a list of…five licking, lapping, wagging books about dogs

“Let’s Get a Pup!” said Kate, written and illustrated by Bob Graham

Kate, a short, red-haired atomic bomb, wants a puppy.  Her bed is lonesome now that Tiger the cat has passed on.  So, Mom and Dad and Kate head down to the Rescue Center to look for a small, cute, eager-beaver puppy.

There are loads of dogs at the shelter, fitting every possible description.  Even growlers and snarlers.  Even “dogs like walking nightmares.”  But finally, they spot…DAVE.

Dave the pup is a very excitable fellow.  He is small, cute, and brand-new.  He is everything they are looking for.  So, they take him.  However, on the way out, they pass by…ROSY.  Rosy is ample, pitiful, and old.  She can not run; in fact, she has trouble rising to her feet.  She is not at all what they are looking for.   Despite this, Rosy exudes sweetness, which makes it very, very hard to leave her behind; but one dog is, really, enough, so they wish Rosy well and go home with just Dave.

To see how long this arrangement lasts, you will have to read the book!  Hint:  Not Long.  In the end, everyone is blissfully happy with a little scooting-about dog, and a bulky, sleepy, comforting,dog.  Unless you are truly a dog-hater, you will feel your heart melt with happiness, too.  This is a sweet, funny story, featuring a nice, funky family, upbeat cartoon-style illustrations, and a very happy ending.

Our Dog, written and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

All of us who own dogs have stories about “our dog.”  Depending on its personality, these stories can get pretty dicey.  This sturdy toddler and his dear mother have one of those dogs.

It’s a large, happy, lovable, fellow with a friendly, waggily tail.  In just a few, brief pages, Oxenbury takes us on a walk with dog, boy, and mom, tickling our funny bones with the trials this dog inflicts on his owners.  For, he can’t resist swampy, smelly water.  And then, he can’t resist plump, fresh beds.  Ugh.

Yet, after all he is just plain irresistible, and rather than being cross, we end up sighing and laughing and shaking our heads at this gross, hairy mess-maker.   (Besides, he’s not just mucked up our quilts.)

This was one of our all-time-favorite books when my kids were preschoolers.   Somewhere along the line it’s gone missing from my shelves, so I can’t show you the illustrations today, as I’d like.   If you know Helen Oxenbury, you know she creates perfection in every one of her books for the very young.  If you don’t yet know her, and you have itsy bitsies at home, you ought to drag home from the library every book she’s done…which is a lot.  Oxenbury is the queen of toddler lit.

Madlenka’s Dog, written and illustrated by Peter Sis

Madlenka is a little girl, living in a great big city, who desperately wants a dog.  The answer from her parents is:  “No.”

However, Madlenka’s imagination easily tackles this setback, and in a twinkle, she’s walking her invisible dog around her fascinating, multicultural block.  Along the way she greets Gaston, the French baker, and neighbors from Peru and Germany, Japan and Scotland.  Each one offers their own spin on just what sort of dog pulls on Madlenka’s red leash.

Eventually, Madlenka meets up with her friend, Cleopatra.  Cleopatra is leading an invisible horse, and the two enjoy fantastical, make-believe games in the courtyard, voyaging with their airy pets to fairy tale lands, Ancient Egypt, and the blue, frozen Arctic, before Madlenka is summoned home for supper.  The most surprising, doggy,  turn-of-events occurs as Madlenka races back to her apartment. But you’ll have to read the book to discover what that is.

Peter Sis invents this stuff because his own imagination is so incredibly fertile!  Unusual perspectives, a mixture of cool black ink and warm soft colors, enticing flaps to peek inside of, clever maps and symbols to investigate — all these augment a cheerful story line anchored in creative play.   Great fun for preschoolers and up.

Muley-Ears, Nobody’s Dog, by Marguerite Henry, illustrated by Wesley Dennis

Muley-Ears is a big dog –” a strapping, deep-chested fellow with a coat of many colors –white and black and brown, with a patch on his shoulder as yellow as a banana.”  He lives on the sunny, sandy beaches of Jamaica, where he plays in the waves, chases fiddler crabs, and sleeps in the moonlight.

Tourists also flock to this beach, renting whitewashed bungalows for several weeks at a time, and because he has no owners, Muley-Ears has attached himself to one of these bungalows, adopting whichever family happens to be there.  This arrangement pleases everyone:  tourists who miss their pets enjoy this lovable, playful dog, and Muley-Ears’ longings for companionship and tasty tidbits are met.

One month, however, a scowling man moves into the cottage.  Dressed in a hot, uncomfortable suit, minus a family, without camera or even a snorkel, this silent man settles in.  Instead of enjoying Muley-Ears, he grumps at him, throws sticks at him, refuses to share even the tiniest crumb.  The tide finally turns, though, when hungry, mistreated Muley-Ears offers friendship so honestly, it turns this sourpuss into a happier, newly-generous person.

Marguerite Henry is the author of many much-loved horse stories, including Misty of Chincoteague.  In 1959, she teamed up with Wesley Dennis to create this warm, dear story for dog-lovers.  Dennis’ lovely pencil sketches, and vibrant paintings, bring Jamaica and this lovable dog to life.  A sweet favorite of ours.

Good Dog, Carl, illustrated, with just a few words!,  by Alexandra Day

It’s been over 25 years since Carl lumbered his way onto the scene, endearing himself to all who have met him and ensuring that many of us call every Rottweiler we see, Carl.

There are a number of Carl books, but the first one is, I think, the best.  “Look after the baby, Carl, I’ll be back shortly,” Mom says as she pulls on her stylish pink gloves and walks out the gate.  Obviously well-rehearsed, Carl and Baby waste no time in getting down to business.  Out of the crib goes Baby, and on to a jolly agenda including Bouncing on the Bed, Dressing Up, Sliding Down the Laundry Chute, Swimming in the Fish Tank, and of course Feasting.

Carl is a conscientious babysitter, so with the clock ticking, he begins the clean-up process, bathing, lapping, straightening, and pitching Baby back in the crib so that when Mom comes back, all is in apple-pie order and Carl gets the praise he well deserves.

Good Dog, Carl is simply magical.  Don’t miss it.

Here are Amazon links for all these tail-thumping titles:

“Let’s Get a Pup!” Said Kate

Our Dog (Out-and-About)

Madlenka’s Dog

Muley-Ears, Nobody’s Dog

Good Dog, Carl