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The Stray Dog
The Stray Dog
by Marc Simont
Illustration by Marc Simont

When a little dog appears at a family picnic, the girl and boy play with him all afternoon, and they name him Willy. At day's end they say good-bye. But the dog has won their hearts and stays on their minds. The following Saturday the family returns to the picnic grounds to look for Willy, but they are not alone - the dogcatcher is looking for him, too.

Caldecott Medalist Marc Simont's heartwarming tale of a stray dog who finds a home is told with appealing simplicity and grace.

Age: 4 Year-olds | Title: The Stray Dog  |  Author: Marc Simont  |  Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

When a little dog appears at a family picnic, the girl and boy play with him all afternoon, and they name him Willy. At day's end they say good-bye. But the dog has won their hearts and stays on their minds. The following Saturday the family returns to the picnic grounds to look for Willy, but they are not alone - the dogcatcher is looking for him, too.

Caldecott Medalist Marc Simont's heartwarming tale of a stray dog who finds a home is told with appealing simplicity and grace.

Based on a true story, The Stray Dog is a Caldecott Honor Book and winner of the Georgia Children's Book Award. The sentences are shorter with great learning-to-read words, so your child can either follow along or try reading with you. The inclusion of dialogue from each member of the family adds tone variations to keep the story fun to listen to. The water color pictures are focused on the action in the foreground with little to no background and much white space, but in a few surprise two-page spreads the pages are filled with a sunset of color painting a very vivid scene.

The stray dog, Willy, is the only character awarded a name and has a clear personality through his actions. Any child who has interacted with a dog will be able to relate to the children falling in love with Willy almost at first sight, and their desire to take him home and love him like a family member. The children show great ingenuity when facing the dog catcher and convincing him that Willy is there dog and should not go to the pound; the little boy insists his belt is Willy's collar, and the little girl insists her hair ribbon is Willy's leash. Your child may have a lot questions throughout the story, such as what kind of dog is Willy, and if you would let them keep a stray if they found one, or even if Willy is a real dog somewhere. Be prepared for your child's imagination to kick in, as they start thinking they may find a stray of their own soon. You could talk about what to do if they do ever find one.

I read this book to my four-year-old niece, Emily, who is a big fan of dogs. She loved Willy right away and insisted she would have taken Willy home with her the first time. Emily really enjoyed the final two-page spread of all the different dogs and dog owners at the park. We spent some time trying to decide what breed they were, and Emily gave them each a name.

--Audra

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