SO YOU WANT A PUPPY?
Written by Raven Howell
Illustrated by Ann Pilicer
32 Pages Age 3—8
Genre: Children’s Picture Book, Fiction
Themes: Raising Puppy, Rhyme,
Getting a new puppy can be lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. Especially when your dad brings home an ornery pup like Murray!
Learn the basics of pet care in this informative picture book from award-winning author, Raven Howell. (from back cover)
“Dad brings home a rescued dog,
A shaggy, waggy pet.
He looks a little scared and small,
I don’t quite know him yet.”
Why I like this book
When dad brings home a rescue dog, the three kids take to “Murray” quickly, but the boy becomes the dog’s companion. He is also the first-person narrator of this rhyming story. At first meet, the young boy is a tad scared but quickly gets over it when the dog approaches with a lick on the nose. We get to peek in on this family as they become acquainted with Murray; and Murray with them. The boy shows Murray the glowing moon, telling him it means it’s time to sleep. Then he scratches his pup’s head, which helps the dog nod off. Grandma visits and Murray excitedly squirms to her and leaps for her attention. Grandma reminds everyone that it is “Time to teach him “No” and “Don’t.” (Exclamation points after each command would have demonstrated Grandma’s insistence on obedience training), or at least her insistence that basic commands are important.)
The story is mostly snippets of Murray and the boy getting to know each other and learning what is expected. Young children will understand this and love the dog’s exuberance. Neither Murray nor the boy takes any formal training, yet he does a good job teaching his dog what needs known. Despite writing on the back cover that readers “will learn the basics” of per care, what you really get is a front row seat where you can watch Murray and his boy grow and learn.
Murray, being a playful pup, makes introductions easy for this family, though this is often not the case. It is obvious how much the boy immediately likes Murray and how quickly they become inseparable. In a family with three kids, two near the same age and a toddler, we learn nothing about sharing Murray. Most incidents are from the narrator’s point of view, so if he doesn’t see something happen, we won’t either. Taking Murray for a walk starts out like most new activities: the dog tests his person to see how much he can get away with. In this case, how much will the boy tolerate Murray’s dragging, and pulling before correcting the pup? Soon enough, the boy is in control—but how did this happen? What did the boy do to control the leash and Murray? Here’s the verse, best read aloud!
Mom says, “Murray needs a walk!”
And so it comes to be . . .
Until I show that I am leading,
Murray’s walking me!
Overall, So You Want a Puppy, will entertain young children. Written in rhyme—a difficult task to create correctly—is good, but the rhyming seems more important than the story. In the above quatrain everything rhymes, the meter is good, and it is lyrical. Kids may not learn how to do the care, but they will know it is needed. Older kids can find specific care guidelines on the Internet or, wait for it . . . the library. Younger children just want the great sounding verses and story. Something they can learn and read along with mom or on their own. Laughs are plentiful for young children.
I don’t want to forget the art, which is very good at demonstrating movement, such as a wagging tail or chasing squirrels. The characters are colorful with consistent shades from spread to spread. Murray’s eyes sparkle with inquisitiveness. You will want a Murray. He is cute, fun, seems to know how to smile, and will melt the heart of every dog lover who picks up this book. Your child will want to rush out and get the plushy Murray, but sadly, there is no plushy Murray.
If you are looking for a book to teach your children how to train the new dog, this is not for you. If you are looking for an enjoyable story your children will want read night after night, with a few instances of direct commands, including how a dog should react, then So You Want a Puppy will happily drag you home.
But . . . Something has been bothering my computer about this book: a single, simple question mark. It looks lost. It looks to be wondering, “What am I doing in the title.” “So you want a puppy” is a statement not a question. Be proud of your title. If it doesn’t need a question mark, don’t use one. If it does require a question mark (exclamation point, or other end statement), add it. Be brave and be grammatically correct. No, wait, that should read punctually; be punctually correct. (There is so much to know.)
I like a good funny line. The boy loves his dog saying, his heart has gotten bigger, much like the Grinch, and he would like another pet. A pet that can entertain Murray would be great. (He does not say any of this, but it is in that grown heart.) The scene perfectly ends this story with a nice little chuckle.
I also like the spread where the author breaks the fourth wall and talks directly to readers. His question will get kids thinking.
Pet Tips gives kids six tips ranging from how to greet a pet (author calls it “show the puppy you are friendly by . . . (you’ll need to guess). Other tips are about veterinarian care, food, exercise (for the puppy), bathing, and safety (leash, microchip, and a dog tag on the collar). There are actually a few additional tips, which include giving the dog lots of love, good play, and a great name. The final tip suggests contacting the Humane Society when you decide to get a dog. Rescue dogs (and cats, pigs, ferrets, and goats) are the best pets in the world. The Humane Society can help you find a reputable rescue organization.
Available at Amazon
SO YOU WANT A PUPPY?. Text Copyright © 2019 by Raven Howell. Illustrations copyright © 2019 by Ann Pilicer. Published by Handersen Publishing, Lincoln. NB
Copyright © 2020 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews. All Rights Reserved
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Nice review. You’ve identified a trap that many PB writers fall into: letting the rhyme drive the story, instead of the way around. But in this case, it sounds like it’s not a fatal flaw.
It does happen from time to time. I mention it, really, for others thinking to writing in rhyme. I hope they will think more about it or find a reputable website to learn what they need to know. Or school. Because the word rhymes is not even the start of good poetry. (So I was taught.) Thank you for leaving your comment
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When Mom rescued me she didn’t even read a book. She took me to obedience school so fast, she didn’t have time to read! This book sounds like it would be great for new pet adopters, but they’d need a more detailed nonfiction book to partner with it. AND obedience school!
Love and licks,
You are right on every count. I wish I had taken my head-strong rescue straight to obedience classes like you two did. But its gonna happen. One more outburst, one more nasty teeth-baring growl, one more time hearing me but looking away and not moving . . . and I’m gonna snatch his cute little rump off my chair (I must now share) and take him straight to the nearest class. I might even go myself–to make sure he is listening.