How can anyone resist our four-legged friends? Dogs get into trouble and they get out of trouble. They make us laugh and they make us cry. And, so do books about dogs. There are great stories about dogs at your local library and bookstore that will delight your children.

For Babies and Toddlers

Flap and board books are great fun for toddlers. They provide an opportunity for verbal interaction with your child, and they support your child’s fine motor skills. The Spot the Dog board and flap books by Eric Hill are illustrated with bright, bold colors. The board books are laminated to protect them from baby drool. The flap books are printed on card stock paper to handle a lot of wear and tear. Hint: At some point you may want to reinforce the flaps with transparent tape to keep them from ripping.

For Young Children

Harry the Dirty Dog knows what he hates (being washed) and knows what he loves (total freedom). Any kid who hates to get his hair washed will identify with Harry. Author Gene Zion and illustrator Margaret Bloy Graham bring Harry and his family to life with wit and vivacity. You and your kids will love Harry and his stories: No Roses for Harry, Harry and the Lady Next Door, and Harry by the Sea. Harry the Dirty Dog is also available in board book format for little hands.

Author/Illustrator Susan Meddaugh has created a hilarious series of stories about a dog named Martha, who eats a bowl of alphabet soup and begins to speak! Martha is frankly honest in the innocently blunt style of small children. And, just like the kids in your house, sometimes what she says gets her in trouble with grown-ups.You can also find Martha Speaks, Martha Calling, Martha Blah Blah, Perfectly Martha, Martha and Skits, and Martha Walks the Dog at your local library.

Boisterous and unruly, but extremely lovable, Pinkerton the Dog will win you and your child’s heart. Steven Kellogg, father of six, and the author and illustrator of the Pinkerton books, based the Pinkerton stories on his experiences with his own Great Dane puppy. Pinkerton Behave!, A Rose for Pinkerton, A Penguin Pup for Pinkerton, Prehistoric Pinkerton, Tallyho Pinkerton, and Pinkerton and Friends are great to read aloud at bedtime. Be sure to check out Kellogg’s revised edition of Pinkerton, Behave! (Dial Books, 2014), which he reworked for its 35th anniversary in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy.

In The King’s Taster writer Kenneth Oppel teams with illustrators Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson to create a fun tale of a beagle called Max, whose job as the cook’s dog is to taste every morsel before the young king does. Max relishes his job, but when the king refuses to eat, the cook and Max journey to tasty kitchens around the globe in search of delicious meals fit for the king.

Australian illustrator Bob Graham has created several vibrantly illustrated books about dogs and those who love them. Try “Let’s Get a Pup” said Kate; “The Trouble with Dogs” said Dad; Queenie, One of the Family; and Benny: An Adventure Story— all are delightfully heartwarming with Graham’s cartoon-like ink and watercolor drawings.

Don’t miss A Stray Dog, written and illustrated by Marc Simont. A recent award-winning book, it may change your mind about getting a dog. Also, another award winner Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathman is a highly entertaining story about a police dog and the value of teamwork and safety.

For beginning and early readers, the classic Go, Dog, Go, by P. D. Eastman is still treasured. And don’t miss The Henry and Mudge series by Cynthia Rylant, charmingly illustrated by Suçie Stevenson.

For readers and listeners looking for adventure—don’t forget the many easy-reader and picture books about the famous dog sled race—The Iditarod. Some books to check out are Akiak: From the Iditarod by Robert J. Blake; Dogteam by Gary Paulsen; Dogs of the Iditarod by Jeff Schultz; and two books about the famous Balto: Balto & The Great Race by Elizabeth Cody Kimmel and The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford.

Also check out the following titles for young children:

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka (Schwartz and Wade, 2011)

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer (HarperCollins, 1999)

Boot and Shoe by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane, 2012)

Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (Candlewick, 2014)

The Chicken Squad: The First Misadventure by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014)

I’m My Own Dog by David Ezra Stein (Candlewick, 2014)

For Older Kids

A number of novels with dogs as the main characters are great to read aloud to your older kids chapter by chapter. You will enjoy them as much as your children.

The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford is a great adventure story. Two dogs and a cat, left in the care of a family friend, travel over 250 miles through the Canadian wilderness to find their way home. Expressive black and white chapter illustrations by Carl Burger enhance the story.

Old Yeller by Fred Gibson is a modern classic and Newbery Honor Book. In his father’s absence, 14 year-old Travis Coates heads his household in rural 1860’s Texas. A stray dog, Old Yeller, saves the lives of Travis, his younger brother, and their mother. The story’s poignant ending will help your older child understand the cycle of life and death.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo is is a tender, heart-warming story which your children will beg you to read every night. A lonely child, India Opal Buloni, moves to steamy Florida with her father and makes friends with a big, ugly dog she finds in a grocery store. She names the dog Winn-Dixie. He helps her to find her heart again and to trust once more.

The Hundred and One Dalmatians by Dodie Smith is better than both Disney movies. Share the adventures of Pongo and Purdy and their puppies with your child. There is no more wonderful antagonist in children’s books than Cruella DeVille, the villain you will love to hate. After you read the book aloud, watch the original animated version with your kids. Then discuss the similarities and differences of the book and the movie. It is always good to ask your kids what they think after reading a book, to encourage their critical thinking skills.

P.S. Bill Peet, the creative director of Disney’s animated One Hundred and One Dalmatians, was also a children’s book author and illustrator. His picture books are great fun for younger kids. Pre-teens and teens will be interested (and so will you) in his autobiography, Bill Peet: An Autobiography. It is absolutely fascinating, and it gives insights into a terrific storyteller and an insider’s view of the wonderful world of Disney that is not often seen.

And check out the following titles for older children:

Angus and Sadie by Cynthia Voigt, illustrated by Tom Leigh (HarperCollins, 2012)

Dogs of Winter by Bobbie Pyron (Arthur A. Levine, 2011)

Dog’s Way Home by Bobbie Pyron (Katherine Tegen, 2012)

One Dog and His Boy by Eva Ibbotson (Scholastic, 2012)

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin (Feiwel & Friends, 2014)

Stubby the War Dog: The True Story of World War I’s Bravest Dog by Ann Bausum (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2014)

© 2015 The National Children’s Book and Literacy Alliance