Our boy wanted a dog. He was four, and he had never asked for anything before. Asked what kind of a dog he wanted, he started off ‘mmm… with a red leash’. I asked hopefully, would just a leash do? “No, there must be a dog at the end of it too.” I floated the idea of fish as pets (he realized that fish don’t bite). Yes, I was mean. But I did get him doggie books.
He loved the Biscuit books by Alyssa Satin Cappuccilli, and the Henry & Mudge series. Both fall in the space between picture books and chapter books, are great for beginner readers, and have been reviewed earlier on Saffron Tree.
When he was around two, he enjoyed the Usborne Farmyard Tales – because they featured Rusty, the dog.
As I type, I am being handed “maps” for a treasure hunt, ‘Mop’s Treasure Hunt’ having been dug out a few minutes ago. Martine Schaap’s Mop is an adorable sheepdog.
Apart from these series, we have a few absolute favourite doggie books.
Officer Buckle and Gloria
By Peggy Rathmann
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
If your little one is a dog-lover, enjoys slapstick humor, or is in awe of men (and women) in uniform, then this book is guaranteed to work. I have one who fits into all of those categories, so this book by Peggy Rathmann of ‘Goodnight, Gorilla’ fame, is a favourite.
Featuring an officer who talks about safety to school-kids, and police dog Gloria, ‘Officer Buckle and Gloria’ was the 1996 Caldecott Medal winner. When I first leafed through it, I was left wondering - the illustrations are not quite in the same league as other Caldecott winners. It was only when I saw it through a child’s eye that I got it.
Hidden in between all the humor is a message on one-upmanship between friends, teamwork, communicating in a fun way, and safety. Most of all, ‘Officer Buckle and Gloria’ is an entertainer. The illustrations add a zing and work beautifully with the text.
- Gloria leaping up as if she’s been pricked when Officer Buckle warns the audience never to leave a thumbtack where someone might sit on it.
- When Officer Buckle warns that one must not go swimming during electrical storms, Gloria is in mid-air with hair standing on end
- The fan-mail that Officer Buckle receives with drawings of Gloria’s antics
- The numerous safety tips that Officer Buckle has thumbtacked – many funny, some useful, none fear-inducing. The worrywart at home spent hours poring over them.
At a time when my son thought reading wasn’t cool, what with peers saying “books are boring” or “I don’t like reading all that much”, this book came as a life-saver and turned things around.
Why Benny Barks
By David Milgrim
Random House Books
Apart from being a supplier of doggie books, I lose no opportunity in letting the little one spend time with other people’s dogs (yes, I can be magnanimous that way). He fell in love with one such dog when we were visiting. He followed it around everywhere, asked our hosts why he barked, what he was saying. I found the boy asking the dog ‘why are you just sitting there like that, are you happy?’ (the poor dog was curled up in a corner clearly looking for some peace)
Then, I got hold of ‘Why Benny Barks’.
He barks at the garden hose, he barks at the phone,
He even stands by himself and barks all alone!
Is he barking at nothing? Does he bark at the wall?
Is he talking to someone? Is it some kind of call?
With spare text that rhymes, the book doesn’t seek to find answers.
David Milgrim does something far more important – he acknowledges the question.
[Image source amazon.com]