Thursday, March 1, 2012

Picture Book: A Dog is a Dog (by Stephen Shaskan)

Debut author Stephen Shaskan has created an instant classic with his debut picture book—A Dog is a Dog.  The snappy, rhyming text engages and delights:  

A dog is a dog,
whether it’s naughty…or nice.
Whether it suns on the beach,
or glides on the ice.
A dog is dog, if it’s skinny or fat.
A dog is a dog, unless it’s a…

The young reader is given the opportunity to predict what it could be.   Turning the page, it is revealed that the dog isn’t a dog at all.  It’s a cat in a dog costume.  The narrative follows the same pattern with a squid and a moose.  Finally, the story comes full circle back to a dog.

The masterfully created illustrations take the text to another level by both mimicking  and extending the words.  The text mixes qualities about the animals that are real (a dog being naughty) with the fantastic (the dog skating on ice).  In addition, it plays with the real.  Dogs can sun on the beach. (My dog loves to soak up the sunlight coming through the windows of my house.)  Instead of just showing a dog in a realistic pose, Shaskan depicts the dog in a whimsical way with sunglasses on, reclined in a kiddie pool.  In another instance, a fast squid (something that is realistic) is riding a jet ski (the fantastic).  He does a brilliant job mixing the real with the imaginary which young readers will find amusing and thought-provoking. 

I highly recommend A Dog is a Dog for ages 2-7.    It is a book you will want in your home library because it is sure to become an instant favorite! 

Teaching Opportunities:
  • Predicting Skills:  as the narrative transitions to a new animal, children can guess what it might be (it will rhyme with the previous line)
  • Rhyme:  identify rhyming words in the book and brainstorm others together (a good early reading skill)
  • Repetition:  repetition is great to encourage choral and early reading skills; groups can “read” along on cue while one on one a child can point to the words in the book as it is read to gain confidence and familiarity with sight words
  • Fantasy vs. Reality:  discuss the difference between fantasy and reality using the text and illustrations
  • Art:  write a factual statement about an animal and then draw a picture that illustrates it but in an imaginary way
  • Writing:  older children can use the model text as a pattern to continue the story with their own animal; younger children may be able to do this with some adult assistance
For another great book and ideas for building early literacy skills click on Cows Can't Jump.

This post is linked up with Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word. 

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