “Most Valuable Puppy” because you might stumble on such distractions as stories about expensive dog breeds and links to the children’s book “MVP: Most Valuable Puppy” by Mike Greenberg of ESPN and his wife, Stacy.

“Most Valuable Puppy” was published on 9-1-19 and is in Kim and Hanakata’s Doggy Daycare series, which includes “Blue Ribbon Pup,” “Dog Sled Star” and “Library Buddy.” All four books were published on the same day.

I’ll refrain from giving you a five-sentence summation of “Most Valuable Puppy.” If that’s what you want, go to Goodreads, Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Just find the book and experience the joy of sharing it with your children.

Featured image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

What I learned at Oswald’s birthday party in NOLA

I’ve written this before and I’m writing it again: One of the delights of my newspaper retirement since March 2017 is that I can go anywhere anytime as long as it’s OK with Patty, my wife.

I don’t have to ask a newsroom manager for vacation day approval. I don’t have to fill out a vacation day form that will be triplicated.

I just go. So on 10-18-19, I drove from our home in Gulfport, Miss., to Uptown New Orleans to attend the Lee Harvey Oswald birthday party at the Le Bon Temps Roule neighborhood bar on Magazine Street while Patty stayed home to watch her beloved Ohio State Buckeyes play Friday night football.

After I parked my car two blocks away and walked to the 24-hour bar, I noticed one of the establishment’s signs and I’m sure it was a reference to a drink and not a slain president.

The party started at 7 in a back room and the host was Kris Millegan, who manages TrineDay Publishing.

Author Judyth Baker, who was Oswald’s girlfriend, was among the special guests.

Judyth Baker, left, and Kris Millegan

If I had taken an informal poll, my guess is that most of the people in attendance would have said they don’t believe Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, in Dallas. I believe Oswald did it, though I enjoy reading conspiracy-theory books about the JFK assassination because they present deep research, page-turning prose and provocative views of one of the most haunting events in American history.

The writers might be right. You never know, you know.

Oswald made it to his 24th birthday, and then a little more than a month later, Jack Ruby shot and killed him on Nov. 24, 1963, the Sunday after the assassination.

“Welcome to Lee’s birthday party. He would have been 80,” Millegan said before the cake was cut and the balloons were released. “This is beautiful. People coming out for Lee’s party. He was from New Orleans, born and bred, and I’m glad to see New Orleans embrace him.

“He did not kill the president.”

Screen grab from TrineDay website

I learned that TrineDay excels at publishing such books as “Dr. Mary’s Monkey,” “David Ferrie” and “Me & Lee.”

The first two have really long subtitles. Edward T. Haslam wrote “Dr. Mary’s Monkey: How the Unsolved Murder of a Doctor, a Secret Laboratory in New Orleans and Cancer-Causing Monkey Viruses Are Linked to Lee Harvey Oswald, the JFK Assassination and Emerging Global Epidemics.”

Baker wrote “David Ferrie: Mafia Pilot, Participant in Anti-Castro Bioweapon Plot, Friend of Lee Harvey Oswald and Key to the JFK Assassination” and “Me & Lee: How I Came to Know, Love and Lose Lee Harvey Oswald.”

I also learned that the party site was one of Oswald’s favorite bars and that he lived nearby in a place on Magazine. The bar is in the 4400 block of Magazine and nola.com published a story in March 2019 that Oswald lived in the 4900 block from May 1963 to September 1963.

I stayed at the party for about an hour and left after nearly everyone sang “Happy Birthday” and a little old man, probably younger than me, added to the celebratory mood with the proclamation that “we need a new Lee Circle.”

I got a piece of cake, one yellow balloon and a reproduction of a “Fair Play for Cuba” flyer and brought all three home, where I put “Dr. Mary’s Monkey” and “David Ferrie” on my never-ending wish list of books I want to read.

While I was at the party, I kept myself from thinking I was a Yankee among Confederates.

Instead, I went with my new mantra: Don’t judge. Just be.

What I learned from reading ‘I See Sea Food’

I never saw this coming: My first review for my new blog is about a children’s picture book.

I’m reviewing “I See Sea Food: Sea Creatures That Look Like Food” by Jenna Grodzicki because I gave myself an obligation. I received an e-edition advance review copy of “I See Sea Food” in August for my laptop and I felt shortly after publication time arrived, I must write about the book.

The ARC, as the hip book bloggers say, isn’t the only reason I’m writing about “I See Sea Food.” I thoroughly enjoyed the book and I recommend it. I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads and 5 is the highest you can go at Goodreads.

The book is a long-overdue reminder that education can be playful. I mean, it’s been 55 years since I advanced from a Catholic elementary school near the shore in Biloxi, Miss., to a Catholic high school on the bayou in Biloxi, where the high school was grades 7 to 12.

While reading “I See Seafood,” I smiled at the amazing images and Grodzicki’s practical and magical way with words.

This got my attention: “Can you find PANCAKES and PIZZA CRUSTS in the ocean? The answer might surprise you!”

Hey, you had me at “PIZZA CRUSTS.”

The learning experience included a “SEA FOOD OR ME FOOD?” photo quiz that I failed. Maybe I’ll give myself a second chance and get it right next time.

The glossary is also a challenge. I would have no idea how to spell some of the words in an oral exam. Parapodia. Tubercles. Photosynthesis. I’m stumped.

The fish in “I See Sea Food” aren’t the ones I know, such as mullet, catfish, cobia and snapper. They are exotic and fun to look at, and their names are most unusual. I’m not giving you the names. You have to read the book.

I’m happy I took the time to install the application I needed to read the book. I can’t wait to see it in print and come across more children’s books as entertaining as this. It’s a gateway for adults going back to the wonder of children’s books.

What’s most important is that children, the target audience, will love “I See Sea Food.” I know a 4-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy who might get copies for Christmas.

Grodzicki’s acknowledgments include Prosanta Chakrabarty, associate professor and curator of ichthyology at LSU, which is 135 miles west of my house in Gulfport. Miss.

Ichthyology is devoted to the study of fish Chakrabarty’s Twitter handle is @PREAUX_FISH, where I saw his TED talk, Luke Skywalker’s giant fish and a visual joke about “how whales evolved.”

Man, entertaining and educational, just like “I See Sea Food.”

The photo acknowledgments include Getty Images, Shutterstock, iStock, Flickr, the LSU Museum of Natural Science and the SEFSC Pascagoula Laboratory, which is part of the Southeast Fisheries Science Center and is just 40 miles east of my house.

The print edition of “I See Sea Food,” published Oct. 1, is 32 pages and seems pricey at $27.99. If you don’t like the price, the Kindle edition is available for $9.99.

Oooh, oooh. I have what might be a better idea.

Check your library. I always forget about my downtown library that is next to my church and I live only 2 miles from both.

Thanks to Lerner Publishing Group and NetGalley for the ARC I received.

Image credit: The picture at the top of the post is by ArtsyBee from Pixabay.

First post for my new blog about books

This is the first post on my new books blog.

I’m just getting the new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

The inspiration for the blog’s name comes from a scene in the 1964 Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night.”

The scene involves an exchange between Paul’s grandfather, played by actor Wilfred Brambell, and Ringo Starr, played by Ringo.

I found the exchange on IMDB and I’m sharing part of it here.


Grandfather: Would you look at him? Sittin’ there with his hooter scrapin’ away at that book!

Ringo: Well, what’s the matter with that?

Grandfather: Have you no natural resources of your own? Have they even robbed you of that?

Ringo: You can learn from books!

You can go to YouTube to watch a clip of the scene.


I’ve learned a lot from books and my favorite writers, who include Eve Babitz, Joan Didion, Tim Ferriss, Malcolm Gladwell, Pete Hamill, Christopher Hitchens, Nick Hornby, Leslie Jamison, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, Michael Lewis, Norman Mailer, Ed Sanders, William Styron, Gay Talese, Amber Tamblyn, Hunter S. Thompson, James Thurber, Calvin Trillin, Lynne Truss Rob Walker and Tom Wolfe.

I will use this blog to post book reviews and share with you what I learned from each book.

Image credit: YouTube screen grab

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