Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Dog Is a Dog, by Stephen Shaskan (ages 4 - 8)

I just love watching kids while they read, especially when their eyes sparkle in that "ohhhh..." moment when they get the joke. Kids love books with unexpected twists, and they'll read them again and again - absolutely relishing the way they KNOW the twist that's going to happen, and they can see how funny it is. A new favorite picture book is A Dog Is a Dog, by Stephen Shaskan. It's a great choice for kids who like funny books, with an unexpected twist.
A Dog Is a Dog
by Stephen Shaskan
CA: Chronicle Books, 2011
ages 4 - 8
available at your local library, my favorite bookstore, and at Amazon
Stephen Shaskan combines silly humor with eye-catching illustrations that pull readers right into the story. With bright, bold colors, Shaskan’s spotted dog enjoys the sunshine in a plastic wading pool, with perfect preschooler goofiness. But that isn’t all. Here's the beginning of the book:
“A dog is a dog,/ whether it's naughty... or nice,
Whether it suns on the beach,
or glides on the ice.
A dog is a dog, if it’s skinny or fat.
A dog is a dog, unless it’s a . . .”
Turn the page and it’s a “CAT!” 
Look closely, and you'll see this cat is actually removing a dog costume. At first, kids will look at it a little quizzically. I mean, a cat was really inside the dog costume? But show them the zipper, and they'll start to get it. The cat, in turn, proceeds to remove its costume to show that it was actually a squid. As the verses repeat, one wacky animal after another emerges from the costume, until the spotted dog from the beginning resurfaces.

Shaskan uses thick, bold lines and bright colors reminiscent of Bob Shea’s Dinosaur vs. Bedtime, but certainly with a sillier touch. Details and patterns within the bright colors lend the digital art a subtle texture. But really, kids will ask to read this book again and again to laugh and giggle as each animal is revealed.

Have fun watching Stephen Shaskan's book trailer, and you'll get a sense of how much fun this book can be:

If you like books with a twist like this, you'll certainly like Guess Again!, by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex.  My youngest daughter read this again, and again, and again - delighting in the way she knew the answers to each joke. What a perfect hook into reading!

The review copy was kindly sent by Chronicle Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2011 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books.

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