by Kristine O'Connell George
Illustrated by June Otani
CLARION BOOKS A Houghton Mifflin Imprint
Ages 4 to 8
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Fold this dog! (Directions also in Teacher's Guide)
Learn about Cairn Terriers like Little Dog (Or, like 'Toto' from The Wizard of Oz!)
From cold-nose wake-up to bedtime with a Little Dog-shaped lump under the covers, a day that a little girl spends with her Little Dog is recounted in thirty short, playful poems and enchanting watercolor illustrations.
|Little Dog protects the little girl from vacuum cleaners and beetles, chases cats, digs up flowers, and waits hopefully as kitchen preparations take place and as popcorn is eaten. The little girl, who loves Little Dog enough to "bake / birthday cookies with / liver powder," retrieves tennis balls, brings home a present from the pet store, and observes how little a wet Little Dog becomes at bath time. |
A perfect introduction to the pleasures of poetry, this beguiling volume belongs on every young dog lover's bookshelf.
See what happens in the companion book—Little Dog and Duncan—when a BIG dog—a very big dog—arrives for a doggy sleepover. Little Dog is both delighted and miffed!
Little Dog Poems in the Classroom
When I read Little Dog Poems and Little Dog and Duncan to students, hands fly up around the room. Children can't wait to share stories of their pets and this enthusiasm makes a wonderful prompt for students to start writing their own poems about their own pets.
I discovered that it helps students "focus" their poems if they imagine taking a snapshot of their pet. (We act like movie directors and "frame" the shot using our fingers.) Students then choose one "scene" starring their pet.
Since these poems (which are haiku-like) don't rhyme, students are free to develop their ideas without going off in a different direction trying to make a rhyme "fit." Students feel successful because - without the constraints of rhyming - they are can express their original ideas and images.
Another warm-up was suggested to me by Francess Burch who teaches in Redlands, CA. Francess read Little Dog Poems to her students without showing them the illustrations. She then invited them to draw illustrations to match the poems they had just heard. I thought this was a wonderful way to demonstrate to students how the words of a poem creates images in our minds.
I've also had fun using music for a "warm-up" to a reading, or to set the mood for a poetry writing workshop. A favorite is "Linus & Lucy" from George Winston's Linus and Lucy: The Music of Vince Guaraldi.
If you've used Little Dog Poems or Little Dog and Duncan in your classroom and have an idea or suggestion to share, let me know and I'll add it to this page.
I have wonderful memories of writing Little Dog Poems while I was in Myra Cohn Livingston's master class in children's poetry at the UCLA Writer's Program. One of Myra's standard weekly assignments was to write three haiku. Not easy! One week, as I was rushing out the door, I noticed my little dog asleep in a spot of sun; I wrote this on my way to class:
| Little Dog curls up|
tighter and tighter
until Little Dog
is exactly the same size
as the sunny spot.
Well, that certainly wasn't a haiku! However, Myra was intrigued and gave me an assignment: write more "little dog" poems. I ended up with around fifty poems which my editor, Dinah Stevenson, finally narrowed down to the thirty poems in the book.
Even though they are short, I wrote and re-wrote these poems many, many times. Dinah and I frequently exchanged what we called "kibbles and bits" — e-mails in which we debated punctuation, placement, and even one single word.
I wanted each poem to capture the spirit of a individual, specific moments in a little dog's life — without any extra words. I also wanted to keep the poetry "open" so that young children could read it easily and relate the poems to their own family pets.
I had excellent "resource material" — our dog Spri (short for "Sprite") — and my memories of Pretzel, my ornery miniature dachshund. June Otani wove her fond memories of her own family dog, Jasper, a Cairn Terrier, into her art. Truly, this was book of both of our hearts.
Sometimes, I find myself thinking: What about getting another dog? Perhaps a terrier like Jasper?
American Library Association Notable Book
School Library Journal Best Book
Riverbank Review Book of Distinction
"Highly Commended" Charlotte Zolotow Award
Children's Book of the Year, Bank Street College
New York Public Library
"100 Titles for Reading and Sharing"
Kentucky Bluegrass and
North Carolina Children's
Book Award nominee
2 Starred Reviews!
"Enchanting poems and winsome watercolors paint a picture of the special bond between a young girl and her beloved pet. Balancing simplicity with eloquence, the haiku-like verses make an inviting introduction to poetry." School Library Journal, Best Book Review
"The spare, charming watercolors, surrounded by plenty of white space, show both the mop-haired canine and the dog's most ardent young fan enjoying life and one another as the words scroll down the page, skip across it, or spiral in a neat central coil, like a snail's shell. A charming way to introduce little ones to the form and feeling that mark poetry." Booklist, Starred review
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