The Page Turner

"Dog Days" Books
for Children

Other Classic
Canine Adventures


"Dog Days" Books for Children

    by Pamela Little

The long, hot days of August are often called "dog days," but dog days can be any time you read about canine adventures. In the books listed below, you can meet Dogzilla, a wacky nemesis. Visit old friends such as the colorful pups of P.D. Eastman or Harry, the black and white mutt. Enjoy the antics of canine sleuths and a dog that talks. When you meet these dogs, you may never think of dog days in the same way!

All of the books listed below are appropriate for early elementary school children and can be read aloud or independently. Most of these books can also be used with middle school children to stimulate discussion and prompt writing; see Teaching with Picture Books in the Middle School under Professional Resources below for hints.

Dogzilla by Dav Pilkey
On the day of Mousopolis's first annual Barbecue Cookout, the irresistible aroma of barbecue sauce awakens the most frightening creature known to rodents—Dogzilla! He rises from the depths of the ancient volcano and terrorizes the residents with his bad breath. What will the inhabitants of Mousopolis do when invaded by Dogzilla, the larger-than-life (but harmless-looking) pooch? Can they reclaim their town before it's chewed to bits? One of Dav Pilkey's best-known and best-loved works, this book features colorful collages using photographs and paintings to illustrate this zany parody of Godzilla films. Other creature features written by Pilkey include Dog Breath! The Horrible Trouble with Hally Tosis and Kat Kong. Warning: These books are extremely goofy. Prepare to laugh out loud!

Let's Get a Pup! Said Kate by Bob Graham
After her cat Tiger dies, Kate needs another companion to love. Her parents are receptive to Kate's suggestion, "Let's get a pup!" The family heads to the local animal rescue center. At the shelter, they meet a variety of dogs, and they decide to take home a small, frisky puppy they call Dave. As they leave the shelter, the family spies an older, good-natured dog who makes such an impression that Kate and her family ultimately return to add Rosey to their family. This wonderful story encourages pet adoption: The family learns that older, less desirable dogs at the overcrowded shelter are worth saving, too. Line and wash illustrations depict a very contemporary and loving family with wit and compassion.

Martha Speaks by Susan Meddaugh
When Martha the dog eats alphabet soup, the letters go to her brain, not to her stomach. When the letters turn into words, Martha can speak, amazing her humans and her canine friends. After the novelty wears off, the family's patience is tried as Martha talks incessantly through their favorite television show, orders pizzas without permission, and blurts out the truth at the most inappropriate times. Dialogue balloons showing Martha's words and thoughts combine with bright watercolor and cartoon-like drawings to support this imaginative and witty tale. The comic adventures continue in Martha Calling, Martha Blah, and Martha Walks the Dog.

Harriet and the Roller Coaster by Nancy Carlson
For days George has been taunting Harriet about the roller coaster at the amusement park. "It's so big, you can't see the top. . . . It goes so fast, you might fall out. . . . You'll be scared to ride on it." George does everything he can to scare Harriet off the roller coaster, but things turn out differently from what anyone might imagine. Harriet and George are dogs. Carlson, the author of over 40 children's books, always uses animal characters, who aren't always perfect. They often have fears, anxieties, and disabilities. Through Carlson's books, kids learn to cope with challenges. Line and water color drawings create a cartoon-like quality in this delightful and important story. Readers can continue to enjoy other stories about Harriet and her friends in other books in this series.

Dr. Dog by Babette Cole
Poor Dr. Dog, the hapless Gumboyle family pet and doctor, is pulled away from a conference in Brazil to tend to his sick and rather disgusting owners. They smoke; they catch colds; they get nits in their hair and worms in their stomachs. There is interesting information here—why smoking makes us cough, why we shouldn't swap brushes and combs, why we should always wash our hands. And Cole, never one to shy away from bodily functions, is typically offbeat and funny in both her text and her illustrations. As she did in her previous book (Mummy Laid an Egg, 1993), she uses children's-style drawings to help the bug-eyed Dr. Dog explain each case.

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman
Officer Buckle is a safety-conscious policeman who spends his time devising tips for avoiding accidents. Unfortunately, the children are snoring through his lectures and ignoring his advice. Enter Gloria, the town's new police dog and Officer Buckle's new partner. She accompanies him when he gives his lecture. Buckle is surprised to see the children so attentive, but each time he checks on Gloria, she is sitting at attention. Thanks to the humorous illustrations, readers know what Buckle does not: Gloria is acting out the various accidents behind his back. The vibrant palette of the cartoon art, as well as the amusing story, make this title an appealing read-aloud choice. Older children will enjoy poring over the many safety tips presented on the endpapers, all illustrated by Gloria's antics.

Henry and Mudge:
The First Book of Their Adventures
by Cynthia Rylant
Henry does not have any siblings and no other children live on his block, so he asks for a dog to keep him company. Initially a small puppy, Mudge grows swiftly into 180-pound dog. Unlike other fictional dogs, Mudge does not talk or save the world, he is simply a large dog, who is, like dogs everywhere, extremely dedicated to his companion. In this first title in an acclaimed easy-to-read series, Mudge and Henry share numerous adventures that are sure to engage young readers. Cynthia Rylant's lively dialogue and Sucie Stevenson's endearing pictures fill every page with humor and charm. Bright, simple line and color illustrations mirror the text and depict the appeal and personality of both boy and dog.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Ten-year-old Opal, lonely in the Florida town where she has just moved with her preacher father, instantly takes a shine to a scraggly stray dog she encounters in the local Winn-Dixie supermarket. The pooch, named for their meeting place, becomes a trusted companion with whom Opal can share her thoughts and fears, as well as her hurt, confused feelings about the mother who left the family when Opal was three. Winn-Dixie is soon helping Opal in other ways, too. The dog's "smile" and sweet temperament act as ice breakers that allow Opal to meet a whole new group of friends who become an unusual extended family.

Other Classic Canine Adventures

  • Angus and the Ducks by Majorie Flack
  • Pretzel by Margaret A. Rey
  • Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion
  • Go, Dog. Go! by P.D. Eastman

Professional Resources

The Read-Aloud Handbook (5th ed.) by Jim Trelease
Every child can become an avid reader, and this beloved guide shows how to make it happen. Jim Trelease explains:

  • How reading aloud awakens children's imaginations and improves their language skills
  • How to begin reading aloud and which books to choose
  • How to create reader-friendly homes, classrooms, and libraries

Trelease has made reading aloud a pleasure for millions of people. With this revised edition he offers a new generation of parents, teachers, grandparents, and siblings the chance to discover the rewards—and the importance—of reading aloud to children

Teaching with Picture Books in the Middle School by Iris McClellan Tiedt
Discover how picture books, a time-honored tool among elementary reading teachers, also can be used to engage 6-8th graders in meaningful learning activities. Picture books are rich with diverse subjects that offer engaging models for writing, such as fables and pour quoi tales, autobiographies, and poetry. Older students enjoy sharing picture books with younger children, and they can polish their oral language skills as they practice reading aloud, dramatizing, or storytelling as ways of engaging beginning readers. In this book, you will find out which picture books are appropriate for middle school students and can experiment with reproducible lesson plans and activities that foster reading and writing skills.


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