Kid gets dog, kid loses dog, kid finds dog are common threads in cheery tail tales

BOOKS FOR KIDS

May 06, 1994|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

Ever since the first curious wolf-like creature wandered into a cave, wagged his tail at a Cro-Magnon youngster and begged for a scrap of woolly mammoth meat, children have hit it off with dogs.

If they don't have one, chances are they want one. And if there's no way a mangy mongrel will be allowed into their homes, at least they can read about them. And beg.

* "I Want a Dog," story and pictures by Dayal Kaur Khalsa (Dragonfly Books, $5.95, 32 pages, ages 4-9) is the first paperback edition of a great read-aloud book first published in 1987.

May really, really wants a dog. Her parents say she can't get one until she's older. How much older they don't say, which makes May sure that she needs a dog right now. She uses several clever ruses to get her way, but still her parents refuse.

So, being an independent, indefatigable sort, May ties a leash onto her roller skate and takes it with her everywhere, practicing for when she gets a real dog. The book's "don't give up" message comes through loud and clear. Grown-ups will get a kick out of the 1950s-era setting and how Ms. Khalsa, who died in 1990, pays tribute to a few famous paintings along the way.

* A simple story -- girl finds dog, girl loses dog, girl is reunited with dog -- is told with eloquence by Karen Hesse, a Baltimore born-and-bred writer who has won several awards for "Letters from Rifka" and "Wish on a Unicorn."

In "Sable," illustrated by Marcia Sewall (A Redfeather Book/Henry Holt, $14.95, 64 pages, ages 7-9), Ms. Hesse matches an independent young girl, Tate, with a homeless mutt that can't seem to stay out of trouble.

Tate's mother doesn't want her to take in the scrawny dog. When neighbors complain about Sable, the dog is sent away. Tate decides to build a fence and plots a way to bring the dog back, only to find that Sable has run away from her temporary home in Concord, N.H.

Tate's tenacity impresses her father, who finally lets her start helping him in his wood-working shop. Her mother gives her more responsibilities around the house. When Sable somehow finds her way back to their house in Vermont, skinnier and weaker than she was when she first wandered into their lives, even Tate's mother welcomes her home -- to stay.

* "Martha Speaks," written and illustrated by Susan Meddaugh (Houghton Mifflin, $13.95, 32 pages, ages 4-8) is a can't-miss tale about a dog, Martha, that begins to talk after eating a bowl of alphabet soup.

At first, her family is amazed and amused. But after a while, Martha's talent gets on everyone's nerves. She simply won't stop talking. When they yell at her to shut up, Martha does just that. Her feelings hurt, she declines to eat any more alphabet soup.

But when burglars break into the house, it's Martha's big mouth that saves the day. Ms. Meddaugh's bright illustrations enhance her story's sense of humor.

* "Where's Molly?" written and illustrated by Uli Waas (North-South Books, $12.95, 48 pages, ages 6-8), is a lively story for early readers. Molly is a little dog that is frightened by fireworks on New Year's Eve. She runs away, and her family searches for her in vain. Their concern will be familiar to anyone who has lost a pet and hopes desperately for a happy ending. This book has one.

* "Go Away, Dog" by Joan L. Nodset, pictures by Crosby Bonsall (HarperCollins, $10, 32 pages, ages 4-8), is a reissue of a little book first published in 1963. The pen-and-ink illustrations are simple, done in black and white and red, and so is the text. But my thoroughly modern 4-year-old loved it.

A little boy who doesn't like dogs gets one as a present from his uncle. Despite his protests, the dog won't go away. "Don't wag your tail at me," he says. "I don't like dogs." Slowly, however, the patient mutt wins him over.

* "Wag Wag Wag" by Peter Hansard, illustrated by Barbara Firth (Candlewick Press, $14.95, 32 pages, ages 2 and up) is an up-close-and-personal introduction to dogs for the very young.

Mr. Hansard uses a verb or two per page to show how dogs spend their days. They sniff, roll, piddle, drool, dribble, splash, shake, gobble, gnaw. . . . Ms. Firth, whose style will be familiar to fans of "Can't You Sleep, Little Bear?" shows all of the dogs frolicking from a child's-eye view. Older brothers and sisters will enjoy sharing the book with babies and toddlers, and they can identify the cast of characters by checking out the endpapers.

* Signing sighting: Author Patricia MacLachlan, originally scheduled to appear at the Children's Bookstore in Roland Park this Monday, instead will appear from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. May 16 at the store on Deepdene Road.

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