Saturday, October 16, 2010

Best Dog Picture Books (Series) for Primary to Intermediate

I wanted to put the LaRue books in my Top 5 Dog Books (series).  This series by Mark Teague has some unique qualities though that deserves its own entry.  Also, since it is geared more from older students, I am including a few other dog series for that audience. 

Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School (ages 6-12).  While Ike LaRue is in obedience school, he sends letters to his owner, Mrs. LaRue.  Each letter has a two-page spread with a black & white picture and a color picture.  Students should be challenged to critically evaluate:  Which ones do you think really portray what is going on?  How do you know? The character of LaRue is complex.  While he is clearly imaginative and clever, he is also mischievous and melodramatic.  It makes for an interesting discussion on characterization and plot.  The most common activity promoted for this book is letter writing which I have posted links for below.  It may also stimulate a discussion on article writing.  Students may practice writing an article about a real or make-believe event.  Finally, students will find it amusing to imagine an obedience school for children.  They may draw pictures of what it looks like, write a story about it, or compose a letter home about their experience.  Motifs to explore are cleverness, creativity, imagination, honesty, and persuasion.

Lesson Plan Extension Ideas & Activities for Dear Mrs. LaRue

Detective LaRue: Letters from the Investigation (ages 6-12).  This book is my favorite of the series.  Left alone while his owner is on vacation, Ike LaRue is accused of being responsible for a duo of missing cats.  Everyone thinks the cats are innocent victims, but, in fact, they are responsible for a string of disappearing small birds and critters.  Only Ike (and the reader) knows the truth...or do they? The story is told through letters, newspaper articles, and pictures.  Many educators use this book to teach letter writing to younger children.  I like this book for older children, though, because of its more complex characters and plot as well as its use of irony and humor.  Finally, use this book as a spring board (or as part of a unit) on the study of the mystery genre.  Motifs to explore are cleverness, perseverance, creativity, imagination, equality, fairness, and justice.

Lesson Plan Extension Ideas & Activities for Detective LaRue
*  Discuss the three types of irony:  verbal, dramatic, and situational.  Then, together identify examples of irony using the letters, articles, and pictures. 
*  Discuss the difference between the black & white pictures and the color pictures.  What is there purpose?  What is learned about the character and the plot through them.
*  Discuss point of view.  Who is telling the story?  How reliable is the character?  Can we trust him?  How does the point of view impact the reading of the story?  How would this story be different if it were from the cats’ point of view or police’s? 
*  Write a letter on one of the scenes from another characters’ point of view.

Detective LaRue

Extension Activities:  Mystery Genre

LaRue for Mayor: Letters from the Campaign Trail (ages 6-12).  In this installment in the series, Ike LaRue is up to more mischief.  To clear his name (and help out all dogs), he runs for mayor.  It follows the style of the previous books and lends to similar discussions (irony, humor, fantasy vs. reality, personification, letter writing, and so forth).  There are lots of fun activities that students can do that are specific to this book, such as making campaign posters or holding mock elections.  Also, social studies connections can be made about elections and voting.  Motifs from this book are cooperation, teamwork, leadership, honest, community, good manners, and responsibility. 

Lesson Plan Extension Ideas & Activities for LaRue for Mayor

Honorable Mention

Marley (ages 5-10).   Using inspiration from his Marley & Me books, John Grogan has written two series of picture books on his energetic dog.  The first book I read was Bad Dog, Marley. I was put off with the constant “Bad Dog, Marley” repetition.  The end turned out happily though.  I was much more delighted with the other two stories: A Very Marley Christmas and Marley Goes to School.Marley’s character is a combination of a real dog and a fictional personified one.  There are times when he is just a normal puppy, like chasing a ball or cuddling up with his owners.  On the other hand, he is unrealistically portrayed (for humor and excitement) when he uses a copy machine or lets the mice out of their cages.  Thus, this series invites the discussion of fantasy vs. reality and the use of personification.  Also, check out Marley and the Kittens and the I Can Read Marley series.

An Odorous Mention
Walter, the Farting Dog.  I was shocked to see a series on a farting (a word I hate) dog.  On the other hand, I was curious about it.   I read two books in the series so far: Walter the Farting Dog: Banned from the Beach and Rough Weather Ahead for Walter the Farting Dog.  The stories are creative and, well, interesting (though I am not sure that is the right word—LOL). Some call it immature and vulgar while others find it humorous and entertaining.  Check it out to decide for yourself.  Other titles are: Walter the Farting Dog, Walter the Farting Dog Goes on Cruise, Walter the Farting Dog and the Windy Day, and Walter the Farting Dog: Trouble at the Yard Sale

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