Thursday, January 01, 2004
Cuddle up with a kid's best friend By Judy BelangerMy husband and I have had our share of dogs over the years. Our last, Buster, was a mixture of collie and shepherd. He was a mutt our daughter brought home one day after I had already said there would be no more dogs-a puppy with huge paws. I knew either I would be angry with my family or they would be angry with me. The family won. A month later, our daughter left for college. I didn't stay angry for very long and loved the 14 years we had with Buster. There will be no more dogs now, but I enjoy fond memories as I read dog stories and books with dogs as the main characters. I recently heard that the most popular name for a dog is Max, which is certainly reflected in the stories I saw. (I apologize to cat lovers. I will be watching for feline books for a future column.)
GASPARD AND LISA'S RAINY DAY and LISA'S BABY SISTER, by Anne Gutman, illustrated by Georg Hallensleben, Knopf, $9.95; ages 3-7.
Gaspard and Lisa are young dogs and best friends who have a series of adventures that mirror the experiences young readers have every day. In Rainy Day, they spend their vacation with Lisa's grandma where they discover it can be hard to find something to do on a rainy day that doesn't cause a mess or disturb everyone. In Baby Sister, Lisa's mom is expecting a new arrival. She doesn't have the energy to do things with Lisa, which makes Lisa unhappy about the prospect of having a new sibling. Finally the big day arrives, and baby Lila is born. At first Lisa is jealous, but her feelings quickly change when she shows off her new sister to her friends. Other adventures in the Gaspard and Lisa series include a visit to the hospital and an airplane ride—experiences that children share and might find it easier to understand when seen through in the lives of the animal characters. BAD DOG, MAX!, by Marina Windsor, illustrated by Steve Haskamp, Chronicle Books, $15.99; ages 3-7.
Puppies often get themselves into a lot of trouble. Whether it's stray socks, backyard holes or food off the table, the word “no” has to be learned. Max is just like other puppies as she learns proper behaviors. The veterinarian says maybe the dog has a lot of extra energy and suggests walks or playing in the yard would be beneficial. Dogs, as well as children, learn the word no in much the same way. Children will learn from this book that even though they often hear “no,” the word is said for a reason and they are still loved.
CHIP WANTS A DOG, by William Wegman, Hyperion, $16.99; ages 4-8.
It's the story many parents hear: their child wants a dog, and he or she promises to feed it, walk it, train it and be responsible for it. Sure. In this book, Chip is a dog dressed in a boy's clothes who wants the pet and makes the promises. Ultimately, Chip realizes he doesn't need a dog because he is one. “He took himself for a walk, taught himself new tricks, and gave himself a bone.” Wegman's pictures of his Weimaraners have appeared on calendars, books, commercials, TV shows and in exhibits worldwide. The dogs also appear in the stories of Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.
MAX GOES TO THE MOON: A SCIENCE ADVENTURE WITH MAX THE DOG, by Jeffrey Bennett, illustrated by Alan Okamoto, Big Kid Science, $16.95; ages 4-12.
I remember reading science books that contained information predicting a day when man would go to the moon. After Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew lived that dream in 1969, I removed some of those same books from my school library. In this book, Max the dog and his human friend, Tori, accompany another crew on a mission to the moon. After their return to Earth, a colony for scientific study is established on the moon. Years from now, another school librarian may find herself removing these books from the shelf because they no longer speculate about a future yet to come.
Besides the story, the pages contain boxes of information about the solar system and space travel and answers the questions kids always ask. Bennett, an astrophysicist and former NASA scientist, uses his knowledge and experience to present factual information in a way that is easy for children to understand and challenges them to continue exploring the subject. The book can be read at the company's Web site, www.BigKidScience.com. At the site, be sure to investigate the other science activities. I am sure many children, especially aspiring astronauts, will want their own copy of the book, the first from Big Kid Science. I hope the company doesn't keep everyone waiting too long for the next adventure.
HENRY AND MUDGE AND THE WILD GOOSE CHASE, by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Carolyn Bracken in the style of Sucie Stevenson, Simon & Schuster, $14.95; ages 5-7.
Mom decides one morning that she would like some farm-fresh eggs, fresh-picked blueberries and fresh corn. Mom, Dad, Henry and their dog, Mudge, take off for a day in the country. While Mom and Dad are making their purchases, Henry and Mudge are off exploring. They enjoy their adventure visiting with all the farm animals until they meet up with a goose that chases them back to the farmhouse. Mudge gets in the last word when he barks at the goose and chases it away.
Henry and his big dog Mudge were first introduced in 1987. Since then, Rylant has written more than 20 books about their adventures. Her beginning chapter books are very popular with children in first to third grade and now include a few books in the Ready-to-Read category. This popular children's author writes books for a wide age range covering a variety of subjects that includes Caldecott honor books The Relatives Came and When I Was Young in the Mountains and Newbery winner Missing May.Judy Belanger is a retired elementary learning resource center teacher who lives with her husband in Addison. They have two grown children and four grandchildren. She continues to substitute in grades K-6 in the school where she taught.