“Happiness is a warm puppy.”–Charles Schulz
Grades 3-5 [Scholastic]
Review and Comments
“A boy and his dog make a glorious pair: No better friendship is found anywhere.” And that is why Billy Getten yearns for a dog of his own. He wants that special relationship. The problem is that Billy and his parents have different ideas about the whole ownership plan. Billy tries to convince his parents he would be a “better Billy” if he owned a dog, but his parents want to see a better Billy before he owns a dog. It is a tough argument. Then things get a bit more complicated when Billy’s friend, Howard, accuses him of initiating a plan that endangers his little brother. Billy feels betrayed and cannot convince his parents he isn’t guilty. The consequences of this episode with Howard push dog ownership even further in the future. His allowance is taken away and that means he cannot afford to buy the dog treats he needs when training six stray dogs at the vet’s or nibble on his favorite snack! Billy faithfully continues his work with the dogs sans dog biscuits. Then he meets a beautiful stray and their connection is immediate and undeniable. He secretly hopes that this particular dog will one day be his.
When Billy’s grandparents come for a visit, Billy spends quality time with his grandfather. They have some good conversations that include wise advice and counsel and sometimes a bit of humor. Billy celebrates his birthday during his grandparents’ visit so they happily witness Billy receiving his present of the beautiful stray dog. It is a very happy ending for everyone.
Getting a pet dog is the main theme in this story, but Billy also experiences struggles that are part of growing up for a typical boy going into third grade. Some of them are life lessons and some are problems he creates on his own. He often tries to avoid getting in trouble, faces the betrayal of a good friend, learns to forgive, and notices health problems with his grandfather. But Billy isn’t alone. The adults in the story are positive role models who teach Billy about responsibility. His parents expect him to help around the house by keeping his room clean and even helping a bit with his baby sister. He reluctantly does those things but often complains. They also expect him to think for himself. When Billy feels uneasy about the risky idea Howard has, he does not protest because he does not want Howard to think he is a baby. Billy’s dad cautions, “Sometimes you have to be different from your friends.” During Billy’s grandparents’ visit, Grandfather talks to him about the same thing but he also points out the things Billy already does that show he is responsible. He mentions how Billy helps him get his daily paper and helps Dr. Mike, the vet, take care of the stray dogs in her care. The two men provide valuable and balanced lessons.
This book is a good transition from shorter chapter books to longer stories. The chapters are not long and there are still a few black and white pictures to illustrate the text.
- “Hey! You’re supposed to signal dummy!”
- Grandpa jokingly asks Billy if baby Sarah might want a beer.
- Interview a grandparent. Ask good questions that will help you learn about your grandparent as a youth. Examples: Where did you grow up? What schools did you attend? Do you have brothers and sisters? Did you have a pet? What was its name? Did you have a best friend? What did you like to do together? What was your favorite book?
- Using the answers, write a story about your grandparent.
- Be sure to include a picture of you and your grandparent.
- Write a descriptive paragraph about your pet or a pet you want. This article provides helpful strategies for writing a good descriptive paragraph: http://www.readingrockets.org/strategies/descriptive_writing
- Billy went along with Howard’s idea even though he knew it was dangerous because he didn’t want to be called a baby. This article from Family Life is a good resource for parents when teaching young children about peer pressure. “How Do I Teach My Kids to Handle Peer Pressure?” [eight strategies to help children learn to discern good friendships and stand up to bad influences] http://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/parenting/ages-and-stages/teens/how-do-i-teach-my-kids-to-handle-peer-pressure
“Five Ways to Pray for Your Kids’ Friendship” http://www.faithgateway.com/5-ways-to-pray-for-your-kids-friendships/#.WrU5GojwbIU
A Prayer for a Child’s Wise Choice of Companions
Dear Mother Mary, my child is beginning to move away from my complete supervision, and that is natural. It will mean so much for him [her] to have wholesome, good companions, boys and girls. From now on I must of necessity, leave much to his [her] choice, though I also know that I must keep a watchful, loving care. You realize – better than I do – how precious my child’s soul is and how bad companions can ruin it. So, with me, dear Mother, ask your Son, who once was young, too, to guide my son [daughter] in the choice of each and every friend.
CCC 2199 The fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother, because this relationship is the most universal. It likewise concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honor, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors. Finally, it extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it.
2218 The fourth commandment reminds grown children of their responsibilities toward their parents. As much as they can, they must give them material and moral support in old age and in times of illness, loneliness, or distress. Jesus recalls this duty of gratitude
Forgiving others [Ephesians 4:31-32]:
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander
be put away from you, with all malice,
and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,
as God in Christ Forgave you.”