Dog Days of Summer Books

reading recommendations from our own Dr. Alice Mar

As I write this we are in the middle of the dog days of summer. (I just learned that saying comes from the Romans and refers to the brightness of Sirius (the Dog Star) during mid-July to mid-August. Apparently they though the star is why it was so hot during this time of year.) So I thought it might be fun to take a look at books that are sure to please kids who love dogs of every kind. 

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Rashcka is a wordless picture book that won the Caldecott medal in 2012. I have always been a little skeptical of wordless picture books because I’m a word person. But I clearly remember getting this one from the library and listening to my toddler tell the story over and over again in her own words as she looked at the pages. “Doggy sad. Doggy sad. Ohhhhh! Doggy happy.” A dog loses a beloved ball. And is sad. And then (spoiler alert) gets a new ball. The story of Daisy is sweet and simple and accompanied by bright primary color illustrations and will appeal to the very young. 

Go, Dog. Go! by P. D. Eastman is a classic that surely everyone knows. However, it would feel wrong to leave it off any list about dog books. Dogs do silly and crazy things and the repetitive text will delight kids. it’s a beloved classic for a reason. 

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann is another Caldecott winner that my kids adored when they were little. In fact, just the other day my 14 year old quoted from the book when he stood on a rolling chair to put up something in his room. Officer Buckle is a safety officer who goes to schools to teach kids about safety tips (like not standing on rolling chairs). His talks are dull and the kids sleep through them until one day his dog Gloria starts reenacting the tips behind his back. The kids love Gloria and Officer Buckle loves how the audiences seem to love him until he discovers that it’s all because of Gloria. The way that things are resolved between the two partners is a sweetly satisfying ending. 

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion is another classic for young readers. Harry is a white dog with black spots who hates take a bath. One day he gets so dirty that he looks like a black dog with white spots and his family doesn’t recognize him. There are several other books about Harry that are equally good. 

Dogs by Emily Gravett has super simple text as a narrator lists different kinds of dogs he loves. There is a fun twist at the end (the narrator ends up being a cat) but the real winner is the realistic pencil and watercolor illustrations. If you like this one, look for anything else by the author who specializes in beautiful and slightly quirky picture books. 

The Five-Dog Night by Eileen Christelow. Betty keeps visiting her neighbor to see if he needs more blankets at night. He replies only that he doesn’t because it is only a “one dog night” and then a “two-dog night”. Finally we discover that he is referring to the number of dogs sleeping with him. 

Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant is a wonderful series of early chapter books about a boy and his big dog, Mudge. The adventures they get into are ordinary and relatable and the very short chapters are the perfect length for young readers to try themselves. For those kids just learning to read another great doggy option is the Biscuit books by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. 

Dog Diaries: Secret Writings of the WOOF Society by Betsy Byars is a chapter book that tells the stories of twelve different dogs through history from their own perspectives. And for kids who prefer a different furry pet friend check out the Cat Diaries: Secret Writings of the MEOW Society. 

The Hank the Cowdog books by John R. Erickson are a series of funny simple mysteries that center on Hank, a cowdog on a ranch. They are quite funny, in part because Hank is obviously not as smart or capable as he thinks he is which will keep kids laughing. And the good news is that if your kids like Hank…there are 72 books in the series to keep them reading! 

Henry Huggins by Beverly Cleary. The main story in this first book from beloved author Cleary is that of Henry finding a stray dog that he names Ribsy and his efforts to keep the dog and then keep him out of trouble. Cleary went on to write many more Henry books that feature Ribsy as a supporting character but this first one is probably my favorite. Another not to be missed book in the series is Ribsy which is told from Ribsy’s perspective when he accidentally gets lost and has to find his way back to Henry. 

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is another beautiful book about a kid whose life is changed by a stray dog. In this one, a young girl, Opal Buloni, finds a dog at the local grocery store and brings her home. The dog then leads her to find other new friends in the town she has just moved to. If you’ve seen the movie, you should know that the book is more complex and quirkier and like most of DiCamillo’s books has a depth beyond many kid’s books.