Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mutt Dog!, by Stephen Michael King

Mutt Dog!Mutt Dog!, by Stephen Michael King (2004, Harcourt, ISBN 0-15-205561-4)

“In the city lived a dog…who belonged to no one.”

The story Mutt Dog! begins with this most basic statement of character, setting, and conflict in one. Clearly the story is about a stray dog in the city, and the first few pages tell us how he gets by until one rainy day when he finds a shelter where “there were people who were cold and tired…like him.” One of the workers tries to put him out again because dogs aren’t allowed, but she takes pity on him instead and gives him a little food and a box to sleep in for the night before putting him out in the morning. Later that day, she finds him wandering the city streets again and brings him to her home in the country where her family cleans him up and tries to name him before finally settling on Mutt Dog. The end of the story echoes the beginning but ends up with Mutt Dog secure in knowing where he belongs.

The illustrations at the beginning of Mutt Dog! are done in muted watercolors well suited for the dreary street life of a stray, and they are warmer and brighter when he is with his new family. The lines are often sketchy and incomplete, but the image created is one that is detailed without strong definition. (His work reminds me somewhat of Quentin Blake’s, but his lines are much softer and his characters more naturally proportioned–except for their noses!) One of the most significant parts of the illustrations is the homeless people that populate many of the pages. Although they are mentioned only once, when he arrives at the shelter, you can see a variety of different people–young and old, neat and disheveled, families and people all alone–in the scenes around the city that can be identified as in the same desperate situation as the dog. For readers who understand what homelessness is for a person, this is very moving.

GirlChild’s Response: GirlChild, of course, loves dogs, and she responded appropriately to his plight, ending the story with an, “Awww!” when he got his family. She didn’t really seem to notice the people that weren’t directly referenced or involved with the dog, and that is probably developmentally appropriate for her. While I don’t want to give her something to worry about (the possibility of not having a home), I felt that it would be a good idea to point the people in the story out to her and remind her about how we bring food to a shelter like that one every week and that those people also many not have a place to stay at night. I didn’t push it, and she didn’t seem to quite register the enormity of that, but I think that this book is a gentle introduction to the topic that will make it more accessible and meaningful later. Eve Bunting’s book Fly Away Home is a more direct introduction for slightly older children. (UPDATE 8/20/14) Almost Home, by Joan Bauer, is another gentle-but-direct book for upper elementary and older children.

Additional titles:
You: A Story of Love and Friendship


Author’s Website

Related titles:

Fly Away Home

Product Details


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Themed Third Thursdays: Bath Time Edition

GirlChild wanted to know why one of the books we checked out from the library was called Tubby. When I told her it was about taking a bath, she wanted to know why. When I told her that BoyChild and other babies like to read about things that they already know about, like pacifiers and baths and eating, and she seemed satisfied with that answer. She never did explain to me why *she* likes some of these books so much!

Barnyard Bath! and Bath Time!, by Sandra Boynton (infant/toddler): I’ve not read either of these books, but I’m ordering Barnyard Bath! (the bath time companion to Barnyard Dance!) for BoyChild’s birthday…it’s to actually use in the bathtub, and it even comes with a washcloth with the cow on it! The Bath Time! one appears to feature Little Pookie and has a squeaker in it for little ones who like that sort of thing. 🙂

Tubby, by Leslie Patricelli (infant/toddler): The diapered hero of all the Leslie Patricelli books goes through the steps of “tubby time,” from getting naked to getting diapered again and all clean at the end. Little sneaky bits of humor are there (“We wash my hair.”–and it shows his mommy lathering up the single strand of hair on top of his head), and even preschoolers will get a kick out of the silly antics of the baby although they probably feel like they’re real big kids by comparison.

Bath Time, by Eileen Spinelli, illustrated by Janet Pedersen (preschool): This rhyming bath story is told in first person…by a little penguin getting ready for his bath only to find that there’s not enough room for him once all his toys are in! The illustrations are done in charcoal pencil, watercolor, and gouache, and they have the appearance and appeal of crayon drawings. Very cute.

Bernard’s Bath, by Joan Elizabeth Goodman, illustrated by Dominic Catalano (preschool/early elementary): Bernard (pre-Bernard’s Baby) just doesn’t want to take a bath. His mother, father, and grandmother all get in (literally) on showing him it’s not so bad!

Squeaky Clean, by Simon Puttock, illustrated by Mary McQuillan (preschool/early elementary): Three dirty piglets of various verbal skills find out what fun a bath can be when their mother adds bubbles, duckies, and splooshing to the cleanliness routine. In the end, these three reluctant porkers just can’t get enough bath time!

Andrew’s Bath, by David McPhail (preschool/early elementary): Andrew is very hard to please about his bath, so his parents finally give up and tell him to do it himself. As they listen from downstairs, things sound a little suspicious–and Andrew tells them a variety of animals are interfering with his bath–but Andrew comes out clean and happy! (A great elementary activity to go with this book might be to have students extend the story to tell what happens when his parents come upstairs to check on him and see the bathroom. Is there real evidence of the animals we saw? Are they in bed with him? Or was it all his imagination? How do they respond to what they find?)

(Our library has one with a different cover–just Andrew pitching a fit in the bathtub–that I prefer and appears to be the library binding version.)

Big Red Tub, by Julia Jarman, illustrated by Adrian Reynolds (preschool/early elementary): With Dad in charge (although he only appears on the first and last page), Stan and Stella have a riotous bath time with a new animal joining them on every page. Repetition of the refrain (“Stan and Stella in the bath–I splash! You splash! Splash! Splash! Splash!”) with the addition of each new animal to the chant creates anticipation and the ability of even pre-readers to join in on the reading fun.

The Dirtiest Hair in the World, by Bob McAllen, illustrated by Tom McClure (preschool/early elementary): A friend’s preschool daughter wanted to bathe immediately following her first reading of this book, and you can’t go wrong with that! Claire, after a long, long while of not wanting to wash her hair, finally agrees to get clean, and her parents find all manner of whatnot hiding in there while they get the job done. The perspective and style of the illustrations are unique…there’s a lot to be found in them (just like in Claire’s hair!).

Do you have any other favorite books about bath time? Leave a comment!

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

From little babies to independent readers, here’s a little bit of something for (almost) everyone (under age 8)!

We Give Books – Baby Max and Ruby: Love, by Rosemary Wells

Where Is Baby’s Valentine?: A Lift-the-Flap Book, by Karen Katz

Lilly’s Chocolate Heart, by Kevin Henkes

Froggy’s First Kiss, by Jonathan London, illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz

Happy Valentine’s Day, Mouse!, by Laura Numeroff, illustrated by Felicia Bond

How Do Dinosaurs Say I Love You?, by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague

Arthur’s Great Big Valentine, by Lillian Hoban

Amelia Bedelia’s First Valentine, by Harry Parish, illustrated by Lynne Avril
(Amelia Bedelia as a child, written by the nephew of Peggy Parish)

Horrible Harry and the Kickball Wedding, by Suzy Kline

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Pete’s a Pizza, by William Steig

Pete’s a Pizza, by William Steig (1998, Harpercollins, ISBN 0-06-205157-1)

I’ve seen this book pretty much every time we’ve visited the library (the cover is pretty attention-getting), but this is the first time we’ve picked it up because GirlChild usually picks her own (randomly off the shelf); I would like to make sure she reads some well-known, well-loved, award-winning authors as well, though!

I didn’t know what to expect from the story, so I was kind of pleasantly surprised at the cuteness of it. Pete is a little boy who is grumpy because it started raining just as he is getting ready to go outside to play ball with his friends. His dad cheers him up by pretending that Pete’s a pizza he’s making…kneading the dough, tossing it, adding the toppings, etc. After the “pizza” is all cooked (on the couch “oven”), Pete’s dad goes to “cut” it…and the pizza hops up and runs away giggling. In the end, the sun comes out so Pete can go play, and lots of loving fun has been had.

I was kind of thrown off by the text of this book. It’s written in all caps, and that was a little off to me. I guess it seems more like captions to the pictures than a story that way (in addition to the fact that the text is printed under a large illustration that takes up most of each page). However, once I got into it, I forgot about the strange typeface and paid more attention to the illustrations (which is what a child would be watching anyway). The illustrations are in classic Steig style (similar to what’s seen in Doctor De Soto), and they are bright and simple. The mood of the story–lighthearted and loving–is captured in the pictures moreso than in the text.

GirlChild’s Reactions: GirlChild enjoyed this book, but she loves playing pizza with Daddy more than reading it. 🙂 I’ve found GirlChild giggling on the kitchen table, grinning in the bathroom sink, and squealing about not going into “the real oven, Daddy, just the couch!” several times since we brought it home. It’s a perfect read for parents and their little pizzas.

Additional titles:

(Newbery Honor–1983)
(Caldecott Medal–1970)
Abel's Island (Newbery Award & Honor Books) (Newbery Honor–1977)

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We Give Books: Reading for Charity

We Give Books is a site for reading children’s books online for free, and they give back, too! This digital book collection features books published by Penguin and DK for which the authors have given permission to be shared in this digital format. For each book read by a registered reader (and it’s easy to sign up!), a book is donated to a literacy charity (from which you get to choose out of those currently participating). Books can be sorted and browsed in a variety of ways, including by age range and author name, and they can be searched by keyword as well. The books featured are a mixture of read-alouds and independent reading books for up to age 10. It’s easy, and the simple act of reading a book online can provide a book free of charge to a library or group in need.

GirlChild has chosen to hear these books so far, and she’s begging to read more!

(Click on the link beneath the image to go directly to the We Read Books copy of each title!)

We Give Books – Books.

We Give Books – Books.

We Give Books – Books.

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Longjohns, by Kit Allen

Longjohns (Board Books)
Longjohns, by Kit Allen (2003, Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 0-618-22996-5)

There’s not a ton to be said about this very short, very simple book, but what there is to be said needs to be said!

GirlChild grabbed this board book for BoyChild at random, and I’m so glad she did! It is apparently part of a seasons series by Kit Allen: Longjohns is for winter, and Galoshes, Swimsuit, and Sweater appear to be for spring, summer, and fall respectively. Each spread has a simple picture of the featured child (which I assume to be a boy based on his baldness and the swim trunks he’s sporting in the Swimsuit one, although the same basic character appears to be a girl in Galoshes and Sweater) on a relatively basic (but not completely plain) background that fills about 60% of the page and a broad, one-color sidebar with a single word (either a noun or a verb) that goes with the image. The pictures tell the story of a little boy getting ready to go out to play in the snow and coming back in to get warmed up and go to bed, and the simple illustrations manage to convey a lot more than they would appear to be able to do with a main character whose facial features consist of two black dots and a black line. If I was awesome enough, I would decorate my children’s room with this character because I really like the style of the illustrations. (Hmm, maybe I could. Almost. Although the longjohns boy isn’t here.) Additionally, the book is called *Longjohns*, and that’s just plain fun.

GirlChild and BoyChild’s Reactions: GirlChild thought it was pretty funny that longjohns are underwear. Although I haven’t had a chance to do it yet, this would be a great book to use to discuss how illustrations help tell a story and to initiate discussion about how she thinks he feels or what he’s thinking or whatever because none of that is actually stated in the book, but it’s pretty clear. It would also be a great book to use as a model for a basic story for her to “write” for herself (once she learns to draw clothes!); what could be easier than drawing herself getting ready and telling Mommy what word she wants on each page? She enjoyed the book (she enjoys most books), so it shouldn’t be hard to get her to agree to read it again and talk about it. She also, after hearing it twice, took a nap and woke up and “read” it all (correctly) to me without prompting…I think this kind of book will boost her confidence to start actually trying to read books and use picture clues to help figure out a story. BoyChild thought the book tasted good. (He also seemed excited when I opened it up to start reading (and I wisely left him strapped in his highchair to do it) and leaned forward to look at the pictures and didn’t fuss at all while I read it. Twice, because I accidentally skipped the first page (the longjohns one) the first time.)

UPDATE: Coolest thing ever! (Okay, not really, but it’s neat!) If you go here, you can actually click through all the pages of this book to see the illustrations! My favorite is “sip.”

Additional titles (all apparently out of print, but you can read them at the author’s website!):

Galoshes (Board Books) (I love the word “galoshes”!)

Swimsuit (Board Books)

Sweater (Board Books)

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