Book Bites: Cute Canines - Dogs in Picture Books

Change, albeit intense or imperceptible, is a part of the whole life deal. I think kids are in an interesting position, one full of challenges that promote a constant need for discussion. Thankfully, our bookshops are saturated with children’s titles promoting awareness, kindness, and global supplications for hope. Today, I want to visit a place in kids lit just as important but a little lighter. A place populated by…dogs.

You either love ‘em or want to wipe the floor with them… on behalf of your cat, but whatever your persuasion, there is no denying animals, pets and in particular, dogs score high on the love-o-meter with kids. Dogs, whether in anthropomorphic roles or as themselves, relay stories with warmth and humour that is especially appealing for youngsters because they often draw no differences between themselves and their pets. It’s important to take advantage of this golden period of acceptance through story-telling to better instil understanding and caring in kids. Plus, have a laugh along the way. So here are this month’s recommendations of doggie-orientated picture book tails tales. Cat lovers do not despair! Felines will get their fair-go in soon!

Boo Loves Books

Kaye Ballie and Tracie Grimwood have created a gentle, easy-to-share piece of picture book loveliness that had this reader swiping away tears at the end. Phoebe’s reading time anxieties mirror many her age. Her inability to understand letters and words as well as her classmates undermines her confidence and forces her to feign sickness for fear of getting things wrong. A class excursion to the local dog shelter to read to the inmates (aka homeless dogs) is at first confronting and daunting until Phoebe meets, Big Boo, a dog used to being left behind, too. Thoughtful narrative and tender illustrations spell out a story about facing ones fears and the qualities of unconditional friendship whilst promoting the joy of sharing stories, no matter how well you can read or not. A beautiful confidence booster for reluctant readers and those who love books above dogs like Boo and Phoebe.

Title: Boo Loves Books
Author: Kaye Ballie
Illustrator: Tracie Grimwood
Publisher: New Frontier Publishing, $24.99
Publication Date: May 2020
Format: Hardcover
For ages: 3 – 6
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: New Frontier Publishing, Boomerang Books, Booktopia

Heart and Soul

Rather than ending in the dogs’ home, this story begins there, with the rescue of Louis, a scruffy, lovable mutt, by the elderly Charlie Wintergreen. Charlie has a passion for blowing the horn – trumpet. Louis, grateful to be by Charlie’s side, always adds his own heart and soul to their musical sessions together, because as Charlie counsels his best friend, it’s the only way to play. But when Charlie and Louis are separated, Louis has to endure loss and loneliness all over again. Carol Ann Martin’s soothing narrative exudes warmth and sincerity, alongside Tull Suwannakit’s divine water colour and ink illustrations. Heart and Soul bolsters the benefits of tenacity, loyalty, friendship and animal companions through the magical connective qualities of music.

Title: Heart and Soul
Author: Carol Ann Martin
Illustrator: Tull Suwannakit
Publisher: Scholastic Press, $24.99 
Publication Date: February 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781742999920
For ages: 4+
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Booktopia, Dymocks

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

To balance happy beginnings, life sometimes involves sad endings. Devon Sillett and Nicky Johnston’s Saying Goodbye to Barkley suffuses perfect amounts of reality with emotion  as Super Olivia, aka the Amazing Barkley’s little girl and partner in mystery solving, learns to face life without her faithful sidekick. The loss of Barkley is crushing. Olivia is too sad to eat or sleep. The dog-shaped hole in her heart is a pain many young children will find familiar; the ache of loss, a feeling they will recognise but are still too young to overcome. Fortunately, Olivia has a brilliant idea that rescues not only her happiness but that of someone else’s who needs it just as much as she. This tale is as comforting as a puppy’s slurpy kiss. Touching narrative embraces Johnston’s trademark watercolour images like a warm hug providing little readers with much to search for and enjoy. Apart from the obvious themes of loss and grieving, this doggy infused tale encourages goodwill, acceptance and the promotion of helping others in need, namely homeless animals!

Title: Saying Goodbye to Barkley
Author: Devon Sillett
Illustrator: Nicky Johnston
Publisher: EK Books, $24.99 
Publication Date: March 2019
Format: Hardback (Paperback February 2020)
For ages: 4 – 8
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: EK Books, Boomerang Books, Booktopia

Good Rosie!

Mutual dog lovers and artists extraordinaires, Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss partnered for this gorgeous graphic picture book that is told in parts akin to chapters. Rosie, a small dog of fox terrier appearance, lives with Georgie, her able bodied human. Rosie is a good dog. Her life is ordered and satisfying but sometimes Rosie feels inexplicably lonely and yearns for more.  She loves George but their points of view don’t often match the way Rosie would like. Then one day on their walk together through the dog park, Rosie encounters two canine characters who challenge Rosie’s sense of comfort and self. This tale is a beautifully executed analogy of friendship and letting go of inhibitions told from a dog’s point of view, well three dogs if you include the comical additions of Fifi and Maurice. It illustrates that sometimes the best friendships take time to nurture and that daring to step out of your comfort zone and invite others into your life can be great fun. Friendship comes in all shapes and sizes, just like pooches! Good Rosie! encourages open-mindedness and open-heartedness and is perfect for dog lovers and those anxious about making friends.

Title: Good Rosie!
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Harry Bliss
Publisher: Walker Books, $24.99 
Publication Date: October 2019
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9781406383577
For ages: 4+
Type: Graphic Picture Book

Buy the Book: Walker Books Australia, Boomerang Books,  Booktopia

Dogography: The Amazing World of Letter Art Dogs

Once again the remarkable Maree Coote has cobbled together a picture book of extreme brilliance. Dogography is far from your average non-fiction ABC compilation. It isn’t your typical droll collection of dog breeds either. This is letter art; an inventive and ingenious look-and-find adventure that will fascinate young and old alike. Coote cleverly crafts each canine illustration using nothing but the letters of their breed hence the Maltese is a frothy little character pieced together with swirling Ms and Ls. Character faithful fonts create individual funk and style encouraging readers to analyse and assimilate art in the most unique way. Each breed shares snippets of themselves in accompanying speech bubbles that add lightness and literary value to this utterly absorbing collection. The disappointment felt by the exclusion of my favourite dog of all – the Border Collie – was lessened by a mention in the Clever Kids Teachers’ Notes at the back of the book. All the breeds depicted are listed here along with a brief note about typography and fonts. Dogography is an absolute must in classrooms and the gift baskets of dog lovers.

Title: Dogography: The Amazing World of Letter Art Dogs
Author Illustrator: Maree Coote
Publisher: Melbourne Style Books, $29.99 
Publication Date: June 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9780648568414
For ages: 5+
Type: Non Fiction Picture Book

Buy the Book: Melbourne Style Books, Booktopia, Boomerang Books, Walker Books Australia


To ask a child to describe their best friend can result in a simplified list of likes and dislikes often mimicking their own. This picture book is not so much a story as one of those lists that beautifully describes one little girl’s best friend, Barney the dog. Stephen Michael King’s colourful illustrations fill each page with whimsy and light as we explore Barney’s average day and his insatiable appetite through Jinks’s lilting rhyming verse. Barney will try anything that fits in his mouth and is the children’s favourite companion during playtime, mealtimes, bath times and snuggle times. High spirited, fun and deliciously relatable, Barney is a mutt you’ll easily love and pays beautiful homage to the significance dogs make to our lives.

Title: Barney
Author: Catherine Jinks
Illustrator: Stephen Michael King
Publisher: Scholastic Press, $17.99 
Publication Date: July 2018
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781742996226
For ages: 3 – 7
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Booktopia

The Bad Bassinis

There is the slightest whiff of stereotypical characterisation in this allegorical tale of friendship that thankfully dissipates as the story fans into a delightful anthropomorphic look at societal issues. Tina and Sid are not particularly warm and fuzzy types in the beginning. They bully and bluster their way through the neighbourhood quite oblivious to the fearful image they create because they are the Bad Bassinis. After they happen upon a pint-sized homeless puppy full of sass but in need of some TLC, Sid and Tina’s dirty-dog demeanours begin to deteriorate. Conversely, respect for them and community acceptance rise. The humour portrayed through Hume’s text and Jellett’s crazy, cartoonesque canine stylings, tells a deeper tale about emotions, family, loyalty and the affect responsibility has on one’s character; all those great qualities dogs possess in spades. This is a story parents will gain a giggle from as much as children.

Title: The Bad Bassinis
Author: Clair Hume
Illustrator: Tom Jellett
Publisher: Scholastic Press, $17.99 
Publication Date: February 2020
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781760663377
For ages: 3+
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Booktopia, Dymocks

Pig the Tourist

For the sheer fun of it, Pig the Tourist is worth embarking on. Everyone’s favourite pompous pug is back and on the carrousel of fun as he visits a number of well-known holiday destinations. Exuberant illustrations and natty rhyming text entertain and appal as we witness Pig drag his exaggerated self-opinion across the country and back. Havoc is wrecked and poor Trevor is Pig’s usual patsy to his vile insolence. There’s not much divergence from the well-loved formula of absurdly-greedy-dog-meets-his-just-desserts, but it is undeniable entertainment for fans of this pretentious pooch.  

Title: Pig The Tourist
Author / Illustrator: Aaron Blabey
Publisher: Scholastic Press, $17.99 
Publication Date: July 2019
Format: Hardcover
ISBN: 9781742994123
For ages: 4 – 7
Type: Picture Book

Buy the Book: Boomerang Books, Booktopia, Scholastic Kids

Visit again soon for my feisty feline instalment of Book Bites. Meow!


Norah Colvin said…
An appealing collection. Thanks, Dimity.
DimbutNice said…
Thanks, Norah. If you like dogs and great stories of course, which I do. Phew!
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