In one sense, First Dog Fala is the ordinary story of the loving relationship between a dog and a human. However, the human in the story is President Franklin Roosevelt, who, at the time this book takes place, was facing extraordinary situations: re-election for an unprecedented third term, war in Japan and Europe and declining health. Throughout the story, the Scottie brings the president joy and moments of light and laughter, and the book does not shy away from mentioning that these were moments President Roosevelt sorely needed. Fala was clearly a small dog with a big of personality and the book describes him riding on President Roosevelt’s lap as he was wheeled throught the White House, escaping from the grounds and having a birthday party. My son and I had a laugh when the book described Fala taking the train with President Roosevelt– the Secret Service had to walk him at different stations, thereby giving obvious signals about the president’s location.
This book not only illustrates the meaningful friendship between a man and his dog (Fala is buried with President Roosevelt) but also provides a concise history lesson about important events of our collective past. Because of the complexities of some of the situations described, such as discussions about World War II and President Roosevelt’s decline and eventual death, this book may be better suited for older children. More here and here.
About Jennifer: Jennifer Gannett lives outside of New York City with her family. A long-time environmentalist, in her free time she enjoys cooking and eating mouthwatering vegan fare and advocating for animals in need.
Posted in Books
Tagged Dogs, Early Elementary, Elizab Van Steenwyk, First Dog Fala, Guest Post, Human-Canine Bond, Jennifer Gannett, Kids Books, Preschoolers, President Roosevelt, WWII
Susan Boase tells a touching story about a neglected dog who luckily finds himself a better home with a widower. “He didn’t start out lucky.” The black and white illustrations depict the dog’s life with a family that considered him an “afterthought” and “had no time for him.” The descriptions and drawings portray the dog’s loneliness and boredom as well as the casual neglect that might be found in a busy family that does not include their pet as a part of the family. They feed him plenty but offer little else- not a bath, not admittance into their home (he has a fenced yard and doghouse), not even a name other than Boy.
Fortunately, Mr. Miller, the next door neighbor, plays the unwitting hero by providing Boy the care and attention a dog needs, true companionship, a real home, and even a real name: Lucky Boy. The key to the relationship between Mr. Miller and Lucky Boy is the statement “You and I are lucky to have found each other, Boy!” The author cleverly shows that Mr. Miller gains as much as Lucky Boy when they become friends and that the family never realizes or appreciates what Lucky Boy offers.
For animal lovers and activists, the family’s neglect would raise hackles but I feel like the author was accurate in the descriptions. That family could easily describe the many families that go out to get a dog but don’t have time to walk him or take him anywhere. The tone the author takes is a gentle criticism of the busy lives of families which to me, makes it more effective than painting them with a black brush for their neglect.
About Huyen: Huyen MacMichael is a stay-at-home mom, artist, and art therapist. She feels lucky to have found the sweetest rescued blue tick coonhound at the local no-kill shelter. She is raising her daughter vegan with her husband Ryan of Vegblog.org. As a mom, she enjoys the opportunity to read large quantities of children’s books to her daughter. As an advocate for the creative process, she appreciates a well-told and well-illustrated story.
With a portion of its proceeds benefiting the Fund for Animals, it’s hard not to love The Adventures of Taxi Dog by Debra and Sal Barracca. After having hailed a real life cabbie who kept his canine companion in the front seat during his shifts, the Barraccas were inspired to write a charming, rhyming tale of a New York City taxi cab driver, Jim, who rescues a street dog he later names Maxi. Teaming up with talented artist Mark Buehner, the picture book highlights the ever important issue of animal homelessness and shows how dogs need good food, a warm home and plenty of TLC. Kids will also get a taste for what metropolitan-living is like with scenic depictions of NYC.
While there are two non-veggie elements to the book (the pair split a hot dog and meet circus entertainers that have a performing chimpanzee), parents can tailor the book to meet their ethics. Perhaps Jim and Maxi found a veggie hot dog option at the stand? Maybe the circus clowns employed a fake chimpanzee? This could develop into a nice discussion about how no animal should be forced into the entertainment industry. Although it must be said that Maxi is a natural comedian.
P.S. – This is also a Reading Rainbow-endorsed book!
About Carolyn: Carolyn M. Mullin is the founder of the National Animal Protection Museum (working title). She has worked extensively with youth as an education coordinator with Farm Sanctuary, an AmeriCorps reading tutor for K-3, and a camp counselor at a nature preserve for too many summers to count. Still a kid at heart, she can’t resist an enchanting children’s tale.
Kiddo and I both loved “Bolt,” though I do think she was a little young to understand it entirely. It starts sweetly when Penny rescues Bolt as a puppy. Viewers soon discover that Bolt and Penny are stars of an action TV series, but Bolt has no idea that it’s all make-believe. When he is separated from Penny, he must traverse the country to be reunited with his person, all the while coming to grips with the reality that he does not have super powers.
Kids will love the movie’s fast pace and the rapport among Bolt, a cat named Mittens, and a hamster named Rhino. And parents who are concerned with animal welfare will appreciate the film’s message that people need to be faithful to their animal companions for life.
Ages 5+. Rated PG.
Kiddo loves The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins and Eric Gurney, but I’m not so crazy about it.
Told from the dog’s point of view, the story has a somber but promising start: “I was the saddest dog you could ever see,/ Sad because no one wanted me./ The pet shop window was my jail./ The sign behind me said, ‘For Sale.'”
Unfortunately, the remainder of the story has myriad problems from an animal welfare perspective. First, the boy must purchase the dog’s freedom, essentially supporting the industry that has neglected and abused him. Second, the dog has to live outside in a doghouse instead of being welcomed into the family home. Plus, the book portrays the boy milking a cow — with no mention of what has happened to her calf.
The worst part, however, occurs when the boy teaches the dog to dig and the dog happily digs, digs, digs all over town. In precisely this moment of bliss, the boy scolds the dog and threatens to send him back to the pet store. The frightened dog responds by (literally) digging himself into a huge hole.
Thank goodness this story has a happy ending, in which the boy and the neighborhood dogs rescue the dog in the hole. Still, I have to admit that every time kiddo pulls out this book, I cringe.
Ages 4-8. For other reviews, visit Goodreads.
Posted in Books
Tagged Al Perkins, Animal Abuse, Cows, Dairy Industry, Digging-est Dog, Dogs, Early Elementary, Eric Gurney, Kids Books, Pet Stores, Preschoolers
Check out the stories, poems, and (most importantly) pictures of the dogs loved by Lucy Cousins, Barbara Westman, Lisa Campbell Ernst, Wendell Minor, Betsey Everitt, and other children’s book illustrators.
From the sweet to the sublime, these brief write-ups capture some of the intimate moments people share with their canine companions.
Biscuit, the little golden pup in Alyssa Satin Capucilli and Pat Schories‘s early reader book, wants all the same things as kids do when he’s getting ready for bed. He wants a snack, a drink, a kiss, a hug, one more story, the light on … and his young friend patiently provides them all. By the end of the night, he’s curled up next to her bed and the two are sharing the duvet.
Little kids will identify with Biscuit and will learn that companion animals need lots of love, care, and attention.