Monday, June 6, 2016

If You Were a Dog (Jamie A. Swenson)

Title:  If You Were a Dog

Author:  Jamie A. Swenson

Illustrator:  Chris Raschka

Target Ages:  1-6

First Lines:  
“If you were a dog, would you be speedy quick, lickety-sloppidy, scavenge-the-garbage, Frisbee-catching, hot-dog-stealing, pillow-hogging, best-friend-ever sort of dog?  Would you howl at the moon?  ARRRROOOOOOOOOO!  Some dogs do."

Publisher Summary: 
“If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be?  Would you be a dog that goes ARRRROOOOOOO?  Or maybe you would be a sharp-toothed dinosaur that can CHOMP, STOMP, ROAR! Perhaps you might want to to be a hopping frog that goes BOING, BOING, RIBBET! But maybe you would want to be the best kind of animal of all.  Can you guess what that is?”

From Swenson’s creative language and recurring structure to Raschka’s vivid and colorful impressionist illustrations, If You Were a Dog is a perfect read a loud for story time.

Dogs, cats, fish, birds, bugs, frogs, and dinosaurs are depicted in various activities, opening children up to aspects of their habitats and habits.  In the “fish” section, one is hiding in the coral, another jumping in the waves, and still another is chasing a smaller fish while in the bird spread, one is eating berries, another is snatching up trout, and still another is gliding in the mountains.   Also, a variety of many of the general creatures is shown.  For instance, under “bugs,” there is a butterfly, a bee, a caterpillar, a cricket, and a water bug.  Children can build on their understanding of types within the animal kingdom. Adult readers have many opportunities for teachable moments on habitats, animal habits, and types.

Also, I love the lively onomatopoeia, such as “swish, swish, shish” and “crik, crik, crik.”  Children can be encouraged to predict the sounds and join in saying them.  The questions like “Would you sing the whole night through?” and “Would you splash in the surf? also invite listener interaction.

The conclusion is that the children are not dogs, cats, fish, and so forth.  However, they can make the noises of each one.  Ultimately, they are “the very best sort of thing to be.“

This imaginative romp into the animal world is sure to stimulate an interactive reading experience with your little ones.  I have no doubt it will be one they will clamor for over and over again.

Activities and Extension Ideas for Lesson Plans:
  • Imaginative Play:  Chose an animal.  Read the descriptions and act them out together.  Soar through the air like a bird, stomp like a dinosaur, or swim like a fish. 
  • Writing:  Pick a favorite animal not included.  Create together a layout for it using the model in the book with creative descriptive words.  Then, allow the child(ren) to illustrate it. 
  • Science:  Categorize each animal based on habitat.  Ask:  Which animals live in or near the water?  Which ones are pets?  Which animals live in the trees and air?  Which live outside in the grass and flowers?
  • Animal Sounds:  Practice identifying the sounds of animals, either from this book or others.  Say a sound.  Ask what animal makes it.  Then switch.  Have the child give you the sound and you answer what animal makes it. 


  1. This sounds like a fun book! I love the cover illustration.

  2. I love the language in this book--it looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing!


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