This is a Dog Book by Judith Henderson, illustrated by Julien Chung

  This is a Dog Book by Judith Henderson, illustrated by Julien Chung, Kids Can Press, 9781525304934, 2021 

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Format: Hardcover

Genre: Picture book

What did you like about the book?  Stylish digital art tells the story of a bunny who wants to be a dog. Chung uses just black, red and negative white space in his illustrations, while Henderson relates the story of the wanna-be canine using only dialogue, obliquely indicated with a minimalist curved line. A big dog and a little dog confront the bunny (who wears a red-and-white striped pullover) and ask him to prove his membership by doing dog-things, such as tricks, using his puppy eyes, and dog-paddling. The rabbit responds enthusiastically to everything except smelling dog behinds, although he finally does that too. I really liked the art, which was very loose and simple. Chung gets a lot of expression out of small details, like a drooping tale or a cocked eyebrow. The dogs’ bodies are varied and interesting: a swoosh of soft black covered with straight, vertical lines, or a scribble of Sharpie-style doodles. That variety works in the bunny’s favor; maybe you can belong even if your ears or tail deviate from the norm? In the end, the pooches adopt the bunny because he can be a good friend, and that’s all it takes to be a dog. The cow that shows up at the end of the book? That’s another story. Cute, tiny dogs in all shapes cover the endpapers.

Anything you didn’t like about it? The artwork was far more compelling than the story. I found it a bit confusing. Is the message supposed to be that anyone can be in a group, simply by asserting that they belong? Or is that we should accept those who are a bit different? Even very young children will be able to tell that the rabbit is not a dog, even though he really wants to be. I thought the pressure to sniff doggie backsides read a bit like a hazing ritual.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Children age 3-6. It could be good for a read aloud, so long as you don’t mind a bit of potty humor.

Who should buy this book? Public libraries

Where would you shelve it? Picture books

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No

Reviewer: Susan Harari, Keefe Library, Boston Latin School, Boston, MA

Date of review: May 2, 2021

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