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It's a Dog's Life: Three New Dog Books to Stimulate Kids' Imaginations

Share When is a dog not just a dog? Find out in these three exciting new children's books! The make-believe play of a child magically transforms a golden retriever into a variety of animals. Animals in the paintings of a world-famous art museum secretly come to life once a year. Such stories are sure to entertain young readers while stimulating their imaginations.

A shaggy mutt is the hero in a read-aloud book written just for him. A young boy shares a magical playtime with a special pet. Dogs that escaped from their paintings turn a museum upside down.. Three new books offer a fresh look at a kid's best friend with lessons in art, creativity, the power of make-believe, and the ability to look at life from another perspective.

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Do dogs get bored? A dog can't just pick up a book when there's nothing else to do -- but a dog likes to listen! That's the premise behind Three More Stories You Can Read to Your Dog (Houghton Mifflin Company), by Sara Swan Miller. In this follow-up to Three Stories You Can Read to Your Dog, Miller offers a unique, dog's-eye view of the world. These stories are sure to cheer up any pet -- as long as someone remembers to provide plenty of petting, of course!

Written in the second person, each brief tale refers to another character simply called "your friend," apparently a human owner. In the first story, the canine protagonist's pleasure turns to dismay as he discovers that what he thought was his friend's invitation to go for a "walk" was actually an announcement of a trip to the "doc" -- the feared veterinarian:

"This is awful!" you said to yourself. "I am NOT staying HERE!"

You clawed and clawed at the door. You jumped and jumped at the window. You smeared nose juice on the glass. But none of it helped one bit.

Oh, no! Here came the vet!

In the other stories, the dog mistakes a turtle for a strange rock and is subjected to the cruelty of a bath to rid him of fleas when all he wanted was a good scratch from his friend.

Illustrator True Kelley's whimsical ink and watercolor pictures add greatly to the sense of fun. Miller's use of the dog's perspective will appeal to children, and her idea might be used as a creative writing starter. Children might rewrite stories from the point of view of a dog or another pet.


Even if an animal happens to be a golden retriever, that doesn't mean he can't also be a pony prancing about the yard, a mole burrowing beneath the couch cushions, or a billy goat chewing up the mail (again!). In With a Dog Like That, a Kid Like Me ... (Dial Books for Young Readers), author Michael J. Rosen has created a delightful tribute to the bond between a boy and his dog and to the magic that they share through imaginative play.

Book Cover Image As the unnamed boy rattles off the different incarnations that his pet can assume, the colorful grease pencil and watercolor pictures by Ted Rand nicely illustrate the transformation from dog to some other creature. For example, when the young narrator is bathing his dog, the golden retriever is shown first in the wash tub, then as blur of movement shaking the water from his fur, then as a seal balancing a ball on the end of its nose. At the end of the book, Rosen affirms the power of make-believe: "And so, with a dog like that, a kid like me ... can be anything I truly want to be."

With a Dog Like That, a Kid Like Me ... may be read aloud to very young children or enjoyed by beginning readers.

Author Michael J. Rosen has written, edited, or illustrated more than 30 books for adults and children, including several that draw on his love of animals, particularly dogs. Illustrator Ted Rand has lent his talents to numerous children's books. Together, they have created a charming book that celebrates both the enchantment of make-believe and the special relationship that exists between child and pet.


Now the dogs could get out.

Soldiers' dogs and children's dogs, royal dogs and beggars' dogs, smooth dogs and woolly dogs, polite dogs and rough dogs, dogs that belonged in houses and dogs that lived in streets, dogs that sat on knees and dogs that hunted. All the different dogs climbed out of their paintings.

          -- Meredith Hooper, Dogs' Night

One night every year, something magical takes place in London's National Gallery. All of the dogs in artwork displayed throughout the gallery climb down from their respective paintings and romp through the museum. At midnight, after an evening of racing through large rooms, running up and down staircases, and sliding around on marble floors, they return to their paintings and no one is the wiser -- until one year when things don't go quite right.

Book Cover Image The museum is hosting a big party on the same night as Dog's Night. The party delays the canines' exodus from their paintings. When the intrusive partygoers finally go home, they leave behind leftover food and "fizzy drinks," which the curious dogs devour. At midnight, somewhat full and groggy, four of the dogs climb into the wrong paintings!

The next day, an observant young girl notices the change. Museum personnel are stumped. Experts can find no answers. Every day, visitors arrive in droves to witness the mystery for themselves.

One year later, Dogs' Night comes round again. Again, the dogs descend from their paintings, romp, play, and chase one another. At midnight, the four dogs that had been unhappily and uncomfortably misplaced during the year return to the correct paintings. Of course, although "Experts came from around the world. Scholars wrote books. Television programs were made," no one ever discovers the secret.

Meredith Hooper's delightful text is straightforward and simple yet full of fun. She conspiratorially includes young readers in the dogs' secret. All the paintings shown hang at the National Gallery, and Hooper provides titles and artists' names for the four featured paintings.

Allan Curless, the original illustrator, died before the book was completed. Mark Burgess finished the illustrations, so closely matching Curless's style that most readers would be hard-pressed to identify which artist did which pictures.

Teachers may wish to read this book aloud, asking students questions about the various paintings depicted. Sharp-eyed youngsters may even be able to pick out, on their own, the pictures with the wrong dogs. Dogs' Night is a fun, slightly irreverent look at art that can serve as a pleasant introduction or accompaniment to more serious study of art.

The books highlighted this week are available in most bookstores. If you are unable to locate the book, ask your bookseller to order it for you or contact the publisher directly:

  • Three More Stories You Can Read to Your Dog, written by Sara Swan Miller and illustrated by True Kelly, is published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 222 Berkely Street, Boston, Massachusetts 02116.
  • With A Dog Like That, A Kid Like Me, [end ellipses] written by Michael J. Rosen and illustrated by Ted Rand, is published by Dial Books for Young Reader, a division of Penguin Putnam Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
  • Dogs' Night, written by Meredith Hooper and illustrated by Allan Curless and Mark Burgess, is published by The Millbrook Press, 2 Old New Millford Road, Brookfield, Connecticut 06804.

Lauren P. Gattilia
Education World®
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