Ever wonder what pet dogs do while their owners are out? How about if a dog were left to babysit? Alexandra Day’s (nearly) wordless fantasy book has some hilarious ideas! And it turns out, a canine who knows how to cover his tracks.
Each Thursday I’ll be featuring a book that my parents *could* have read to me as a child (spoiler alert: I’m no spring chicken), so we will go with a publication date of 1988 or earlier; all books must still be in print as of my writing.
Title/author: Good Dog, Carl by Alexandra Day.
Copyright date: 1986
Plot in a Sentence (or two): Mom leaves Carl the rottweiler in charge while she runs an errand; baby and Carl enjoy some silly, messy fun before cleaning up just in time for mom’s return.
Why It’s Timeless: Unfortunately we live in a world where this book has received negative reviews, condemned as “child neglect.” I suppose I’ll issue a disclaimer here– don’t act this story out. You shouldn’t leave your dog to babysit. Now moving on, this is a fabulous fantasy story! It is nearly wordless, with text only on the first and last pages. Older bookworms will laugh out loud at the scenarios that baby and Carl get into: having a dance party, swimming in the fish tank, making a mess in the kitchen. I enjoyed many laughter-filled storytimes with early elementary aged bookworms with this book. Wordless picture books are fabulous for younger bookworms (and also older English Language Learners) who are developing language skills. Without text, the pictures have to speak for themselves and clearly show sequence; wordless books encourage readers to make the language for what they see in the images, and spark language rich conversations between adult & child readers. While this comes in a board book version, it’s best to hold off till later toddler years. Quite a lot of reading the illustrations is required to piece together the cause/effect situations in the plot.
While You’re Reading: When first sharing wordless books with my Toddler Bookworm, he would get so confused. “Read it, mommy!” he would demand, clearly frustrated by my failure to focus on reading the book before us. Eventually he began to understand that those squiggly lines tell the reader what to say, and when those aren’t on a page, there is no story to “read.” As time passed, we began to pore over the illustrations in wordless books, sharing conversations about things we noticed. At the start, I would narrate essential pieces of the plot. On subsequent readings and as he got older, I would allow him to verbalize the story, asking some clarifying questions when needed: “Hmm. Why do you think Carl is looking out the window?”
Just for Fun: Explore the world of wordless books! The first wordless book Toddler Bookworm and I enjoyed together was Flotsam, around age 2 (read my post here). Baby Bookworm began enjoying (nearly) wordless Goodnight, Gorilla around 13 months (although he really just likes the bright pictures of animals and doesn’t follow the storyline, I’m sure!). Now that Preschool Bookworm is nearly 3, we are beginning to get into more wordless books. A current favorite is Where’s Walrus? which is a good way to ease into wordless books because it is part “seek and find” but also offers a plot to follow, giving you fodder for discussion. A few other wordless gems I’d recommend exploring are The Lion & the Mouse (Pinkney’s Caldecott Award winning version of the folktale), Float (read more in my post here), and Alphabet City (another Caldecott Award winning book that is like an advanced alphabet seek & find within realistic pastels of city scenery).
EDIT: 1.26.16. We had a HUGE blizzard this past weekend, and I picked up Carl’s Snowy Afternoon just before the first flakes began to fall. It has been a HIT with Preschool Bookworm! It helped prep him for what activities we might enjoy (since it’s been a WHILE since he’s played in the snow, like a huge percentage of his life! lol), and he also thinks Carl is hilarious in his snowy antics with the baby (who is now a preschooler like him).
Titles mentioned in this post should be readily available at your local library, or at the Amazon affiliate links provided.