TOP TEN BOOKS TO GET A NEW PAW-SPECTIVE BY MARGIE MYERS-CULVER AND VICTORIA J. COE
As a librarian and an author, the two of us have bonded over a mutual love of books. Or more accurately, a love of books and DOGS. And of course, dog books!
We’re both crazy for dog books — stories that make us laugh, tug at our heartstrings, or let us consider life from the other end of the leash. We could easily make an endless list of tail-wagging titles!
But in honor of National Pet Month this May, we decided to create a list of very particular dog books – those that help us better understand our canine companions.
These books – both fiction and non-fiction – show us how dogs experience everyday life. They are books that allow us to become more compassionate toward dogs, other animals, and the rest of the natural world.
We believe that reading books from or about a dog’s perspective can even help us be better friends. Because when we realize there are at least two sides to every story, we can be more open to others. We become better listeners. We are more curious to hear each other’s views.
No bones about it, dogs have so much to teach us. Check out one or all ten of these titles and get a new paw-spective!
If You Were a Dog: How Dogs Think, Feel, and Experience the World by Clare Hibbert
This user-friendly picture book allows the reader to imagine life as a dog – how you’d think, how you’d experience the world around you, and how you’d communicate. Each spread features adorable doggy photos, colorful text boxes, and Q & A bubbles that make learning about a dog’s point of view fun and accessible.
It’s a Dog’s Life: How Man’s Best Friend Sees, Hears, and Smells the World
by Susan E. Goodman with illustrations by David Slonim
Facts about the ins and outs of dogs’ history, how they see, hear, smell, taste or convey moods and messages are woven into the text in a confiding tone as if your true-blue canine companion has decided to let you in on the scoop of the century. Humorous undertones and comic images add tail-waggin’ goodness to the straightforward, no-nonsense delivery. At the end, five pages include a human viewpoint, an author’s note, and a bibliography of selected author favorite titles.
How to Be a Dog written and illustrated by Jo Williamson
This humorous “how to” teaches readers the finer points of doggy etiquette, such as greeting your human by knocking him over and slobbering him silly, and welcoming visitors with a nose to the crotch. It also offers great tips on training (manipulating) your human by pretending you haven’t been fed and/or by learning tricks! And most important of all is the assurance that it’s fun to be a dog, especially when you have a human best friend to love.
I’m My Own Dog written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein
This picture book starts with one confident canine who’s happily independent. Until a human happens along right when his itchy back is in desperate need of a scratch! Soon, the dog teaches this new human how to behave and (spoiler alert) he grows “attached to the little fella.” I’m My Own Dog is an engaging look at the dog’s side of the adoption story.
Ragweed’s Farm Dog Handbook written and illustrated by Anne Vittur Kennedy
With liberal doses of hilarity, a dog’s point of view is portrayed with absolute clarity by none other than master rule-bender Ragweed. As each animal on the farm is discussed along with their duties, dogs are encouraged not to partake in the same actions. On the other paw, Ragweed, constant seeker of biscuits, has learned (and earned) the results if proper decorum is not followed. The use of repetition invites readers and listeners to participate.
Spike: Ugliest Dog in the Universe written and illustrated by Debra Frasier
Can you imagine being entered in an Ugliest Dog in the Universe contest and winning? Spike suffers this humiliation as well as being tied to his porch and abandoned by his humans. Thankfully, the boy next door takes him in, but the boy’s mom believes Spike should be taken to the shelter. Spike’s voice gets to the heart of a dog’s place in our lives, especially the beauty of canine adoption.
Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know (Young Readers Edition) by Alexandra Horowitz
This book is the ultimate resource for middle grade readers on the science of dogs –what they know, how they think, and how they communicate. Each chapter opens with a loving anecdote about the author’s own dog and then discusses the science behind that particular behavior. Loaded with amazing scientific information, the book is also infused with Dr. Horowitz’s obvious passion and respect for our canine best friends.
My Dog!: A Kids’ Guide To Keeping A Happy & Healthy Pet
by Michael J. Rosen with veterinary consultant Dr. John Gordon, DVM
You will have to look hard and long to find a better book on everything about dogs. This guide offers easy-to-understand explanations on the topics All About Dogs, Training Center, Doggy Care (example chapter headings of Your Well-Socialized Dog, Exercise, Tricks, and Play, Chow Time for Chow Hounds, Your Clean, Well-Groomed, Well-Handled Dog, Your Safe and Healthy Dog) Field Guide, and Reference, as if in one-on-one conversations with the reader. There are Words for the WISE DOG in small circular asides, bulleted lists, Ask Your K-9 Coach (with spot-on questions and answers), framed column insets, and lots of realistic and comical illustrations. This is a must have for all library, classroom, and personal collections; it’s Margie’s new canine bible.
Ribsy by Beverly Cleary
The trusty sidekick of Henry Huggins, Ribsy is just the average well-adjusted pooch – until he gets his own book! We feel Ribsy’s torment over an annoying flea, we cheer his strategy for getting rid of Ramona, and we share his worry that his family will drive away without him in the brand-new station wagon. Suddenly, the average well-adjusted pooch is a real, three-dimensional character we love and appreciate for his unique perspective and endearing personality.
Spunky Tells All by Ann Cameron with illustrations by Caldecott Honor winner Lauren Castillo
Spunky’s life couldn’t be better living with the Bates family, especially his best friend, Huey. As Spunky explains his own outstanding attributes (which are not always understood), he forgives the humans for not speaking DOG, in exchange for a shared love. When a misunderstanding leads to the acquisition of a new family member, nothing in Spunky’s life is the same.
And because Margie insists that every “Top Ten” should include a bonus title…
Fenway and Hattie by Victoria J. Coe
This book reads with such an astute compassion for and comprehension about dogs, Victoria must be part canine. Fetch Man, Food Lady and Hattie, Fenway’s human family, move from the city to the suburbs. At their new home, the Dog Park (fenced-in backyard) is full of Evil Squirrels instead of dogs, the Eating Place floor is wickedly slippery, and worst of all, Hattie prefers playing with her new human companion. Fenway is baffled, but he is on the job to make things right – a true professional until the final page.
Victoria J. Coe is a voracious reader, writing teacher, and author of the middle grade novel Fenway and Hattie (Putnam/Penguin, February 2016). She lives with her family on the outskirts of Boston where she and her dog are always on the lookout for delivery trucks. And squirrels. Follow her on Twitter @victoriajcoe.
Margie Myers-Culver was born holding a book, following a way of life as a certified teacher librarian fostering life-long reading and an adept gathering and use of information for her students and staff. She currently resides in Missoula, Montana, but her heart still remains in her home state of Michigan where she lived for more than sixty years. She was happy to call Xena her chocolate Labrador retriever best friend for more than fifteen years. Follow her on Twitter @Loveofxena.