I just had my 100th national magazine article published this month. My latest contribution to my column “Reid-Aloud Alert”appeared in the November 2013 issue of Book Links. The article is titled “Top Dog (Stories)” and features the following fairly-recently published titles as good suggestions to read aloud to children:
Because of Shoe and Other Dog Stories, edited by Ann M. Martin
A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean
Invasion of the Dognappers by Patrick Jennings
Lulu Walks the Dog by Judith Viorst
The No-Dogs-Allowed Rule by Kashmira Sheth
White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan
I also make mention of modern-day classic dog stories such as Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Maylor, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, The Hundred and One Dalmations by Dodie Smith, and the works of Jim Kjelgaard.
Check your local library to see if they have a copy of Book Links to read about each book. At Book Links, we often run out of article space due to a late-minute ad placement. In that case, I confer with my editor to decide which annotation to remove from the print copy and make available for online subscribers instead. For this article, two books were held back; not because they were less interesting/successful as read-alouds than the other titles. The decision was more about the subject representation mix. Here are the two titles that didn’t make the print version, but are equally strong as the titles that did make it when it comes to being a strong read-aloud recommendation.
For those unfamiliar with my 10 Minute Selection feature, that is for those occasions when an adult doesn’t have time to read the whole book but would like to feature a captivating stand-alone passage. The time to read the passage can actually be anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes. Little or no introduction is needed as the audience will pick up any context clues to understand what is going on. If the kids are motivated to read the rest of the book on their own, that’s bonus. But the important thing with hearing a passage is that you just spent some quality literature time with the children.
The Dogs of Winter by Bobbie Pyron (Grades 4-8): Five-year-old Ivan’s mother goes missing and he finds himself homeless in Moscow. A gang of kids put him to work begging for change. Ivan finds some feral dogs and becomes part of their pack. He goes out each day to get enough money to buy food for himself and the dogs, which includes a nursing mother and her pups. When their shelter catches fire, they are left out in the open in the middle of winter. They fall into a routine of spending the cold months in the city and the warmer days in the woods near a fairground. Ivan’s life with his dogs is threatened when he becomes the target of an intensive manhunt.
10 Minute Selection: Read most of chapter 13, “Lucky,” beginning with the sentence, “The days grew colder and there were more coats to watch.” A dog curls up next to Ivan while he’s huddled by a steam grate on a cold day. He shares potatoes with the dog and follows it to a “tumbledown shop at the end of a long alley.” The chapter ends with Ivan going into a small opening. Move on to chapter 29, “Winter.” Ivan is begging by the entrance of a fancy restaurant. A wealthy couple gives him some money. When the doorman tries to take the money from Ivan, the dogs force the doorman to back off. Ivan makes a soft gruel for the oldest dog who has a few, worn-out teeth. When the other dogs go for the gruel, Ivan growls “No!” and these two dogs “who were my friends and who could tear me to pieces” back off.
Letters to Leo by Amy Hest (Gr. 1-4): We learn a lot about 4th-grader Annie through the letters she writes to her new dog Leo. She makes rules for him like “Be a good eater and don’t waste food and don’t make faces if you don’t like the food.” She also warns Leo to not bark at people in the apartment complex elevator and to not wake up her father at 5am. We also discover how Annie deals with the loss of her mother and what she thinks about her teacher “Mrs. No-Fun Bailey.”
10 Minute Selection: Read the series of Annie’s letters that begin with the March 2 date. We learn how Leo came to live with Annie and her father. Annie is excited about an essay contest. She writes about all of the “NO DOGS ALLOWED” signs around New York City. She thinks the library should have a sign that reads “WE LOVE DOGS. BRING YOUR DOG TO THE LIBRARY.” Annie thinks the New York Yankees should have a similar sign at their stadium. Annie expresses her hatred of science, especially “saying all those human body words (hair follicles, nostrils, gallbladders, etc.) out loud in school!” End the selection with the April 2 letter. Annie draws a picture of Leo watching Annie’s father shaving. “It’s a painting about love.”