Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Picture Book: The Doghouse (by Jan Thomas)

Summary of The Doghouse
Who is brave enough to go into THE DOGHOUSE?  A group of animals will soon be put to the test!  As the story opens, a cow, a pig, a duck, and a mouse are playing a game.  The ball bounces into the doghouse.  The foursome cowers at the bottom of the page with only the tops of their heads peeking out and showing terror in their eyes.  Who will go in?  Mouse replies:

Cow will!
Cow is BIG.
Cow is BRAVE.
Cow is STRONG.

Cow responds “Moo?”  Despite his apprehension, Cow goes into the doghouse…but he does not come out.  Following the same framework, this cumulative narrative builds up a playful scary scenario as each animal enters and does not return!  Mouse, now all alone outside the doghouse, asks, “Can’t you come out, Duck?”  A fearsome dog yells, “No! Because I AM HAVING DUCK FOR DINNER.”  Mouse panics!  Suddenly, the illustrations shift to reveal what is really going on inside the doghouse—a friendly dinner with all the animals. 

I LOVE narratives that follow a consistent framework, promoting opportunities for student participation and anticipation.  The Doghouse is an ideal example of this story type.  I fell in love with it on my first read through.  The author/illustrator Jan Thomas does a brilliant job with simple text and lively illustrations to build up suspense.  A brief summary cannot convey the charm and excitement because it needs to be experienced firsthand. The playful ironic ending is satisfying and thought provoking.  This story is one children will want to return to over and over again.   I highly recommend it for ages 2-8. 

Teaching Opportunities:
·         Onomatopoeia:  Younger children can identify the animal sounds in the book and share other ones they know.
·         Language:  Using the “Cow will” stanza structure (recorded above), children can create their own stanza with other animals or characters.  Use it as an opportunity to learn or reinforce parts of speech--nouns, verbs, and adjectives. 
·         Illustrations: Point out how the illustrator begins and concludes the story in the end pages.  Chat about why an author might begin there and how the pictures in those places add to the text narrative.  In addition, identify ways that the author/illustrator conveys the emotions (especially fear) in the story.
·         Word Meaning:  The dog states that he is “having DUCK for dinner.”  This phrase can mean he is eating duck/Duck or that he is having Duck over to share dinner with.  Brainstorm other common words and phrases that have multiple meanings that might be misunderstood.  
·         Irony:  I don’t think it is ever too young to discuss irony.  Most children recognize it, but do not necessarily have a word to describe it.  If you begin to casually identify it with your children/students, you will likely be amazed when they start using the word themselves!  Irony is the source of much of the humor children encounter in books and in TV/movies.  Point out irony in the the story.
·         Character Education:  Children often have lots of fears, especially of the unknown.  Talk about common fears, how the characters deal with their fears, and how people can cope and overcome their own. 

This post is linked up with Book Talk Tuesday at Lemme Library.   Click on the title to check out other fantastic books to share with your children or students. 


  1. Oh wow, I am enjoying your reviews! I particularly like your list of teaching opportunities - so wonderful!

  2. Thanks :) I was checking out your site last night which is amazing!

  3. We loved this book. Junior is autistic so we work A LOT on understanding facial expressions. He loves animals so this book is perfect for helping him with that. He didn't get the irony but I expected that. We checked it out of the library and so now we have to buy our own. :)

  4. A new Jan Thomas book is always a good thing. I agree with Myra about the depth of teaching opportunities in your post. Well done. Good luck with your classes!


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