Somewhere around a child’s fourth birthday, the whine begins. At first it’s a soft sound, the gentle “aww” whenever anyone walks by with a puppy or friendly dog, and the begging grows with every cat video that pops up on any website. It hits a fever pitch when someone—a neighbor, a relative—gets a puppy or a kitty or a goldfish. Soon, you give in and get a pet. Thank goodness there are some new picture books that are almost as lovable as your new responsibility.

Take some gray felt, pipe cleaners, cotton, beads and nylon thread, plus quite a lot of sewing and gluing and talent, and you, too, could create amazing books like Maggie Rudy. OK, you couldn’t do any such thing, but you can snuggle up to I Wish I Had a Pet and revel in the world that Rudy has created. This time, her main character is a little girl mouse, clad in a yellow calico dress with a purple sash. Clearly, she wants a pet. But which one? She considers all the possibilities, small and large, from roly-polies, beetles and bumblebees to birds, frogs and turtles. Each spread is a marvel of a little mouse world where young children will want to explore all the details.

Through these amazing scenes, Rudy offers wise advice about pet ownership: Get a pet that suits your style, is not too big, doesn’t make you sneeze or is too fierce. You can play with your pet, but it is not a doll. You have to care for it by cleaning it, making it comfy, feeding and watering it. Pick up after it when it makes a mess; exercise it; and teach it tricks. It will be hard to resist the call for a pet after reading this treasure to your pet-starved youngster.

TROUBLEMAKER
If you are trying to stave off the pet pleas, Naughty Kitty! might fit the bill. Coming on the heels of his hilarious Silly Doggy!, Adam Stower outdoes himself with this tale of kitten ownership gone bad. Starting on the end pages, the careful reader will notice some hints of things to come: A striped orange tiger has gone missing, but Lily is much too excited about her new gray kitten to think about that. She wished for a dog, but the kitten is nevertheless quite cute and cuddly—even if he can’t do any tricks. The minute Lily’s back is turned, things go wrong. The runaway tiger sneaks in, makes a huge mess and goes on his way, leaving Kitty to blame. This scene repeats until the little kitty “saves” Lily from the neighbor’s dog, which is clothed in an orange striped sweater.

There’s nothing more fun than being in on a joke, and your lap-listener will love discovering all the sneaky ways Stower has included hints of the tiger’s presence. Who knows—your young reader might be so distracted by the joke, she might forget that she wants a pet. Maybe.

CONE OF SHAME
Puppies Mister Bud and Zorro are back in Mister Bud Wears the Cone. If you have not yet given in and gotten a pet, Carter Goodrich’s hilarious dog stories will test your resolve. This time, a hot spot on Mister Bud’s back is wreaking havoc on Zorro’s schedule and making Mister Bud miserable. When their owner has to leave, Mister Bud has to wear the cone. Adults know how unhappy dogs are when they have to wear the cone, but children will understand Zorro’s glee: Now he can eat all the treats and play tricks on his visually impeded friend. When Mister Bud accidentally smashes a lamp, Zorro waits in anticipation for the owner’s return; he just knows that Mister Bud is in trouble for sure!

These two dogs have so much personality that adults and children alike will have trouble resisting them. Who can choose a favorite? Not me. Uh-oh—now your child will want two pets!

 

This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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