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Pet Tales To Please

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These funny new books star a rambunctious bunch of pets sure to make children laugh and then want to read more.

"Dogs Are People, Too" by Dave Coverly; Henry Holt; 214 pages; $12.99.

"A Collection of Cartoons To Make Your Tail Wag," as it's subtitled, this delightfully hilarious book comes from the creator of the internationally syndicated "Speed Bump" comic strip. Some personal text introduces the dogs Coverly grew up with and a few other famous dogs, but most of the pages are full of colorful, distinct individual cartoons starring personable dogs.

Example: Two mutts watch their human watching a baseball game and exclaim, "He gets mad at us when we bark at the mailman. Then HE barks for hours at those tiny people in the box!" On another page, a man on a tiny island lets his dog know, "The leash really isn't necessary."

For dog lovers of all ages, even adults, Coverly's witty compilation of dog guffaws is smart and smile-inducing.

"Mr. Pants: Slacks, Camera, Action!" by Scott McCormick; pictures by R.H. Lazzell; 128 pages; $14.99.

Another cartoon book, this one a graphic novel that tells a story, Scott McCormick's second "Mr. Pants" tale is a tongue-in-cheek winner. In it, the orange-and-white Mr. Pants only has a few hours to make a movie with his sisters to try to win a trip to Hawaii. The hilarious idea of witty cats trying to come up with plots and dialogues and filming their humans and homes is an imaginative and funny. In the film they finally make, Mr. Pants goes by the name Agent Slacks Pantalonez, and a sister is called Bum-Bum.

Got a reluctant reader or a little comedian in your house? "Mr. Pants: Slacks, Camera, Action!" will be a popular reading and laughing choice.

"Imagination According To Humphrey" by Betty G. Birney; Putnam/Penguin; 120 pages; $15.99.

Hamster Humphrey is "everyone's favorite classroom pet" and has been the subject of 12 different books by Betty G.

Birney. A popular staple that's sold more than two million copies, the Humphrey books reign among 7- to 10-year-olds. In this latest, the students of Room 26 are filling their writing journals with exciting adventures, but Humphrey, who participates with the class, is stumped. Though he's got quite the imagination, Humphrey struggles with why his ideas don't flow easily.

With wit, humor and action, Birney's latest should keep the plucky pet popular as ever and prove that all "kids" struggle in the classroom sometimes.

"Stick Dog: Dreams of Ice Cream" by Tom Watson; HarperCollins; 224 pages; $12.99.

A combination stick drawings and novel, Tom Watson's fourth "Stick Dog" book sends our star doggie on a hot quest for ice cream for him and his pals. But first, Stick Dog and friends battle a water-attacking machine, discover rainbow puddles and chase a super-loud truck. If Stick Dog is spotted by a human, though, he may never see his friends again.

Lots of goofy action, easy reading and witty text makes Watson's book series another perfect choice for reluctant readers.

"Pete the Cat: Cavecat Pete" by James Dean; Harper Festival; 24 pages; $4.99.

For the preschool through first-grade crowd comes Pete the Cat, the droll cool kitty with black fur and big golden eyes. In this affordable paperback picture book, Cavecat Pete lives happily among the dinosaurs at a beach picnic. When the herbivores and carnivores disagree, it's up to Cavecat Pete to show them they can all have fun together.

With a page of more than 30 stickers included, James Dean's colorful sketchbook also has plenty of humor and dinosaur action.

Other easy readers starring pets include "Splat the Cat and the Hotshot," by Rob Scotton, and "Charlie the Ranch Dog: Stuck in the Mud" by Ree Drummond. Both are beginning level-1 readers from HarperCollins.

To find out more about Lee Littlewood, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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