Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bad to the Bone, by Lucy Nolan - winner of 2009 Cybils short chapter book

Do you have any animal loving new readers in your life? My children and their friends love their pets. I remember when I was young I used to tell all my secrets to my cat because he would never share them with anyone! The Down Girl and Sit series is a great choice for kids ready to read short chapter books. Best of all, this will make you laugh out loud.
Bad to the Bone
by Lucy Nolan
illustrated by Mike Reed
NY: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2008
ages 6 - 8
This is truly a story for the dogs, or should I say from the dogs? Down Girl explains about her days protecting her home from the evil cat next door, Here Kitty Kitty. She shares tales of training her master, along with the help of her neighbor Sit. You see, their masters are continually yelling, "Down Girl" or "Sit" to these two hopelessly clueless dogs.

I loved the humor in this short chapter book. It made me laugh out loud on several occasions. Nolan has created a distinctive humorous voice as you hear Down Girl telling her silly story. In one of my favorite chapters, Down Girl explains about her typical day when Rruff (her master, because she's always barking at him):
I don't know where Rruff goes every morning when he leaves the house. I just know that he is very lucky that I stay home. If I goofed off as much as he does, the squirrels would take over. Sit and I are not about to let that happen.

We want to make the neighborhood safe for everyone - even the man next door. He is not my favorite person. He grills hamburgers in his yard and never gives me any. But I don't hold that against him.
Well, not much.
You can just guess some of the escapades that Down Girl is going to get into with this hamburger-loving neighbor. Nolan also does a wonderful job of combining action, dialog and character development - all of which are important qualities for new readers to understand. The illustrations throughout help develop the humor and silly situations. I would love to ask a child what this story would sound like if the master told it. Or maybe Here Kitty Kitty.

Lucy Nolan shares on her website about her funny dogs Nutmeg and Becky. She writes,
Everybody always wants to know which of my two dogs inspired the character of Down Girl. The original answer was "Nutmeg" — the most rambunctious, and ridiculous, dog you could ever meet. Nutmeg was a red setter who spent a lot of time standing up on her hind legs or springing into the air for no apparent reason. I spent a lot of time yelling, "Down, girl!"

By the time I finished writing the first Down Girl and Sit book, Becky the English setter had come to live with us. Becky is the sweetest dog I've ever known, but she has the knack of getting into some very odd predicaments. Between the two of them, Down Girl's personality really started taking shape.

If you're interested, take a look at the Google preview of the book. See if the reading level and text matches your child's ability. Or if you're a dog-loving family, this would make a great read-aloud. The beginning of the first chapter starts off with Down Girl explaining about the everlasting feud between cats and dogs:

Bad to the Bone was chosen as the winner of the 2009 Cybils Award for Short Chapter Books. I served on the round 2 judging panel and found the discussions with other panel members fascinating. Cybils are awarded to books that have both the highest literary merit and excellent kid appeal. I am thrilled that Cybils is recognizing short chapter books - such an important step as children develop their confidence and fluency reading longer books.

If you like Bad to the Bone, definitely check out other books in the Down Girl and Sit series:
Smarter than Squirrels
On the Road
Home on the Range (coming in April 2010!)

The review copy was kindly provided by the publisher for the Cybils panel. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links, Great Kid Books will receive a small commission (at no cost to you!) which will be used to purchase more books for review. Thank you for your support.


  1. Great I'll check out 'Bad to the Bone' for my youngest!

  2. Im lucy nolan daughter angelina and i love her books