Many people think that writing a children’s book is a walk in the park, create some cute furry characters and a simple plot, and voila you are done. They are oh so wrong. There are many facets involved to write a successful children’s book. The plot needs to be engaging yet simple to understand. The would be children’s author also has to consider the parents that will inevitably be the co-reader, and more importantly the purchaser. The story needs to be a learning tool that also contains a social message.

Maybe the most wonderful aspects of this book is that author Jennifer Swanson has modeled her fictitious characters after two real dogs.

The language used also needs some careful attention. If has to be crafted for the age group it is aimed at. There are also some engineering considerations, the use of fonts and font sizes are a primary consideration, warm friendly fonts are best. And last but certainly not least the art work. A children’s book is a teaching tool, and in someways it is akin to eating. Little Johnny may not want to eat his vegetables, but you as a parent can gently persuade him by talking about dessert. To young children the words are the vegetables and the pictures the dessert.

It was with these criteria in mind that I sat down and read Jennifer Swanson’s new book Penny And Rio. It is a delight from cover to cover, and the author should pat herself on the back for a job well done.

She has selected an easy to read sans serif font and font size. Her use of words is well within the grasp of young readers. The plot is an engaging one that has an interesting twist and a social message.

pennyriopicof-twodogscpyrgt.jpgThe artwork by Rosita Schandy and Neal Wooten is top notch. They use simple illustrations and a simple pallet of colors. Ideal for the young reader.

The story itself is an engaging one Penny and Rio are two dogs that find themselves living in a new home. Rio is a laid back character who’s idea of a good time is a quiet snooze, Penny on the other hand is the adventurer, and cannot wait to explore the new backyard. A veritable treasure trove of new smells and new adventures.

Penny is also an observant dog and starts to see a pattern emerge, an orange cat, a groundhog, a squirrel and an owl, seem to be using the backyard for clandestine late night meetings, she smells a rat. What could this strange assortment be up to? She is convinced that whatever it is, it is bad.

A little investigation and late night snooping tells her that they are plotting to break into the house next door. They supposedly are trying to recover a stolen toy, but Penny is doubtful that that is their real purpose. She tries to elicit Rio to assist but Rio prefers a quality nap.

What are the animals up to, will Rio help, and can Penny stop them?

I like this book a great deal, it has been well crafted, and I think that parents will appreciate the care that has gone into its creation. From what I gather this is the foundation book for an entire series about Penny and Rio, I do hope that I have the opportunity to read the next installment. Great work Jennifer Swanson.

You can pick up your copy of Penny And Rio from Amazon. There is also an accompanying web site that is worth a visit.

Simon Barrett

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