Sunday, October 17, 2010

Best Dog Picture Books (Non-Series)

Reading out loud with my children has always been a highlight of my day.  Now that I homeschool, I get a lot more time to do it.  It is mostly just my 9 year old now since my 13 year old is usually too busy to sit and listen.  Those reading times together are precious to us both.  It has fostered my love of children’s literature to even greater heights and inspired me to write this blog. 
I set out to write about dogs because of an moment about a week ago (see previous dog blogs here and here).  It highlighted to me how a quality book can make memories and bring people closer.  As we read The Bookstore Dog, we laughed and empathized together as we sat engaged in this dog’s world for just a few minutes.  As I finished the story, we simultaneously said, “AWWWW!”  I just felt this incredible moment of togetherness with my son.  I hope you will feel it to as you read wonderful stories to your children!  Here are my picks for noteworthy picture books about dogs (non-series):
The Bookstore Dog (Realistic Fiction).  
As I read Cynthia Rylant’s story of a bookstore owner and her dog, I felt like the owner was telling me a true story of her life.  The storytelling is genuine and realistic.  I was enraptured in the characters and community of this narrative.  There are funny parts and tender ones. I won’t tell you anymore because it will ruin it!  I want you to enjoy the ride and the ending. J 
The Forever Dog (Realistic Fiction).   
Author Bill Cochran aptly tells the story of the close relationship a boy feels with his dog.  The boy makes a “Forever Pact” with the dog, but a sudden illness and death prevents the fulfillment of the agreement.  This tender story illustrates the love and loss of a child with his pet.  The storytelling and pictures are wonderful.  It is a great book for anyone dealing with loss. 
Before You Were Mine (Realistic Fiction).  
In this story, author Maribeth Boelts divulges a young boy’s thoughts about what a stray puppy may have been through before he was adopted.  The joys and frustrations that sometimes come with a puppy are highlighted with text and delightful illustrations.   Like The Forever Dog, the boy’s previous dog passed on though it is not the focus of the narrative directly.  The boy and the dog have their needs meet when they find each other at an animal shelter.   Before You Were Mine explores life through the perspective of a dog that has been abandoned at a shelter but found a new life with a loving family as well as the healing that can come after the loss of a beloved pet. 
Gretchen: The Bicycle Dog (Non-Fiction).   
Anita Hayman chronicles the life of her extraordinary dog through family photos.  Gretchen is a vivacious dachshund.  An unfortunate accident hinders the use of her hind legs.  Gretchen (nor her family) is deterred though.  The dog learns to adapt to her handicap and to continue doing the things she loves.  This story is uplifting as it demonstrates how some courage and perseverance can help someone (or some animal) overcome difficulties and handicaps. 
Good Boy, Fergus!  (Realistic Fiction).  
Popular author David Shannon has created a lovable and realistic dog named Fergus.  The personality, the mischieve, and the mannerisms of dogs are humorously and brilliantly conveyed in the text, but especially in the pictures.  As I read, it seemed like he was describing my own dogs.  I have experienced it all with them:  Peeing on car tires, refusing to eat until something "extra" is added, chasing cars and cats, chewing things up, and enjoying belly rubs.  These are the joys (and sometimes frustrations) of owning a dog. 

The Stray Dog  (Realistic Fiction).  
Marc Simont adapts and illustrates a true story of a stray dog who wanders into a family’s Saturday picnic.  After a day of playing together, the children beg to keep the dog.  The parents do not succumb to their pleas, but all week long the whole family thinks of the playful dog. On the following Saturday, the dog returns to the picnic area where they family are eating once again.  This time he is being chased by a dog catcher!  The family is so thrilled to see him again that they adopt him on the spot. 
Dogku (Realistic Fiction).  
Andrew Clements (author of the Slippers series) pens another noteworthy book about dogs.   This one is written in amusing non-rhyming triplets about the highs (such as when the children get off the school bus or when he is on a car ride) and the lows (such as when the children leave on the school bus or when he is left alone in the house) of a dog.  The pictures are endearing.  Children will enjoy reading about Mooch’s dog-day experience. 
Nobody’s Diggier than a Dog (Realistic Fiction).  
This book is not a story, but a celebration of what makes a dog, a dog:  The lazy side to the crazy side.  The illustrations and language are amusing.  There are examples of end rhyme, internal rhyme, alliteration, assonance, and consonance.   As a result, the book could be used for identifying poetic sound devices in a natural and fun way.  Whether it is a teaching tool or read just for amusement, children (and adults) will be enchanted by this book. 
The Other Dog (Fantasy Fiction).  
This narrative by Madeleine L’Engle has a unique (and humorous) perspective:  The dog thinks the new baby is also a dog.   At first, the real dog does not like the new “dog” invading his home and gaining the attention of his owners.  Nevertheless, the dog’s instincts are to protect and to help care for the infant.  Eventually, they become bosom friends. 
Honorable Mentions
Are You Ready for Me?  
I’d recommend this book to the family who has not yet adopted a dog into their lives.  It covers the responsibilities and commitments necessary to do right by the dog.  Check out this book by Claire Buchwald if you are in this group (especially if you have kids begging for a dog). J

Some Amusing Mentions
These books are fantasy fiction with a dog as a main character.
Dogzilla (Dav Pilkey). This playful fiction pits a rambunctious dog against some very smart mice.  It includes some fun puns and word play.

Buster Goes to Cowboy Camp (Denise Fleming).  Buster's get away is imaginative, but the story explores the feelings a dog (or a child) might have when he goes away to a kennel (or camp).  This narrative is also a good tool for teaching the difference between fantasy and reality since there are realistic and non-realistic elements combined.

Dog Breath (Dav Pilkey).  This sweet dog has one horrible case of halitosis (bad breath).  In the end, his unique "gift" saves the day.

Dog Extension Activities


  1. We LOVE dog picture books in our house. I highly recommend "How Rocket Learned to Read" and "Take Me For A Walk".

    Thanks for stopping by Alison's Book Marks today! To embed the You Might Like tool,you can click on the "LinkWithin" image from my website and it will take you to the instructions on how to add it to your posts!

    This is how we bloggers make our sites better - we use an idea we see that we like! I learned a lot from Bloggiesta, which Natasha at MAW Books hosts twice a year. You might want to check it out.

  2. Thanks Alison for those suggestions. I had not previously heard of those books. I will check them out. Thanks for your help on improving the blog! :)

  3. Excellent series of themed posts. I like it when I can find a blog breadcrumb trail from one book to another. As a parent I know finding another 'similar' book is often the key to the next read. I added your blog to my Google Reader list!

  4. Thank you, Sandy. I appreciate your words of encouragement. :)


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