‘The Good Dog’ by Todd Kessler and Jennifer Gray Olson


Rating: 5 stars

“The Good Dog” is a picture book by Todd Kessler, who is the co-creator of “Blue’s Clues,” the popular children’s television show, and Jennifer Gray Olson, who illustrated this book and also wrote the very clever picture book “Ninja Bunny.”

This book was accompanied by a card that said, “If reading is so important, why are children’s picture books getting shorter?” The card compares numbers from several classics (Peter Rabbit, The Story of Babar, Horton Hears a Who, Frog and Toad, and The Velveteen Rabbit) which have an average word count of 2087 with several 2015 bestsellers (The Day the Crayons Quit, The Book with No Pictures, Max the Brave, Little Elliot, Big City, and Pete the Cat) with an average word count of 414.

The question raises a good point. Why do picture books have a much smaller word count than picture books in the past? Why not have young children sit longer and concentrate for more time listening to a good story? In “The Good Dog,” the story is a good one.

Tako is a puppy living in a box on the side of the road when Ricky Lee literally runs into him while riding on his bike. Ricky takes Tako home, and Ricky’s family says Tako can stay if he is a “good dog.” The words “good dog” are used often in the story as are the words “bad dog.”

Tako is a good dog when he follows the rules, but he breaks one of them (never leave the family’s bakery alone) when he follows the person who is sabotaging the bakery every night. He ends up at the pound, with the “…other dogs that are bad and nobody wants anymore.”

Tako escapes and ends up saving the day, and everyone realizes that Tako is, indeed, a good dog. At the end of the story, the neighbors say to the dog catcher, “You told us Tako was a bad dog. But he was really the best dog ever. Now we all want bad dogs too!”

Children enjoy this story and some commented on the ending. When asked what they liked about the story, one replied, “It was happy because Tako broke out of the dog pound and went to the family,” and another commented, “I liked the part when they unlocked all the dogs.” The book grabs the kids for many reasons. Most importantly, there is a puppy and a boy (of an indeterminate age who just might be their age).

Interestingly, I mentioned to the students that there is a second book called “The Good Dog and The Bad Cat.” A few weeks after reading “The Good Dog” to them, they asked when I was going to read the sequel! These were kindergarteners — so the fact that they wanted (and remembered) about the story is impressive.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by Coralstone Press for review purposes.


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