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Plink and Plunk: Houndsley and Catina    by James Howe & Marie-Louise Gay order for
Plink and Plunk
by James Howe
Order:  USA  Can
Candlewick, 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Houndsley and Catina: Plink and Plunk is a sweet early chapter book about canine and feline best friends, who love to spend time together.

When they go canoeing, Houndsley has reservations as Catina tends to talk all the time, while he likes to listen for 'the plink and plunk of the paddles, the calling of the birds as they swooped overhead, the rustle of the wind in the pines at the water's edge.' As usual, Catina chatters away, until ... a passing boat's wake scares her. She no longer says a word, worrying Houndsley.

Next Houndsley's cousin sends him a bicycle, and his friends propose they all go for a ride - how can he refuse, even though he wants to? For Houndsley has never ridden a bike before and doesn't know how. Finally, they all go for a picnic, and Catina admits that she is scared of water, which is why she talks so much while canoeing. Houndsley offers to teach her how to dog paddle.

James Howe's charming tale of friends opening up to, and helping, each other is illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay in soft shades of blue, green and purple that bring the story to life.

2nd Review by Bob Walch (Rating:3):

A chapter book for beginning readers between the ages of 5 and 7, this latest adventure in the popular series finds the two friends both addressing some of the fears they have tried to keep hidden from one other.

In Houndsley's case, he has little expertise riding a two wheeler so tries to beg-off going bike riding with Catina and Bert. Unable to stay up with his two companions, Houndsley eventually crashes into some azalea bushes along the trail. '"Houndsley," said Bert, "do you not know how to ride a bicycle?"'

Super embarrassed and with a very red face, the sheepish brown dog replies, 'How did you guess?' Like true friends, both Bert and Catina then offer to help Houndsley improve his riding skills.

The flip side of the coin occurs when Houndsley realizes Catina doesn't know how to swim. You'll have to read the story to see how this well hidden fact is uncovered. Now it is Houndsley's turn to offer to teach his friend how to swim.

It seems Bert is the only character in this clever story who isn't hiding some fear, but no matter. Both Houndsley and Catina are able to overcome their secret fears when they share their problems.

The message is clear. With the support of true friends a person can overcome just about any obstacle or hurdle. After you read this a few times with your child, you might ask him/her whom he/she would share any secret fears with. Or, better still, ask if there's anything your youngster is afraid of or unwilling to do (e.g. sleep over at a friend's house). This might open up an interesting dialogue.

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