I'm My Own Dog

illus. by David Ezra Stein. 32p. Candlewick. 2014. Tr $15.99. ISBN 9780763661397. LC 2013952833.
RedReviewStarPreS-Gr 2—The typical pet picture book is turned on its ear in this witty and charming story. This independent pooch proudly takes care of himself: "I curl up at my own feet. Sometimes, if I'm not comfortable, I tell myself to roll over." He scoffs at the pets who follow commands and demonstrates how he throws and fetches his own stick, "it's fun." His life is pretty perfect…except for the itch on his back that he just can't reach. When a friendly person scratches the itch for him, then follows him home, the little canine can't help but adopt him. Young readers will get a kick out of the reversed human-pet roles, which are cheerfully and animatedly illustrated in pen and "hacked" kids' marker and colored with watercolor and crayon. The cartoonlike drawings perfectly illuminate the life and attitudes of this canine character, from his contented chewing on a slipper to his joyful, bowlegged run during a game of fetch. Minimal text makes this a great read-aloud for listeners with short attention spans, while the humor will tickle older kids and grown-ups.—Marian McLeod, Convent of the Sacred Heart, Greenwich, CT
"I'm my own dog. Nobody owns me. I own myself," says this independent canine. But one day, when his legs prove too short, he lets someone scratch his itchy back. Soon the dog is taking his "good boy" on walks, teaching him about chasing squirrels, etc. Stein's gestural watercolors are the perfect foil for the droll text.
"I'm my own dog. Nobody owns me. I own myself." This independent, self-starter narrator looks down on ordinary pups, the ones owned by people. This dog will not sit for anyone, even if a bone is the reward. But one day, when his legs prove to be too short to reach an itchy spot in the middle of his back, our canine actually lets someone scratch it. That someone is a mustachioed man who scratches the dog's back and then follows him home. Soon the dog is taking his "good boy" on walks, teaching him about chasing squirrels, and showing him how to throw sticks. Stein's gestural watercolors are the perfect foil for the droll text. As the story unfolds, young readers will begin to understand the humorous tension between what the text says and what the pictures show (and what they know to be true about dogs and their owners). When the dog complains about having to "clean up after them," one can imagine a child laughing at the scene of spilled ice cream. Dog-loving parents will be reading this one over and over--and will never tire of it. robin l. smith

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