Taking Care of Our Furry Friends

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Taking Care of Our Furry Friends

Books for younger readers that touch upon the theme of responsibility

Teaching youth about responsibility can be a difficult task for any adult, but one method to get children invested in this concept is taking care of others - and there is no better place to start than with pet ownership. Among other holidays, February celebrates Responsible Pet Owner’s Month. If your child has been pestering you for a furry friend, then perhaps you will find these materials timely.

DC Public Library’s collection includes a plethora of material on this topic for readers of every age. Those who are just learning to read may enjoy Easy Readers that feature animal friends. The Doc McStuffins series, for instance, has a great text entitled Take Your Pet to the Vet that may answer questions your little one has about this important community figure.

Older children may appreciate choices like the series The Shelter Pet Squad. Starting with book one which is entitled Jelly Bean, this lovely series gently encourages children to appreciate the tasks associated with taking care of the littlest family members. For lighthearted picks for older readers, I also recommend the Hamster Princess series by Ursula Vernon. Don’t let the glittery cover fool you – there is more to Harriet, the titular character in Harriet the Invincible, than a furry coat. Combining fun graphics with a witty fairy tale-inspired storyline, this series will have readers sharing many laughs.

Some of the best books to cover the topic of pet ownership come in the form of picture books. Animals have long been staples of this genre, but it is the detail the illustrations are able to convey that allows children to identify with this subject. Take The Summer Nick Taught His Cats to Read, for example; as a cat owner I can greatly appreciate the grumpy expressions that illustrator Kate Berube captured, which underscore one boy’s silly adventures as he undertakes the overwhelming task of interesting his cats in books (besides sitting on them, of course.)  Similarly, while Glamourpuss features an overindulged housecat that children will giggle at, it slyly interjects hints about real life concerns like friendship as well.

Dog lovers will rejoice in classic titles like Harry the Dirty Dog or soon to be classics like Mister Bud Wears the Cone; I enjoy especially the book Mutt Dog, a lovely and compassionate look at stray animals and how they can find a home. But not every animal lover has to be of the furry variety: Mango, Abuela and Me – a Pura Belpré Author Award Honor Book – uses the addition of a new parrot to a family as a way to explore the idea of communication between a young girl and her Spanish-speaking grandmother. Do You Still Love Me by Charlotte Middleton utilizes another atypical pet, a chameleon, in this simple but effective book. Anna’s dog Dudley is concerned when she brings another friend home and soon feels like he is no longer special. But Pequito the chameleon soon convinces Dudley that there is more than enough love for everyone to go around.

But some children will never be appeased with ordinary pets: in this case what is a parent to do? Meet for instance Sophia who narrates the hilarious text One Word from Sophia. All she really wants is a giraffe for her birthday, and this precocious child will do everything in her power to receive one. A Unicorn Named Sparkle will strike a related chord with overly ambitious children: when Lucy comes across an ad for a unicorn, it seems too good to be true - but will this horned wonder be everything she has dreamed of?

Not every child may pursue pet ownership, and parents will certainly appreciate alternative approaches to mine as a child, which basically included interjecting the topic of buying a dog into every conversation. While pet ownership may be outside the scope of the family plan, nonetheless, these texts are important because they stress common values such as how should we treat animals and one another – a subject we all can identify with and learn from.