From the classic to the current, children’s books featuring animal protagonists or about pets have charmed and entertained kids for decades. Here are a few better-known and soon-to-known books that will give your child, if not a pet to play with, an interesting animal to read and think about.
“Harry the Dirty Dog” written by Gene Zion and illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham was originally published in 1956 in black and white. It was reprinted in 2002 with splashes of color added by the original artist. Decades later and based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association listed it as one of its “Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.” Standing the test of time, the book has been welcomed by a new generation at home, as Betty White’s 2020 reading of the story on StorylineOnline has been viewed more than 8 million times. It’s the tale about Harry, a white dog with black spots, who just hates to take a bath and does something to make sure he doesn’t have to. After a day of adventure, Harry gets so dirty that he no longer looks like a white dog with black spots. Now he looks like a black dog with white spots. When he returns home, Harry’s family doesn’t recognize him. His attempts to get his family to realize that it is him succeed only when he digs up the brush that he had earlier buried. The family collectively gives the strange dog a bath, ultimately recognizing the pooch to be their Harry.
“What Pet Should I Get?” is a Dr. Seuss children’s book, posthumously published in 2015. It is believed to have been written between 1958 and 1962. The book chronicles the adventures of brother and sister, Jay and Kay, from Seuss’ “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” in their attempts to buy a pet. In a pet store, the pair try choosing a pet. A dog or a cat? A fish or a bird? Or maybe a crazy creature straight from the mind of Dr. Seuss? But every time they think they see an animal they like, they find something even better. They consider a vast array of possible pets as their deadline of noon approaches. Finally, they settle on a pet whose identity remains unrevealed.
“You Don’t Want a Dragon!” written by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Liz Climo reminds readers to be careful what they wish for. The follow-up to “You Don’t Want a Unicorn” points out the mishaps that come with adopting a dragon – a pet that is far cry from a puppy or a kitten. Nevertheless, the protagonist wishes for a pet dragon. While initially thrilled, the kid quickly discovers that dragons may not be what originally thought. From the scooting to the digging to the fire-breathing, the protagonist is dismayed that they still have not found their perfect pet. Little do they know that pet might be right around the corner.
“Allergic” is a coming-of-age middle-grade graphic novel written by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter. Its protagonist, Maggie, is a girl with severe allergies who just wants to find the perfect pet. At home, Maggie is the odd one out. Her parents are preoccupied with getting ready for a new baby, and her younger brothers are twins and always in their own world. Maggie loves animals and thinks a new puppy to call her own is the answer, but when she goes to select one on her birthday, she breaks out in hives and rashes. She’s severely allergic to anything with fur. Can Maggie outsmart her allergies and find the perfect pet? The author uses inspiration from her own experiences with allergies to tell a heartfelt story of family, friendship, and finding a place to belong.