I’m lucky that our trips to the library are usually family outings. That means one adult chases the kid and the other (me) gets to look through 40-60 books and find the ones worth checking out. Out of those, there are several fantastic ones that have stood out. This is the second post in a series highlighting those rockstars. I present to you: our favorite kids’ books about dogs.
Job Wanted by Teresa Bateman and illustrated by Chris Sheban.
This poor dog! All he wants is a new job, pulling his weight on a farm. But this farmer doesn’t think he needs a dog. Luckily, the dog has clearly read some solid job search advice and he’s ready to demonstrate exactly what he can contribute to the organization. The colors are sweet and soft, and it’s pleasant to read out loud. Not a rollicking book, but a quiet friendly one.
(Side note, though: in children’s books, why is “the farmer” always a man, and sometimes he’s married to “the farmer’s wife?” I’m pretty sure women on farms also do their share of farming… Just wondering!)
I’m My Own Dog by David Ezra Stein. This dog is nobody’s pet, thankyouverymuch. He even fetches his own slippers! But he’s not a mean guy, so when a poor sad human follows him home, he has to reorganize his life a little. Love the attitude on this canine, love the deadpan humor of his narration.
Big Dog and Little Dog by Dav Pilkey is one of the board books that Boy Detective still likes to read at age four. It’s a sweet, simple friendship story. (Buyer beware, there are more books in this series but I have not read any of them – and creators OFTEN produce one good book about characters and then half a dozen uninspired knockoffs. There is an edition that contains all the Big Dog and Little Dog stories, but please don’t buy that and then blame me if there’s only one gem and then you’re stuck reading the whole thing repeatedly.)
Mutt Dog! by Stephen Michael King. (He also wrote Henry and Amy from the books about friendship post.) Especially if you know anyone who has adopted a dog from a shelter or rescue, this is a great choice. The dozen or more names they try out for the dog crack me up. Radiator?! King’s work has a quiet sweetness that’s so calming.
Once I Ate a Pie by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan, and illustrated by Katy Schneider. I actually gave this to adult friends of ours before any of us had kids. It’s gorgeous. I’m hugely in favor of real poetry for children, given how much children’s literature is written in sing-songy rhyme schemes. Let’s mix it up a little, people.
Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee and illustrated by Kadir Nelson. (Yes, that Spike Lee.) Kadir Nelson’s art is amazing. You have to see it. But I guarantee that you cannot physically say the words “puppy” and “please” out loud as many times as they’re written in this book, so I recommend you get this one before your kids can read so they won’t notice you’re leaving out some of the repetitions!
In Officer Buckle and Gloria, author and artist Peggy Rathmann won my heart with the sheer expressiveness of Gloria, the police dog who finds her calling helping Officer Buckle deliver speeches about safety. (Rathmann’s name may be familiar from Good Night, Gorilla.)
You know that happy little dog that never gets in trouble no matter what it does, because it’s just so dang happy to be alive? Then you know the dog in Good Boy, Fergus! by David Shannon. If you have ever lived with a dog, the page where the man is calling Fergus will be especially funny.
Lily Takes a Walk by Satoshi Kitamura. Boy Detective LOVED this book so much. Lily’s dog Nicky is the perfect companion for an evening walk… kind of. If you’ve ever lived with a dog who “protects” you from all kinds of stuff, you’ll be especially tickled by this one.
Dogku by Andrew Clements, illustrated by Tim Bowers. I brought this book home with an agenda. I want to get my seven year old interested in writing haiku. He already loves books of poetry about dogs (despite not liking dogs that much), so I figured he’d be a sucker for this one. It’s only been a couple of days and I haven’t caught him writing any haiku yet, but he was absolutely spellbound while I was reading the book. It’s the classic “stray dog finds a home” tale, with a cute mutt drawn so well by Bowers, you almost want to pet him. Clements has a short, encouraging author’s note in the back explaining haiku for kids who want to try it out.
Eddie and Dog by Alison Brown. Boy meets dog, mom sends dog away, dog rides moped to get back to boy. You know, normal stuff like that. It’s a very simple story with a seriously zany series of “I’m back!” appearances by the dog – made funnier because the boy is so low-key about it. There’s some topiary at the end. (Not kidding.) The story is simple enough for bitty kids to enjoy, and a nice quick and pleasant read for older kiddos.
The last one here is for the wee babes. Dog by Clare Walters and Jane Kemp, illustrated by Linzi West. It’s so cheerful, it’s like a puppy licking your face with a tiny pink tongue. Board books can be hard to track down at libraries because they don’t get shelved in alpha order and they fall apart pretty quickly. So just buy it and donate it to your library if it’s not a hit with your little one.
And that’s the list of our favorite kids’ books about dogs!