Friday, June 6, 2008

A Dog is a Kid's Best Friend

We are a cat family around the 'Pie household, but this has not stopped Pumpkinpie from being a serious dog lover. She drags around a kennel-worth of stuffed puppies, calling them her babies, gets the giggles around real dogs, pretends to be a dog, is learning about different breeds, and loves to hear a good doggy tale.

As much as I am not a dog lover and won't be getting a dog just to please her, I understand because I love cats the same way - I was aching for one as a young hcild, and delighted when my family broke down and took one in. Pumpkinpie, on the flip side, has been told to her apparent delight that she can have her own dog when she is grown. So meanwhile, those great dog stories will just have to suffice...

Here are a few for those who love dogs, whether or not they may even consider choosing one of their own as a pet.

Aggie and Ben, by Lori Ries, ill. Frank W. Dormer

Ben's dad had a surprise - Ben was going to get to choose a pet! he considers carefully the relative merits of various animals, and selects a dog her names Aggie. The second chapter of this sweet Beginning Reader shows him learning about being a dog from Aggie, and the last chapter has them fighting monsters at bedtime. It's sweet, but simple, perfect for the new reader or a shared read-aloud story.

"Let's Get a Pup!", said Kate, by Bob Graham

Kate wakes her parents one morning with this exclamation, and they skip breakfast in their hurry to get to the pound. They see lots of dogs there, but none are quite right until they see Dave. He's just what they are looking for. And then, on their way out, they see Rosie - Rosie, who is not young, or cute, or energetic, but gets to her feet stiffly, politely, and wins their hearts. They can't take all the dogs, they rationalize, and go home, where they sleep fitfully, until the next morning, when they skip breakfast again in their hurry to bring Rosie home with them and make their house feel complete. This book is simply great - cute, heartwarming, slightly undertold, and full of details that make the family real, like dad's stubble, mom's nose-ring, and the way they watch TV together with their feet on the dog.

The follow-up to this book, "The Trouble With Dogs..." Said Dad shows the family struggling to get hold of puppy Dave's wild behaviour until they run into a hard-core trainer who nearly breaks the pup's spirit - until Dave wins him over and they all agree to let him be as he is.

The Stray Dog, by Marc Simont

Told in few words and terrific, easy illustrations, this tale follows a family on picnic who encounter a stray. The two children play with and even name the stray dog they find in the park and want to take him home. They don't, but he is on the family's minds all week. While picknicking again the next Saturday, they see Willy, the stray, being chased by a dogcatcher. The children run after them and with some quick thinking, rescue him from the pound by claiming him for their own.

DogKu, by Andrew Clements, ill. Tim Bowers

Told in haiku and illustrations, this is the tale of a dog in search of a home. When a mother spies him outside of the door and lets him in, he immediately seems to become part of the family. He is given a name, meets the neighbouring dogs, runs errands and, of course, gets into trouble. But that evening, there is a family meeting, and a tense wait - ending in dad's return with all the essentials of doghood. Mooch is home at last.

Clifford, The Big Red Dog, by Norman Bridwell

This old classic was a favourite of mine as a kid, and the animated series has only served to make it more popular. It is, of course, about Emily Elizabeth's enormous canine companion and the joys of having him as a pet. The prequel, Clifford, the Small Red Puppy is also a hit with Pumpkinpie, explaining how he ended up so big and the family ended up on Birdwell Island. Though the TV show could make some people less open to these books and though they are in some ways dated, they are still a cute pair for sharing.

Pigeon Wants a Puppy, by Mo Willems

Poor pigeon. He didn't get the drive the bus, didn't get to stay up late, and had to share his hot dog. Will he manage to get his latest wish, a puppy? After all, he's wanted one forever, or at least since last Tuesday. He promises to take care of it, play tennis with it, give it plenty of water and sunshine... But when faced with an actual puppy? He's not so enamoured. Perhaps a walrus? Not quite as bratty or tantrum-y as his previous books, but just as fun for sharing with kids, this newest pigeon book is a sure-fire hit. I just bought it to take home for Pumpkinpie, actually. It's only fair - she's not getting a puppy, after all.

MacDuff Moves In, by Rosemary Wells, ill Susan Jeffers

In this first of the MacDuff series, the little white terrier arrives in the home of Fred and Lucy by pure happenstance, having fallen out of the back of a dogcatcher's truck late one miserable, rainy night. For the first time, he was welcomed rather than chased away, and he was fed and washed. The pair worry that they can't keep him, though, and are all set to return him to the pound, when they find themselves avoiding actually going there. Instead, they bring him home and settle in with him, taking his name from a tin of biscuits. In the books to follow, McDuff has various adventures, and the family even grows to include a new baby. (Perhaps McDuff could use one of these books for that occasion!) I love Jeffers' retro illustrations for these books, as well as Fred and Lucy's loving care.

Find these and other great animal tales at your local public library!

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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