“Strictly No Elephants” by Lisa Mantchev


A boy has a pet. It’s a Pet Club Day. Clearly, the boy should head out to the Pet Club, right? Wrong. The boy has a little elephant for a pet and those are excluded. As the two rejected friends walk back home, they meet another pair of unwanted Pet Club members, a girl with a skunk. The children  share their sadness regarding the ungrounded exclusion. However, instead of wasting time on sulking, they decide to open their own Pet Club, where everyone is welcome. Quite a popular Pet Club indeed.

A very relevant story for readers of all ages. Diversity, however present in our lives, is still a controversial topic.  Are we afraid of differences?  Do we find sameness superior? What could happen if we started including instead of excluding?

With her warm and subtle story about loyalty and friendship, complemented by equally warm and subtle illustrations by Teagan Yoo, Lisa Mantchev succeeded in sending a very clear message to our children. She vividly pictured how misleading  and hurtful prejudices can be and how profusely our society could benefit from embracing diversity. Including can be so inspiring.


“I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!” by Emma Dodd

One of the advantages of having more than one child is that you get to read more picture books. When my older son was at preschool, I discovered Emma Dodd’s “Dog’s Colorful Day” A Messy Story about Colors and Counting. (You can read about it in my 2012 March Archives)  Now that my younger son is a toddler and we go through another round of old and new picture books, I was lucky enough to stumble upon another gem by Ms. Dodd, “I Don’t Want a Cool Cat!”

The story is pretty basic. A little girl is telling us what cat she would like to have and what feline she wouldn’t care about. But the wording and pictures are just delightful. 

She doesn’t want a “stuffy, over-fluffy cat” or “a slinky, dinky, twinky cat”. My favorite phrasing was for a greedy cat that she didn’t want:  “A “Meow, meow, please feed me cat.”  But she wants a “purry “cat, “a glad when I come home cat”, that she can call her own cat. 

I can’t tell you how many times my son demanded to read this book to him, over and over again. And I can’t tell you, how much pleasure it was to read it. This book virtually reads itself. It flows so effortlessly that you just want to keep enjoying it page after page after page.

Now the book has returned to the library, but the story still rings in our heads and we frequently recite our favorite lines.

“An Octopus Followed Me Home” by Dan Yaccarino

So far, I have been recommending books about cats and dogs, as these animals are by far most common pets in the western world. However, some children (and parents alike) might have more exotic taste. Pippi Longstocking had a monkey and a horse, right? I have seen people have snakes, birds, rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, scorpions (my brother’s pet of choice), fish and even turtles. I don’t want to put ideas in your heads, but what would you do if your animal-loving child brought home a curious creature?

A little girl tries to convince her dad to let her keep… an octopus. Unfortunately, dad thinks that their ‘home zoo’ is already big enough, with bears behind the couch, seals in the pool, penguins in the fridge, an a crocodile under the bed, among others, that is. Finally, dad  talks his daughter out of keeping the eight-armed beast, but what is it that she is bringing home next? A dinosaur?

This absurd yet quite relevant rhyme, brightly illustrated with Yaccarino’s  geometrical art, is a hilarious read for the whole family. Although the story warns against turning your house into a jungle, it does prove that animal lovers will always be animal lovers. Or maybe some children are stray magnets? Whatever it is, I find children’s love for animals very endearing. It is simple and genuine.

Since it is my last post and book about pets and the role of pets in our children’s lives, let me finish with a request. If you have already decided on a house pet, please do not start the adoption process with a visit to an expensive pet store. There are so many lonely and lovely creatures in the crowded animal shelters. Give them a chance!


“What Pet To Get?” by Emma Dodd

Suppose you want to get a pet for your child but you can’t decide what.  To help you with your dilemma, I suggest you go ahead  and do a little for-and-against analysis. Actually, Jack has already done it for you.

Jack wanted to get a pet but wasn’t sure what animal would be the best. An elephant sounded good. He could ride it to school. As his mother noticed, though, it would be hard to take an elephant on vacation. A lion eats a lot, a polar bear would be a great playmate, but it can’t stand the central heating. A rhino is too wide, a giraffe too tall and shark too exotic. Taking everything into account, Jack decided that a cute puppy would be the smartest choice.

You just have to see that puppy!

“What Pet To Get?” by Emma Dodd is a  hilarious take on a pet story. Outstanding humor in words and pictures. A greatly engaging read.

If you arrive at the same conclusion as Jack and decide to get a barking four-legged friend for your little ones, good for you. In the eyes of your children you are now the coolest parent. However, there is one more thing to remember when you have pets. Pet training. It doesn’t happen overnight, so I hope you have ample supplies of patience. And paper towels. Or a magical touch.  But  if you need help, “Arthur’s New Puppy” by Marc Brown might come in handy.

With one little puppy, Pal, Arthur brought home a lot of trouble. The puppy  turned the house upside down. Mom and dad wanted to move the dog the garage, but somehow the key was nowhere to be found. It was time for dog training in the backyard. In a week’s time, Pal amazed the whole family with his tricks and didn’t have to move to the garage anymore. Surprisingly, that’s when the key was magically found…

Reading the story with your children might prepare you all for lots of unpleasant surprises (wet carpets, destroyed drapes, scratched furniture…) or maybe even will help you to prevent them. Good luck!


“The Best Pet of All” by David LaRochelle

Last week I promoted cats as purr-fect pets for our children. If you’re unconvinced, I have one more book for you about the clever felines: “A Very Smart Cat. Una Gata Muy Inteligente” by Mario Picayo. The title speaks for itself and the engaging collages by Yolanda Fundora are a great visual for this humorous, bilingual story.  Enjoy it!

Or not. If you are not a fan of whiskers,  I can flood you with books and you won’t let a cat into your house. Unless it it the Puss in Boots, right?

Today I have a story for dog lovers. Not that they need a book  to get a puppy. If someone loves dogs, they will have them no matter what. But, often times, there is someone in the house that needs to buy into the whole puppy business. Surprisingly, it is usually the mother! (A coincident or do we  just know that as soon as the dog enters the house, it will be up to us to train, feed and walk this tail-wagging-furry creature at 5 am, summer or winter?)

This is how one smart kid talked his mom into getting a puppy:

A little boy kept asking his mother for a dog. Every time she would say no. Dogs are messy and loud. The boy asked his mother for a dragon pet instead. She agreed, if he would find one. It was a tall order, but eventually the boy came across a dragon at the drug store. After long negotiations, the fire-blowing beast accepted the offer and moved in with the boy. As it turned out, dragons are not the easiest pets. They make mess in the kitchen, listen to the music at night and eat spaghetti in the bathtub.  And the worst of all, they refuse to move out. Luckily, the boy knew a secret. Dragons are afraid of dogs…

Will mom finally agree to have a puppy in order to get rid of the dragon? What mom wouldn’t right? Even I would consider and I am not a dog person.

A  delightful read for any child longing to have a canine friend at home. What’s more,it’s  a great lesson on how to negotiate successfully. Comical, retro-style illustrations by Hanako Wakiyama

“Children Make Terrible Pets” by Peter Brown

One of my son’s friends expressed interest in our little baby boy. “I think he would like a sibling.” I mentioned to the mom jokingly.  “Yeah, I know. We tell him that he has a dog instead,” the boy’s mom answered.

And isn’t that true! Although you can’t put an equality mark between children and puppies, pets can provide a great companionship to a child, the way siblings would. What’s more, many parents swear by the therapeutic benefits pets have on a child. I have recently heard of a boy diagnosed with ADHD. His focus and discipline have improved dramatically after a fluffy friend joined the family. It makes sense, doesn’t it? A pet, whether it is a dog, cat or  a bird can be a great friend.  It can be that missing link between a child and the rest of the world. The love a pet can offer to a child can make a child feel better about themselves. We all need to feel loved,  and animals are very good at showing their affection. What’s more, taking care of a pet can enhance child’s self-esteem. The very chore of changing cat’s litter  shows the child they are capable of looking after someone else. It’s very motivational. It teaches responsibility, commitment, even respect for others.  A dog won’t let a child pull their tail for fun. A child will learn to respect that.

Since we don’t have pets, my older son learns his lessons of respect on his baby brother. He already knows he can’t poke the baby’s cheeks, however poke-able they look. The baby has entered the phase of copying is older sibling and  it is a poke-for-poke game now. Little wonder. As Peter Brown proves in his book, children make terrible pets.

Lucy the bear found a little boy in the woods. She decided to keep him, even though her mother warned her that children are horrible pets. Lucy named the boy Squeak because of the funny noise it made. But mom was right. The boy was impossible to communicate with and  potty train. He ruined the furniture and as if that was not enough, he even disappeared. Lucy went searching for Squeak, but when she found him with a human family, she made a smart choice to… leave him there. 

A fresh take on a pet topic. The simple role reversal makes this story highly entertaining and memorable. This engaging  tale and mixed-media pictures make a fine reading treat and a hilarious guide on what to expect once you decide on a pet. The little creature might turn the house upside down, but from what I hear,  it’s impossible not to love them.

Below, two more books on how a pet can make us all happier. Universal truth. Valid across the species.

“Gilbert Goldfish Wants a Pet” by Kelly DiPucchio

“The Pigeon Wants a Puppy” by Mo Willems

And if you are like me and think that your family doesn’t need a pet at the moment, you will appreciate the good laughs. It’s hard to have enough of those.

1bookperday in June

The other day my son  was running in the park with his dad.  As they were passing by a lady strolling with her dog, the fluffy friend suddenly jumped at my son and bit him.The dog owner seemed apologetic, but the fact remains that my son was hurt and very scared. “That’s why I keep wanting a cat!” He told me in tears after the accident.

Cats, dogs, guinea pigs, gold-fish…  Sooner or later, for shorter or for longer, most of us will have a pet. If we are not animal people ourselves, our children will make us. I thought it would be a good idea to devote this month to reflecting about the role of pets in our children’s life and suggest a few books celebrating our animal friends. 

Since I am going to speak mostly theoretically, your input based on experience will be greatly appreciated.

I’ll see you in a few days with fresh books and thoughts, but today I have a treat for the children who would like to have a dog but can’t, because their apartment is just too small for an animal that likes to run around. Read to them  “I Want a Dog!” by Helga Bansch (post 266).  The book might inspire them to  find a compromise without compromising their love for dogs.