Saturday, October 16, 2010

Best Dog Picture Books (Series) for Preschool to Primary

I set out to find the best dog pictures books for reading out loud together.  This topic is so broad though that I am breaking it up.  Today, I am covering the best dog picture books series (ages 0-8)*.  What struck me as I read and shared these with my children are the valuable lessons on sibling rivalry, love & acceptance, curiosity, jealousy, self-identity, community, new baby, and more. 
As someone who believes in teaching children to read with trade books (real literature) rather than basal readers (stories written to teach reading), I found that each of these series could be used for children practicing reading out loud or for those beginning to read independently. 

Ebb & Flo (ages 4-8).  This series, by Jane Simmons, is my favorite.  The focus is on the endearing friendship of Ebb, the dog, and Flo, a little girl.   Ebb & Flo and the Baby Seal is the story of Ebb finding and playing with a baby seal that has been separated from his mother.  After a delightful time playing on the beach, Ebb realizes that the baby doesn’t have a mother.  The dog is able to convince Flo to come to the beach where she notices the seal is alone.  Together, they help the seal find his mother.  This story has some fun onomatopoeia.  In Ebb & Flo and the New Friend, Ebb feels like his new friend is invading his spaces and taking away some of his attention from Flo.   When his friend is suddenly gone, Ebb realizes how much he misses him.  Soft-hued and luminous, the illustrations depict Ebb’s emotions and the enchanting setting.  Also, check out Ebb & Flo and the Greedy Gulls. 

Otis (ages 4-8).  Amanda Harvey has published a series of 3 books about a dog named Otis.  In Dog Days, Otis feels jealous of a new kitten.  As a result, he runs away temporarily, only to find out he misses the kitten—even if he is a nuisance (similar to Ebb & Flow and the New Friend).  Dog Gone chronicles Otis’ visit to the kennel.  At first, he feels insecure and sad to be there.  Eventually, Otis learns to enjoy he stay.  My favorite book of the series though is Dog Eared.  The motif is one that nearly everyone can relate to.  Another dog tells Otis he has big ears, so he begins to fret over how to hide them.  He feels inadequate and ugly.  Otis learns that his ears are special, and his owner loves them (and him).  Most importantly, Otis learns to ignore the hurtful insults of others.

Slippers (ages 4-8).  The Slippers book series is genuinely adorable.  Andrew Clements writes from the point of view of a lovable and mischievous puppy.   Slippers at Home introduces a tender picture of life with his family:  mom, dad, little girl, and baby boy. Slippers likes to play in the laundry with the baby, chew on shoes and paper, beg for food while mom is cooking, and be a part of all the family’s activities.  While in Slippers at School, Slippers sneaks in Laura’s backpack and spends the day (unbeknownst to all but a few who catch a glimpse of his antics) entertaining himself at the school.  In Naptime for Slippers, the puppy has too much energy to sleep.  Instead, he collects items around the house that represent the various family members.   When it is time to take his walk, he is too tired to go out.  Also, check out Slippers Loves to Run.  The watercolor, cartoonish pictures in this series are vibrant and inviting.   Dog owners are sure to recognize their own puppy’s behaviors in Slippers. 

Harry (ages 4-8). As I read Harry the Dirty Dog again, I was absolutely delighted with the character and story.  It was written in the 1950’s, so the pictures are not as vibrant and flashy as many contemporary tales.  Nevertheless, the story and character are timeless and endearing.   I love how he hides the scrubbing brush at the beginning only to have to pull it out in the end to convince his owners of his identity.  Harry by the Sea has a similar plot:  Harry goes exploring, ends up inadvertently being in disguise, and by happy chance reveals himself in the nick of time.  Also check out No Roses for Harry and Harry and the Lady Next Door (An I Can Read Chapter Book). 

McDuff (ages 4-8).   Rosemary Wells has penned yet another loveable series (my favorite being Max and Ruby.)  This one is set in circa 1940’s America.  Though the setting is a contrast to modern times, the adventures of McDuff transcend time.  McDuff is a white, fluffy stray puppy.   In the first story, McDuff Moves In, he wanders around looking for a place to rest and for something to eat.  Eventually, he finds a home with a doting couple who serve him his favorite snack:  vanilla rice pudding with sliced sausages.   McDuff Comes Home is about his adventure after he chases a bunny and gets lost while McDuff and the Baby illustrates the transition the family goes through with the arrival of a new baby. The soft, realistic illustrations beautifully depict McDuff’s expressions and body language and his warm relationship with his family.  This series is appropriate for young readers to tackle independently, though there are some challenging words not found in the others.  There are several other titles in this series:  McDuff Goes to School, McDuff Saves the Day, McDuff Wild Romp, McDuff’s Christmas, and McDuff’s New Friend. 
Honorable Mentions:
Angus (ages 2-5).  This classic series about a black terrier, by Marjorie Flack, is a must read.  Be sure to check it out. 
Biscuit (ages 2-5).  Alyssa Satin Capucilli writes this series that is wonderful for preschool age children learning to read.  The pages only have a few simple words while the pictures are appealing.
Clifford (ages 0-5).  Norman Birdwell’s series about Clifford the big red dog is much beloved by young readers.  Check out this site with games and activities.
*I give an approximate age for books, but it is only a ballpark number, particularly for picture books.  I think all ages can enjoy them! 

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