Circle Time 11/98

Circle Time Book Reviews
Doggone It!
Crime-fighting Canines and Other Top Dogs

Martha Walks the Dog (more Martha books) - Open Me... I'm a Dog!
Officer Buckle and Gloria - Dog Breath (more Dav Pilkey books)
Dog Heaven - Art Dog - The Adventures of Taxi Dog

We're a two-dog family. If it were up to the kids we'd have a dozen more, but one of the first things we did when these strays wandered onto our farm was take them to the vet and get them fixed. My kids still want grandpuppies, but for now we'll content ourselves with reading about dogs rather than raising them. Here are some of my dog lovers' favorite dog tales:
 

 
Amazon link Martha Walks the Dog
written and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh
original copyright 1998
recommended age level - preschool, 4-8
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0395904943 (hard cover)

Take one dog with attitude, add one can of alphabet soup, and you've got Martha, who not only talks, but isn't afraid to speak her mind. In this book, her fourth adventure so far, Martha learns the power that other people's (or animal's) words have on our self-image.

Every day, Martha walks herself around the neighborhood, and every day things are pretty much the same -- until Bad Dog Bob moves in. Bob spends his days lurking under the porch steps, then charging at anything that moves into his line of sight. Only two things keep him from ripping his neighbors to shreds -- his chain, which only reaches so far, and his owner, who always screams, "BAD DOG, BOB! BAD DOG!!"

Then someone else moves into the neighborhood. This animal can talk, too, but Martha soon realizes her new neighbor is only parroting her words back to her. She teaches the bird to say "Good dog! What a dog!" and "You must have fleas!"

When Martha decides one day to tell Bad Dog Bob what she really thinks of him, she's not counting on his chain being broken. Just when Martha is sure Bob is going to have her for a doggie treat, a voice from above says, "Good dog!" Suddenly, Bob smiles. Quick-thinking Martha teaches her parrot friend more words of praise, and Bad Dog Bob turns into Tail-wagging Bob.

My kids love the Martha books because they are so funny. I love them because they are great jumping off places for discussions of serious topics. This book led to a discussion of just what it means to call someone "Stupid Head." I can't say we've totally eliminated that insult or others like it from our house, but we're working on it.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (hard cover)

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

I also recommend these other Martha books:

Martha Speaks
ISBN: 0395633133 (library binding)
ISBN: 0395729521 (paperback)

After eating alphabet soup, Martha the dog can talk. She talks so much that her owners tell her to "shut up." Will she recover her pride (and her voice) in time to save her home from burglars?

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

Martha Calling
ISBN: 0395698251 (hard cover)
ISBN: 0395827418 (paperback)

Martha loves to talk, but there are three words she hates to hear: "No dogs allowed." How will she react when the prize she wins in a radio contest is a free weekend for four at a humans-only resort?

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

Martha Blah Blah
ISBN: 0395797551 (library binding)
ISBN: 0395901189 (paperback)

Oh, no! The soup company is cutting costs by leaving some of the letters out of their alphabet soup. Will Martha ever be able to speak again?

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

 
Amazon link Open Me... I'm a Dog!
written and illustrated by Art Spiegleman
original copyright 1997
recommended age level preschool, 4-8
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0060273208 - hard cover

It's a book! It's a dog! It's a book you can walk on a leash! It's a dog that will sit on your bookshelf! It's a fun dog book that you and your kids will love!

This clever book, which comes complete with nylon leash, wagging tail, and fuzzy endpapers, insists that it is a dog. He was a normal puppy until he got lost in the enchanted woods. He finds a home with kindly old witch (by witch standards she was nice, anyway), but when he used her best broom as a chew toy, she turns him into a German Shepherd.

That's right. A shepherd. On a mountain top in Germany. You were thinking of the other kind, weren't you? That's part of the fun of this book -- wonderful plays on words.

By the time the puppy finishes his story, he's begging the reader to believe that he is, really and truly, a dog. He may not be like other dogs, "but at least I don't have fleas and I never bite." And he'll never make puddles on your carpet if you let him be a part of your family. If only all dogs were like that!

My kids won't let me trade in our two real dogs for more like this one, but they love spending time with this dog, er, book. My seven year old can read it all by herself, and her almost five year old brother has memorized it so he can "read" it, too.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (hard cover)

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

 
Amazon link Officer Buckle and Gloria
written and illustrated by Peggy Rathmann
original copyright 1995
recommended age level - preschool, 4-8
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0399226168 - library binding

You probably know someone like Officer Buckle. He knows more about safety than anyone else in Napville, and he's more than willing to share his expertise. If only someone would listen. Instead, when Officer Buckle delivers his litany of safety tips at Napville schools, some of the kids fly paper airplanes in the auditorium. Some of the kids fall asleep. Nobody pays attention. Worst of all, they do the exact things he warned them against.

That all changes when Gloria, the new police dog, joins Officer Buckle for one of his safety lectures. As far as Officer Buckle knows, Gloria just sits next to him on stage and smiles. But the moment his back is turned, she's acting out each of his safety tips -- such as "NEVER leave a THUMBTACK where you might SIT on it!" Not only are the kids paying attention, they're laughing, cheering, and -- best of all -- putting into practice what they learn in the lecture! Suddenly every school in town wants a safety lecture.

Everything goes well until Officer Buckle catches a story about their lectures on the 10 o'clock news. There he is on TV, pronouncing safety tip ninety nine ("Don't go swimming during an electrical storm") with as much emphasis as he can muster, and there's Gloria, stealing the show. Not only does that incident lead to safety tip one hundred ("Never turn your back on a strange dog"), but it signals the end of Officer Buckle's association with Gloria.

Gloria does the next safety lecture on her own, and it's so boring even she falls asleep. Afterwards, the school has it's worst accident ever. Officer Buckle and Gloria realize they need each other to get their safety message across. As Officer Buckle says in safety tip one hundred and one, "Always work with a buddy."

The sight gags in Peggy Rathmann's illustrations helped earn this book a Caldecott Medal. They also contain a lot of practical safety information, which makes this book a great place to start for a discussion on safety, as well as for a discussion on teamwork and partnership.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (library binding)

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

 
Amazon link Dog Breath
written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey
original copyright 1994
recommended age level - preschool, 4-8
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0590474669 - library binding

If you like puns and sight gags, then you'll love Dav Pilkey's Dog Breath, subtitled The Horrible Trouble with Hally Tosis. This crime-fighting canine story is one pun after another. Those adults who don't appreciate a good (or a really bad) pun may groan, but kids will eat it up and ask for seconds.

Hally, the resident dog in the Tosis household, has breath so bad that when she opens her mouth, the leaves on the houseplants wither and die, the wallpaper curls up, and the picture of Mona Lisa holds her nose. Her breath is so bad that Mr. and Mrs. Tosis tell the kids the dog must go. The kids try everything to fix Hally's aroma -- the breath-taking view doesn't work, neither does the movie that promises to "take your breath away."

That night, two burglars, whose arrival has been heralded all through the illustrations, break into the Tosis house. The only thing that stops them from making off with all the family's stuff is, what else, a big, wet, sloppy, stinky slurp from Hally. Mr. and Mrs. Tosis can't kick a hero out of the house. Because, after all, life without Hally... no, I'm not going to spoil one of the best puns in the book for you; you'll just have to read it yourself.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (library binding)

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

I'm a huge Dav Pilkey fan, because I'm one of those adults who loves really rotten puns, especially if I make them myself. I highly recommend any Pilkey books, including the following ones featuring dogs in starring roles:

Dogzilla
ISBN: 0152239456 - paperback

Illustrated with collages of real animal photos and littered with puns, this book tells how the citizens of Mousopolis outsmarted the dreaded monster Dogzilla.

For younger dog lovers, check out Dav Pilkey's Big Dog and Little Dog series. Santa will be bringing these to my two year old this Christmas.

Big Dog and Little Dog
ISBN: 0152003606 - board book

Big Dog and Little Dog Going for a Walk
ISBN: 0152003525 - board book

Big Dog and Little Dog Getting in Trouble
ISBN: 015200355X - board book

Big Dog and Little Dog Wearing Sweaters
ISBN: 0152003614 - board book

 
Amazon link Dog Heaven
written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant
original copyright 1995
recommended age level - preschool, 4-8;
      anyone who has lost a pet
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0590417010 - library binding

If you've ever cried over the death of a pet, you need this book. Cynthia Rylant offers comfort for any grieving pet owner, no matter what his age.

"When dogs go to heaven, they don't need wings because God knows that dogs love running best." From that simple beginning, this book paints a picture of a place filled with canine joys. There are good-natured geese to bark at, angel children to play with, and dog biscuits to munch. Even strays have wonderful homes and lots of love in dog heaven.

It's been over twenty years since I lost my first and favorite dog, and I identified with this book as if the loss had been yesterday. I can't think of a better way to say farewell to a good and faithful friend than to share this book as a memorial.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (library binding)

This review is copyright © 1998 Kathy Bennett <kbennett@circletime.com>

 
Amazon link Art Dog
written and illustrated by Thacher Hurd
original copyright 1996
recommended age level: 4-8
Circle Time rating 5
ISBN: 0060244259- library binding
ISBN: 0060244240- paperback

Arthur Dog leads a quiet life as a security guard at the Dogopolis Museum of Art -- except on nights when the moon is full. On those nights, he takes his paints and brushes out into the back alleys of Dogopolis as Art Dog, creator of glorious graffitti murals. Then disaster strikes, as thieves break into the Museum and steal the fabulous Mona Woofa. Only Art Dog has a chance of solving this crime...

Children will love this simple story of a quiet dog who becomes a hero. The illustrations match the story perfectly, with bold strokes of vibrant colors just as Art Dog himself would have done them.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (library binding) (paperback)

This review is copyright © 1998 Chuck Bennett <childlaw@rollanet.org>

 
Amazon link The Adventures of Taxi Dog
written by Debra and Sal Barracca
illustrated by Mark Buehner
original copyright 1990
recommended age level: preschool
Circle Time rating 3
ISBN: 0803706723- library binding
ISBN: 0803706715- hard cover

"My name is Maxi,
    I ride in a taxi,
        Around New York City all day.
I sit next to Jim,
    (I belong to him),
        But it wasn't always this way."

This is our toddler's favorite book. Almost every night at bedtime she begs for, "Tacky Dog, Tacky Dog!" She enjoys the rhyming text, but it is the illustrations that really get her attention. Brightly colored and rich with details, the pictures tell the story of Maxi, a homeless dog who is adopted by a taxi driver in New York City. The scenery changes constantly as Maxi and Jim travel uptown, downtown, and out to the airport. Kids will have fun looking for the inconspicuous animals included on every page: a cat, and sometimes a rabbit, mouse, or squirrel.

Price and Ordering Info from Amazon.com (library binding) (hard cover)

This review is copyright © 1998 Chuck Bennett <childlaw@rollanet.org>


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