Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

A story about trust: The Dog Who Lost His Bark

The Dog Who Lost His Bark, by Eoin Colfer/Illustrated by PJ Lynch, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536204421

Ages 7-11

A puppy is taken from his mother, purchased as a birthday gift for a cruel boy from his equally cruel parents. Abandoned at a dump, wrapped in linoleum tile, he is rescued, and chosen by another boy – a boy named Patrick. But Oz, as Patrick names the pup, is afraid of humans. He’s never met a kind one, and he doesn’t want to be hurt again. Patrick, ever patient, sits with Oz, talks to Oz, and waits for Oz to warm up to him. But Patrick’s life is about to undergo upheaval, too: his parents are splitting up… is it because his father is allergic to dogs? Patrick swears that he will make the painful sacrifice and send Oz back to the shelter if it means having his father back home.

The Dog Who Lost His Bark is a sensitive, sometimes painful, ultimately soothing story about trust, betrayal, and family. Eoin Colfer creates wonderfully memorable characters, both canine and human, and PJ Lynch’s black and white illustrations give them form. Oz’s playful innocence is so harshly broken by his first family that it becomes painful; Lynch’s illustrations give us a sweet dog that just wants to be loved, but is terrified of opening himself up to that possibility ever again. It’s all there, right on the cover image. Illustrations introducing us to Patrick, the boy who adopts Oz, give us a sensitive boy who wants to reach his pup.

The Dog Who Lost His Bark reads like classic kidlit. I’ll be recommending this one along with my EB White favorites and Kate DiCamillo’s books, for sure. Beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated, and an absolute must for your reading lists next year, educators. I’m putting this one on my Newbery watch list.

The Candlewick website offers a free, downloadable discussion guide.

Posted in Middle School, picture books, Preschool Reads

Just Like Brothers teaches valuable lessons

Just Like Brothers, by Elizabeth Baguley/Illustrated by Aurélie Blanz, (March 2018, Barefoot Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9781782853459

Recommended for ages 3-7

A young boy and a young wolf cub are each warned by their mothers. The boy’s mother warns of the wolves; the wolf’s mother, of men. The children listen, then go off and play, as children do. When each gets lost in the forest and come upon the other, their first reaction is fear; eventually, though, they discover that their similarities far outweigh their differences. And their mothers discover that they have a lot to learn from their children.

Told like a modern-day fable, Just Like Brothers teaches readers about the problems formed by prejudice and baseless judgement; it also teaches the value of empathy and trust. The innocence of children, both here and in real life, has no place for prejudice; it’s passed on at an early age. It’s a call to us as caregivers to be careful not to let our own fears make us irrational in what we teach our kids. It’s the start of a conversation, with lyrical descriptions like, “rough-hand and sharp stick” to describe humans, and “wag-tail and scamper-paw” to describe the playful cub. This makes for a good read-aloud and discussion about friendship and trust.