Ever wonder why summertime is often referenced as, the “dog days” of summer? While it’s true that dogs will sprawl around in the heat, and perhaps that the hottest days may not be “fit for a dog,” the expression actually has astronomical roots: ancient Romans observed that Sirius, the “Dog Star,” aligned with the sun during summer’s hottest weeks, and theorized the star’s added heat caused our terrestrial discomfort. All this talk of dogs got us thinking about America’s most popular pet and inspired our August selection of great children’s books featuring canine companions.
For Infants and Toddlers
by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, illustrated by Kadir Nelson (Simon & Schuster $18.99) Age 2-5
Filmmaker Spike Lee and his producer wife Tonya Lewis Lee find exuberant parallels between toddlerhood and puppyhood in this story of two high-energy siblings that meet their match in an adventurous puppy who defies all their efforts to control him.
The book’s appealing illustrations convey movement with abrupt perspective changes, while the spare text evokes frenzied play and features repetitive phrases that help toddlers recognize words and build confidence to begin reading on their own.
This beautifully diverse picture book is ideal for both families and classroom story time.
For Preschool and Beyond
by Kevin O’Malley (Crown $17.99) Age 2-7
The little girl at the center of this vibrant picture book feels lucky when her parents tell her she can get a dog. But, which dog will be perfect for their family?! Wrapped up in this cute and heartwarming story are lessons about language, love, and the true nature of “perfection.”
Readers follow a playful romp through different characteristics—such as size, fur type and running speed—that showcases language superlatives (“big,” bigger,” “biggest”), and become acquainted with a variety of breeds illustrated by dozens of doggie faces.
In the end, as the little girl and her family visit the animal shelter, we learn the “perfect” dog is the one that chooses her.
by Lisa Graff, illustrated by Lauren Castillo (Clarion $16.99) Age 4-8
A friendly dog named Jasper appears here on almost every page as the faithful companion to the un-named little boy who is certain “it is not time for sleeping” as bedtime draws near. The story progresses through the little boy’s evening routine–dinnertime, bath-time, teeth-brushing and story time, with his resistance to bedtime remaining stronger than ever, (sound familiar?).
Author Lisa Graff knows that youngsters are rarely willing to slip into bed while the summer sky still has any sunlight left in it; by acknowledging that resistance, this engaging bedtime book is a wonderful tool to help parents win that nightly battle. The simple text has a soothing rhythm, while Castillo’s masterful ink and watercolor pictures fill the page with rich hues that darken as the story progresses, reinforcing the drowsy effect. Even grown-ups may have to stifle a yawn by the last page!