by Christina Van Starkenburg
Source: Island Parent Magazine
Originally Published: Island Parent Magazine
As I write this, it is actually sunny outside. A quick glance at the forecast, however, reminds me that this clear sky won’t be around for much longer. As I’m sure you’ve realized, living here on the West Coast means you have to learn to live with a lot of rain.
Even though rain isn’t the worst weather ever—I have two young boys and they live for puddle-jumping—dancing in the rain is only fun for so long, and then everyone is soaked, cold and cranky. When that happens it’s always nice to have a backup plan, like fun books to read about cats and dogs.
For instance, you could cozy up with Great Dog by Davide Cali and illustrated by Miguel Tanco (Tundra, 2018). In this story, a young puppy and his father are walking through their home’s great hall and looking at all of the family portraits. When they stop at each one, the puppy asks his dad if he’ll be like Aunt Yuki who is an astronaut, or like “Uncle Angus, the pride of the police.”
His father assures him that he can do whatever he sets his mind to, and to remember that no matter what he chooses to be when he grows up, one thing is certain: he will be a great dog. As you are reading, make sure you lift up the gatefolds to see the real story behind all of the famous dogs in this young pup’s family. And get ready to find a surprise twist at the end. For ages 3 to 7.
If you’re more of a cat person and would rather not read about famous dogs, you might prefer Princess Puffybottom…and Darryl by Susin Nielsen and illustrated by Olivia Chin Mueller. In this delightful tale, Princess Puffybottom has the perfect life: good food, adoring subjects, and cozy places to sleep. Then one day, her subjects bring home Darryl, a horrible and disgusting dog. She knows the moment she sees him that he must go. However, it seems her subjects disagree. So Princess Puffybottom has to learn how to live with Darryl, and along the way she learns how to cope with big changes and a little bit about friendship—or at the very least, the benefits of having new worshippers.
The adorable illustrations help bring this hilarious tale to life, and if you look at the pictures closely, you’ll get to witness a second story taking place in the lives of Princess Puffybottoms’ human subjects. For ages 3 to 7.
In A Dog with Nice Ears by Lauren Child (Candlewick Press, 2017), Charlie and Lola talk about what kind of dog Lola would get if their parents let them get a dog, the most important trait being that the dog must have nice ears. After asking and asking, their parents cave in and agree to take Lola to the pet store one Saturday to pick up a rabbit. When Charlie points out that she doesn’t want a rabbit, Lola assures her big brother that she will pick up her dog from the pet store. For ages 3 to 7.
An important aspect of taking care of pets is bathing them. But, for some animals, like cats, it can be tricky to know how to do that. However, author Nicole Winstanley thought of that struggle and wrote a how-to book to help your child figure it out. In How to give Your Cat a Bath in Five Easy Steps, written by Winstanley and illustrated by John Martz (Tundra, 2019), a little girl tries to give her cat, Mr. Flea, a bath. Step one: fill the bath. Step two: put the cat in the bath. Step three: put shampoo on the cat. Step four: rinse the cat. Step five: dry the cat. Sounds easy, right? After a few false starts, she is ready to bathe Mr. Flea, but he is no longer in the bathroom. This hilarious how-to book—spoof on an instruction manual—is for ages 3 to 7.
If your child is ready for chapter books, they might enjoy reading Houndsley and Catina and Cousin Wagster by James Howe and illustrated by Marie-Louise Gay (Candlewick Press, 2018). Larger-than-life Cousin Wagster has come to visit Houndsley. However, Houndsley soon feels overshadowed and overlooked by his vivacious cousin who seems good at everything. He starts to worry that Catina likes Cousin Wagster more than she likes him. A tale about the ways friendships can change and grow, but how they also stay exactly the same. For ages 5 to 8.
The final book is Missing Mike by Shari Green (Pajama Press, 2018). This beautiful book of poetry reads like a novel. If you were to hear it read out loud you wouldn’t know that each chapter is an expertly crafted poem. And the poetry fits the mood of emotions of the story perfectly. In this tale 11-year-old Cara and her family have to flee from a forest fire. However, as soon as they are given the 10-minute warning to grab what they need and go, Cara’s beloved one-eyed dog Mike runs away and she isn’t able to find him before they have to flee. The story follows Cara as she vacillates between hope and despair and learns what home means: from a place to stay to hearing music in one’s heart. This is a beautiful story about love, friendship, and family. For ages 8 to 12.
Pets quickly become part of the family, whether they’re cats or dogs or rabbits. So this January, when you get tired of the rain, why not spend some time reading about the animals so many people love so much?
Christina Van Starkenburg is a freelance writer and mother of two young boys. You can read about their adventures at thebookandbaby.com.
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