Dogs may be considered man’s best friend, but in these books, dogs are the stars.

“Pick a Pup” by Marsha Wilson Chall, Illustrated by Jed Henry, Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2011, Ages 2-5.

A young boy’s grandmother takes him to the shelter to pick out a pup, but which one to pick? Should it be a quick-lick-kissy pup or an always-wakes-you-up pup? The boy wants all of the pups, and can’t imagine just picking one, until a pup actually chooses him. The simple story line and adorable illustrations will touch the heart of everyone who has ever adopted a furry, four-legged friend.

“RRRalph” by Lois Ehlert, Beach Lane Books, 2011, Ages 2-6.

Lois Ehlert’s books are perpetual favorites of young children and those who read to them because of the simple text and bright illustrations. In “Ralph”, Ehlert uses found objects, buttons, zippers, metal, and various textured paper and cardboard to create Ralph the dog. The dog collage, displayed on bright background colors of pumpkin, hot pink, and grass green, brings to life the creature who responds to clever jokes with dog words, like “roof, bark, and wolf”. Ehlert asks readers to consider the question, can dogs talk to us?

“The Dog Who Loved Red” by Anitha Balachandran, Kane Miller Publishing, 2011, Ages 2-6.

Raja the dog has radar for anything red – a ball, a sock, a shawl – which he finds and proceeds to chew. In his quest for red objects, Raja encounters many other colors and a bit of trouble, which leads him to the need for a bath. The illustrations of Raja cleverly portray his cunning, yet fanciful personality. The text includes various color words, like maroon, green, and silver, printed in their hue, which makes the book useful for teaching colors to young listeners and readers.

“A Dazzling Display of Dogs”, by Betsy Franco, Illustrated by Michael Wertz, Tricycle Press, Ages 7 and up.

Dog lovers unite with this collection of concrete poems about dogs. Concrete poems take on the shape of an object. In “Emmett’s Ode to His Tennis Ball”, the ball, in the mouth of Emmett the dog, is covered with words – “slobbery, sloppy, slimy, sphere-oh, tennis ball”. In “Bedtime with Brownie”, the dog and girl sleep side-by-side under a quilt covered with dog-sleeping words like drooling, snuffling, whimpering, and shifting. The busy illustrations and clever word arrangements make this book more appropriate for a bit older reader.

“Labracadabra” by Jessie Nelson & Karen Leigh Hopkins, Illustrated by Deborah Melmon, Viking, Ages 6-9.

Zach has waited so long for a dog, dreaming about a golden retriever or a chocolate lab. Instead his mom and dad come home with a dog that is a little bit of everything. Zach soon learns that this is no ordinary mutt. His new dog comes with the name Larry, but his name is changed to Labracadabra when Zach discovers his twirling long tail is magical.

Dogs, like books, can bring us joy and companionship. Books about dogs make a great combination for summer reading.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Dobler

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