Publishing: Philomel, New York, 2012.
Description: Wilfred thinks he owns a moose and names him Marcel. He tries to explain to Marcel the rules for being a good pet, and while Marcel follows some of them brilliantly, others he seems to ignore. One day, on a long walk, Wilfred discovers that an old lady also claims ownership of the moose. In a huff, he heads back towards home, but has an accident with the string he uses to mark his trail. When the moose comes to rescue him, Wilfred forgives him and they reach a compromise: Marcel will follow Wilfred’s rules…but only when he feels like it.
Programming: Any student who has a pet will relate to the fact that they don’t always do what you ask them to. However, the moose comes to Wilfred’s rescue when he needs it and therefore makes a good friend. Have students write about or discuss their own pets.
Publishing: Harper and Brothers, New York, 1940
Awards: Caldecott Honor
Description: April’s father constantly tells their cat Sheba that the family has a “one cat apartment” and that she should not have kittens. Sure enough, the cat does have kittens-three of them. April, of course, becomes attached and wants to keep them all, but her father is insistent. Her parents tell April that she can either keep Sheba or her favorite kitten, but the other three must go. Soon a family friend and her son take one of the kittens, and a neighbor take the other. April must decide between Sheba and her favorite kitten, Brenda. Just as April decides she cannot forsake her old cat, the family decides that they need to move to a bigger apartment: a “two cat apartment.”
Programming: This would pair well with Newberry’s other pet books, including Marshmallow, another Caldecott Honor. One family that read this book with their children reported that their girls pointed out that the cat could have been spayed or neutered, and the family had to explain that that was not a common procedure when the book was written. In that way, it might be a segue into the history of the time period. It is also simply a heart-warming story about a girl who has to make a tough choice.
Publishing: Harper Brothers, New York, 1942
Awards: Caldecott Honor book
Description: Oliver is a “bachelor” cat with no wife or kittens, and he rather likes it that way. When his owner, Miss Tilly, brings home a new creature-a small, white rabbit named Marshmallow, Oliver is at first frightened and then somewhat territorial. Miss Tilly keeps them in separate rooms, but one day Oliver manages to get out into the room where Marshmallow is frolicking. Right about the time Oliver decides to pounce, Marshmallow has decided that the cat must be his new mother, and comes right up to give him a kiss on the nose. The two become inseparable. Newberry has very accurately encompassed rabbit ownership and behavior, and the punctuation of Miss Tilly’s poems adds to the entertainment value. There is a lot of white space, a lot of text, and the illustrations seem to be charcoal or crayon and don’t take up the whole page.
Programming: This would be a good book to use for a discussion about different types of pets. Many students are probably familiar with cats and dogs, but do not know anything about the care and keeping of more exotic pets, such as rabbits. A show and tell with a very calm rabbit (they frighten easily) would be wonderful.
The friendship between the two pets is also interesting, and several other titles could be found dealing with this theme, such as Friends: True Stories of Extraordinary Animal Friendships by Catherine Thimmesh or Suryia and Roscoe: The True Story of an Unlikely Friendship by Bhagavan “Doc” Antle.
Publishing: Philomel, New York, 2007.
Description: Virginia “Ginger” Vincent Folsum is a very rich and classy lady. Petunia is her pet pig. Ginger does everything to take care of Petunia. However, when Ginger has to go to London and her house-sitter does not show up, Petunia takes over the duties- and wardrobe!- of her owner, with uproarious results.
Programming: This is a fun story about how pets can sometimes be our best friends. Many students may be surprised by the fact that people actually keep pigs as pets in their houses. I would definitely include some information or videos about pigs as pets, especially their need to role in the mud because their skin is sensitive to sunlight. This might lead to other discussions about people who have non-traditional pets, such as fish, birds, rabbits, snakes, etc.
The friendship theme could also be explored. Why did Petunia take over Ginger’s responsibilities? What kinds of things do students do for their pets? etc.
Publishing: Neal Porter, New York, 2011
Description: Prudence wants a pet, but her parents disapprove. So she tries to find her own pets, including a branch, a spare tire, and her brother Milo. Finally, her parents relent and buy her a cat for her birthday. She names it, “Branch.” The illustrations are simple line drawings with a decent amount of color. There is a lot of white space.
Programming: Have students talk about, or draw their own pets. Before reading, have them list the qualities that they think make a good pet: soft? fun to play with? small? etc. Kids could paint their own pet rocks after reading.
Publishing: Candlewick Press; Somerville, MA; 2012
Awards: 2013 ALA Notable Children’s Book
Description: Henry Korn has a new puppy. His parents have made it clear that the dog (Charley) is Henry’s responsibility and the dog will sleep in the kitchen. Henry is diligent about waking up when Charley cries, and eventually the pair ends up falling asleep in Henry’s bed.
Programming: This brings up lots of great issues about pets and taking care of them. Students could draw the pet they have or the pet they would like to have if they could.