Bow-Wow, Meow-Meow, or “Mom, Dad, Can We Get a. . . “
By Margaret Stawowy, The Children’s Book Review
Published: February 26, 2013
Cats and dogs make for kid-pleasing story characters. In picture books, children can easily identify with the dilemmas of furry felines and canines on the page—trying to stay out of (too much) trouble, getting along, winning the positive attention of a parent or human, and discovering the wide world around them. Even young toddlers without animals in the home often have a much-beloved stuffed kitty or puppy upon whom they can shower love and secrets. What fun to listen to stories about the adventures of toys or family pets!
For beginning readers, there is the additional joy of sounding out d-o-g and c-a-t. How convenient that three-letter nouns name our favorite furry friends. Books for older readers often center upon the unconditional love animal friends provide, as well as the responsibility of caring for another living being for the very first time. Children with a developing sense of personhood often choose books that broach topics that animal-centered books address: friendship, responsibility, loss, and resolution. Stories with animals instruct children about living honorably and resourcefully while learning to navigate their own lives.
12 Books Certain to Appeal to Cat and Dog Lovers:
By Inga Moore
Sid the cat lives on Aristotle Street, with six different owners and six different personas. Then one day, Sid catches a cold and the vet who sees him at six appointments blows his cover. Sid’s ‘families’ decide to put an end to his dining arrangements, but will they succeed? Let’s just say that you can never dictate rules to a cat, particularly Sid.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Aladdin | April 1, 1993
By Matthew Baek
What’s an affectionate family pet to do when the baby of the house oversteps his doggie boundaries? Tag loves Baby Elisa but her unbridled curiosity and affection vex him to the point of losing his cool. “GRRRR!” Fortunately, Mom and Dad step in and teach Elisa how to win the friendship of a dog with gentle handling and respect. Baek’s illustrations and text humorously compress a common, teachable moment in the life of a toddler and family canine—or, as the last illustration also suggests, feline.
Ages 3-5 | Publisher: Dial | May 1. 2008
By Eric Litwin
Hip cat Pete loves his brand new, white shoes, but alas, life is fraught with numerous stain-making mishaps. Does Pete cry about it? Goodness no! Written with a winning simplicity, Pete demonstrates easygoing acceptance in the face of adversity. Kids from 2 to 102 will enjoy a walk down the street with Pete.
Ages 2 -102 | Publisher: HarperCollins | March 2, 2010
This 1996 Caldecott Medal winner celebrates friendship and teamwork between a comic dog and her unsuspecting straight man. Officer Buckle’s yawn-inducing safety presentations get a zing when Gloria joins the act. Problem is, Officer Buckle feels upstaged when he discovers that Gloria is the reason for the show’s sudden popularity– until he learns that without teamwork, the show can’t go on.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Putnam Juvenile | September 28, 1995
This is the true story of an inseparable cat and dog, Bob Cat and Bobbi, who, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, turn up at a construction site, weary, dehydrated and malnourished. Like so many other pets, they were probably separated from their people, never to be re-united. But why is Bobbi so hyper-protective of Bob Cat? The shelter volunteers that care for them finally figure out the extent of their interdependence. I don’t want to ruin the story for you, but this is a case where truth is stranger than fiction. All ends happily when they are adopted and move to a ranch in Oregon.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Walker Children’s | August 5, 2008
By Kevin Henkes
Kitten mistakes the full moon for a saucer of milk–but how on earth, can an earthbound kitty ever get to it? Children will enjoy the antics of Kitten as she tries and fails to reach the Moon. Dejectedly, she returns to her own doorstep to find—a saucer of milk! Henkes won the 2005 Caldecott Medal for his expressive black, white, and gray renderings of a hungry, curious kitten on a full-moon night.
Ages 2-7 | Publisher: Greenwillow Books | March 2, 2004
By P.D. Eastman
I can still remember my excitement as a six-year-old reading Eastman’s Go, Dog, Go. Here was this debonair, car-racing dog that left Dick and Jane in the dust. Decades later (never mind how many), I’m still riding in Eastman’s car, checking out the many-colored dogs on all manner of vehicles, enjoying the wild hats on Dog’s ladyfriend and fully enjoying the ride. This is a fantastic book for kids just cracking the code of reading.
Ages 3-7 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | June 12, 1966
The prolific Cynthia Rylant has won the hearts of beginning readers by creating memorable characters and amusing storylines with a minimum of words. The Henry and Mudge series is so popular among kids, it has practically become a reading rite of passage. And what’s not to like in this story of a boy and his big, slobbery, lovable dog?
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Simon Spotlight | October1, 1996
By Cynthia Rylant; Illustrated by Arthur Howard
Lonely, elderly Mr. Putter needs a cat to keep him company, but the pet store only offers young, perky kittens. Feeling that an older cat is more his speed, Mr. Putter searches the animal shelter and finds Tabby, an aged cat and the perfect companion. This delightful series of books follows the gentle, though never insipid adventures of two good friends.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Sandpiper | March 30, 1994
By Eva Ibbotson
Poor little rich boy Hal can have anything he wants for his birthday, except what he really wants: a dog. To placate him, his parents rent Fleck for several days, thinking Hal will tire of the dog before long. Quite the contrary. When Fleck is taken away, the distraught Hal hatches a plan to steal away with his beloved dog, setting an exciting adventure into motion. All ends happily with the help of his new friend Pippa, loving grandparents, and a parent-child reconciliation. Ibbotson’s sparkling storytelling is always in evidence, and always a treat.
Age 8-12 | Publisher: Scholastic | March 1, 2012
By Lois Lowry; Illustrated by True Kelley
Two-time Newbery winner Lowry treats readers to a humorous story about a poetry-composing dog with an elegant tale—er, tail. Keeper recounts his birth in an alley behind Toujours Cuisine restaurant, his life on the street with a homeless man, his success as a top dog model, and his life as a family canine, before his reunion with beloved sister Wispy. Keeper’s character winningly combines doggie sophistication with salt-of-the-earth canine observations on human behavior. Even with sad elements (the homeless man dies), this narrative never strays (ahem!) from its entertaining and upbeat tenor.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Yearling | March 9, 1999
Mrs. Jane Tabby has no idea why her kittens were born with wings, but as soon as they are big enough, she urges them to fly away from their dangerous urban neighborhood where they are scorned for their differences. The kittens head to the countryside, but dangers await them there as well. Soon, the winged felines learn to survive, and before long, they come to the attention of young Hank and Susan who give the kittens love and acceptance. Schindler’s illustrations, paired with LeGuin’s incomparable writing create a story where the magical becomes absolutely believable.
Age 6-10 | Publisher: Scholastic | September 1, 1988