Pick Of The Litter-Ten Perfect Picture Book Pooches by Hayley Barrett
My husband possesses many sterling qualities—his paella-making proficiency comes to mind—but he’s not the bookish sort. We don’t talk about books. I didn’t expect we ever would. Then something happened.
I mentioned I was compiling a list of dog-centered books for The Nerdy Book Club’s blog, and he instantly inquired, “Like Sounder?”
I responded with perfect aplomb. “Huh?”
He went on. “You know, Sounder, that book about the Southern family with the dog. They get bacon, and they never get to eat bacon, and the mother makes a cake—a Christmas cake—for the father because he’s in prison, and they haven’t seen him for a long time, and it’s a big deal, but the prison guard rips the cake up, supposedly to make sure there isn’t a knife or something in it, and the dog, I think his name is Sounder, dies under the porch in the end.”
Nerdy Readers, you could have knocked me over with a chew toy. He must have read Sounder decades ago, yet here he was, rattling off major plot points. That’s a dog book for you. They come and sit and stay in your heart. Forever.
Now here’s your promised pack of ten tail-wagging picture books. These canine characters are endearingly relatable—muddy and mischievous, plucky and pesky, lost and lonely— they long for the same friendship, understanding, and belonging that human readers long for too. They teach us how to make a friend, how to try and fail and try again, how to give love and, most importantly, how to accept love.
I’ll start with an old pal, Harry the Dirty Dog. Created by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham in 1956, Harry has spent decades dodging and then demanding bath-time, to the giggling delight of readers. There are several Harry books, so if this grubby pup appeals to you, be sure to seek out the others.
Willie, the debonair dachshund of Ezra Jack Keats’ Whistle For Willie, is an independent fellow. He’s content to explore the neighborhood on his own. But when his human counterpart figures out how to whistle, everything changes. With a new, shared language, Willie and Peter’s friendship blossoms. They team up and set out to seek adventure together.
The loving bond between Zara and her Moose in Maria Gianferrari and Patrice Barton’s The Hello, Goodbye Dog is so strong, it’s practically magnetic. Moose cannot bear to part from Zara, and will do anything to make “hello” happen again. At last, Zara figures out a playful, positive purpose for her outgoing pup.
Shelter-pup Latke joins his new family at Hanukkah. He means well, but eight nights of treats—sweet sufganifot, colorful presents, crunchy latkes, tempting dreidels, tasty applesauce, shiny gelt, and chewy candles, plus one more surprise—are more than one pup can resist. Will his new family help him learn the rules? Latke, The Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer and illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke is a delicious read!
Mogie was born to do great work. His littermates became loyal service dogs, brave search-and-rescue dogs, and showy show dogs. But not Mogie. Where does he belong? Kathi Appelt and Marc Rosenthal introduce us to a big-hearted pooch that makes the world better and brighter, one child at a time. Who wouldn’t love a dog like that?
A boy and his dad rescue a dog, but when they get home, the newest member of the family remains shy and fearful. When will Toby learn to trust them? Hazel Mitchell’s gentle, sympathetic Toby is about taking time to adjust to change and learning to live and love again.
What if what everything you’re supposed to be and everything you’re supposed to like—isn’t quite right for you? Gaston knows all about it! Author Kelly DiPucchio and illustrator Christian Robinson bring us the tale of two apparently out-of-place puppies that follow their hearts and end up exactly where they belong.
Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee is a romp that begs to be enjoyed again and again. Readers will happily chime in as two adorable kids implore their puppy to please behave. Hilarious hijinks ensue, to which the human characters respond with patience and affection. Kadir Nelson’s illustrations perfectly reflect the energy and enthusiasm of Please, Puppy, Please.
Hannah sees Sugar at the bus stop every day, and although the dog seems friendly, Hannah is afraid. But when poor Sugar gets lost, Hannah is moved with compassion and finds the courage to help. Hannah and Sugar, by author-illustrator Kate Berube, gently coaxes Hannah to move past trepidation toward trust, with the sweetest results.
Last but not least, Charles Of The Wild by John and Ann Hassett —an all-time Barrett family favorite. Charles is a well-bred, well-to-do, and very well-loved dog. Nevertheless, he yearns to flee the elegant confines of home, to howl at the moon and run with wolves. As Charles explores his wild side, he learns to love doughnuts and finds an understanding new friend.
There you have it—ten feisty, funny, four-legged friends to keep young readers turning pages.
As for Cujo, when they’re ready, he’ll be waiting.
Hayley Barrett is the author of three upcoming picture books, Babymoon from Candlewick Press and What Miss Mitchell Saw from S&S/Beach Lane, both spring 2019, and Girl Versus Squirrel from Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House, spring 2020. She lives outside of Boston with her husband John. Their two terrific kids have flown the coop.