Monday, October 17, 2011

Going to the Dogs

It used to be said in publishing circles that the way to ensure a book's success is to write about Lincoln, dogs, or doctors. Therefore, a book entitled Lincoln's Doctor's Dog would be a guaranteed bestseller. I don't know how true that is today, but I do know that books about our four-legged best friends are a sure hit for the learning-to-read crowd. Here are three beginning readers featuring dogs.

The text in this beginning reader, written and illustrated by Paul Meisel, might be simple, but the story is a lot of fun. A shaggy-haired mutt takes off running and a pack of dogs in all shapes, colors, and sizes, take chase. They romp over hill and dale, stopping to roll in mud, and then clean off in a river. Freshly washed, they begin to dig, uncovering a scary surprise that sends them off and running again. The illustrations show dogs in joyful abandon, enjoying the freedom of being off leash. Kids will have fun picking out their favorite breeds. I was happy to find a pug among the pack.

Dixie, an exuberant puppy, wants nothing more than to frolic with Emma, her young owner. That works out just fine until Emma lands the lead role in a school play production of the Wizard of Oz. Suddenly, Emma has no time for Dixie. She's too busy learning her lines. Told from the Dixie's POV, this beginning reader, written by Grace Gilman, demonstrates how feeling left out can cause a good dog to do bad things. Luckily all is resolved by opening night. The illustrations by Sarah McConnell are as energetic and playful as Dixie herself.

Losing one's pet can be devastating. I should know. As a child my  German shepherd went missing more than once. Each time the hollowness in my chest remained until he was brought safely back. Lori Ries captures the heartbreak in this latest installment of her Aggie and Ben series. Told in three short, easy-to-read chapters, the book begins with Ben and Aggie at the park playing a game of fetch. After one long throw Aggie takes off. And doesn't come back. Ben looks and looks for his pet, but eventually he must go home. With his parents' help, he makes and puts up posters. Yet Aggie remains lost and Ben spends an awful night alone, wondering what happened to her. The next day he encounters a blind man in the park, who encourages him to use all his senses to find his dog. Success! Frank W. Dormer's illustrations are inventive as always. A sure crowd pleaser.

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