There is one question that almost all children ask their parents at some point in their young lives: “Mommy, can I have a dog?” (or a cat, guinea pig, snake or mouse). And before the adult can even take a breath, the kids are promising to walk (the dog), feed the animal and tend to all its other needs. This type of lobbying often gets louder around Christmas time, with children putting a pet on top of their holiday gift list. And while it can be tempting to grant their wish, parents should keep in mind that getting kids to share the responsibility of caring for an animal can be a huge challenge. To help little ones understand the commitment, think about sharing one or more of the following books, which take a light-hearted but honest look at the work involved.
What Pet to Get
(Scholastic Books, $20.99) by Emma Dodd — Ages 3-5
When Jack asks his mom for a pet, she agrees but without specifying what kind of animal it could be. So Jack runs through the gamut of pets that he can imagine having — from an elephant or lion to a polar bear or shark. With each suggestion, Jack’s mom calmly points out why he can’t have this type of animal at home. After going through an exhaustive list of pets, Jack finally decides he would like a dog. Kids will have fun thinking about what it would be like to bring this zoo of pets into their home and parents will appreciate the clever tactic of Jack’s mom, who helps her son come to the right decision on his own.
The Pigeon Wants a Puppy
(Hyperion Books, $16.99), by Mo Willems — Ages 2-5
With his character Pigeon, author Mo Willems has created a hysterical and uncanny representation of a child. Each sentence that comes out of Pigeon’s mouth sounds exactly like the words spoken by a young child. In this book, Pigeon goes to great lengths to convince the reader to get him a puppy. With his characteristic big-eyed pleas, he tries every tactic known to children — from assertions that he will care for the dog to guilt trips. Then a dog appears in the story and Pigeon realizes that a puppy may not exactly be what he had imagined. The overall message is that children must be patient with their requests. He gently encourages young people to begin to think more analytically about their wants and to have a greater consideration for consequences.
Always in Trouble
(Scholastic Books, $18.99) by Corinne Demas — Ages 4-8
In this book, an exasperated Emma is trying to prove to her parents that she can take care of her dog Toby, who has a nose for finding trouble. He likes to trample through the house with dirty paws, eat human food whenever he can, and has the occasional accident on the kitchen floor. Emma is always running after Toby trying to ensure that he behaves. After some intensive obedience schooling, Toby graduates at the top of his class and proves that he can be a great dog. But even the best-behaved dog can’t resist chasing squirrels in the park or chomping down a freshly baked loaf of bread on the counter. The book clearly expresses to children that they must assume responsibility for the disasters brought on by their dogs or other pets, but if they are willing to clean up those little messes and take the time to walk the dog and train him, then the trouble will be manageable – and even fun!
The Snaggle Grollop
(Scholastic Books, $21.99) by Daniel Postgate — Ages 4-7
When a little boy named Sam asks his dad for a dog, he gets the classic answer: no. Then Sam asks if he can have a Snaggle Grollop. His dad assumes that this is some fictional creature and agrees. So the next day, Sam brings home his Snaggle Grollop, who turns out to be a delightful creature who tells jokes, dances and brings the family on exciting adventures. Before they know it, the entire family has grown attached to the Snaggle Grollop and is saddened when he meets a lady monster that he decides to fly off with. At the end, when Sam once again brings up that infamous question of a pet, the answer has suddenly become a much more positive maybe! Kids will love this book mainly because of the message that it sends to parents: that a pet can warm its way into the hearts of every family member.