Panther & Me!
by Barb McCarter-Walker
Book-Art Press Solutions

"My Breast Cancer never came back. Thanks Panther. You keep saving my life, over and over, and over again!"

Living her whole life with a disability, the author of this book tells the audience about her struggles and the gut-punching moment when a doctor told her that she had no more time to live. There was nothing to be done. Her children convince her to leave the house and adopt a puppy after trying for years to be selected to receive a service dog, especially since she has professional experience training dogs from her youth. After rescuing Panther from a home where she was mistreated and misunderstood, she finds the will to keep on living in the face of a hopeless diagnosis. In fact, she not only continues to live but thrives. Thanks to the support of her children and her new wonder pup and certified service dog, Barb lives a happy and fulfilling life.

Chronicling her life and her worsening condition to her lowest moments before Panther enters her life, the audience (which can be children or anyone who wants or needs to learn about the service dog program) hears her full story and then meets Panther. Once this pair is united, the triumphant turnaround is inspirational and joyful but not without hardship. As she grows along with her children and is able to attend and celebrate her daughter's wedding, she also takes Panther to schools and educates children of all ages about service dogs, what they do, and what the law permits them to do that regular pets cannot. As Panther remains by her side, the author transitions to a life lived so far beyond expectations that she must consider saying goodbye to her constant companion and friend. But just like when Panther arrived, hope is just on the horizon.

This book is a very interesting and interactive piece of non-fiction that has all the features one would expect from an educational book for children such as coloring pages, activities, and plenty of illustrations and photographs. What’s fascinating is that the subject matter is something that most people still don’t know enough about, and so it can be just as informative and charged with empathy for adults who either are fascinated by service dogs or who need to get some hope and inspiration from a survivor of similar circumstances. Some chapters include more complex, legal information, and the author always lets the reader know that adults should either read them beforehand and filter out the important information for their children or students or read along with younger readers to explain more confusing concepts. As for the activity pages, they feature committing inspirational quotes to memory through repetition, coloring pictures, word searches, and more. This way children can use various learning techniques to process and retain the comprehensive amount of information about service dogs and disabilities acts.

Though the book can be quite long for a children’s book, the amount of information per page is very manageable, and the story is broken up into chapters so that there are natural places to take breaks and then resume on a later day. There are plenty of informational stories for children about animals or living with various circumstances, but the area of service animals seems to be one that is growing in popularity within society but without the literature to match. The uplifting but honest approach that McCarter uses doesn’t sugarcoat but, instead, tells it like it is. It always provides the silver lining and proof that improvement and hope can exist in any situation. With its own niche and plenty of character, this is a great story to share with anyone who has questions or an interest in life with a service animal.

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