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First Dog

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  • Posted April 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    First Dog

    Lewis, J.P. (2009). First Dog. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press.


    A dog in need of a home crosses oceans and searches the world until he finds the right place for him, a certain white house in Washington DC. The book even manages to cleverly incorporate the "Yes We Can" slogan. (I was wondering if because of this, Democrats would be more likely to buy the book than Republican teachers and parents. I still can't decide. Thoughts?)

    And also, since we can't all be given a well-trained dog by a Kennedy, the book includes a note about adopting shelter dogs.

    It was not by chance that this timely book was published. While Lewis had originally designed a different dog story involving an American mutt looking for its lineage, his editor volunteered him to write about the President's family obtaining a dog.

    The illustrations of young Dog, a Portuguese water dog look very similar to Bo, the actual First Dog. And no, the illustrator Tim Bowers is not psychic, as I had suspected. He began illustrating the background and putting in a general shape of a dog. When it was announced that the decision was down to a Portuguese water dog or a Labradoodle, he took a chance. He chose to paint a Labradoodle. He finished all of the art and had even scheduled a pick-up. There was a 'stop the presses' moment when a White House insider notified the publisher that the choice would be a Portuguese water dog. Bowers apparently altered all of the art in one night. (Of course, Bowers could still be psychic, but is attempting to remain on the down-low and therefore made up a the above story)

    And yes, if you were wondering, autographed copies of the book are on the way to the First Family.

    How do I know all this? I went to Cover to Cover, a children's bookstore in Columbus, OH and got my own copy autographed.

    Activities to do with the book:

    Since Dog travels the world, meeting other dogs, First Dog lends itself to a geography lesson and a lecture on the history of different breeds of dogs. The book could also trigger a discussion of strays, adoption and proper dog care. A discussion about foster care or adoption for children, living in the White House or the job of the President could also follow. Plus, a teacher could also focus on the different modes of transportation that Dog must take to travel the world.

    A teacher could encourage narratives on how students' adopted their own pets or have students create adventures for animals. (As a side note, the first creative story I can remember writing was about a cat held prisoner by bigger cats. I was six)

    Students could also create family portraits that included animals.

    Favorite Quotes:

    "Once upon a time there was a dog that was looking for the perfect place to live."

    "Daddy, Daddy, can we keep him?"
    "Yes, we can!"

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