Gene Zion: No Roses for Harry

Illustrated by Margaret Bloy Graham

First published by The Bodley Head Children’s Books, 1961

I think this would have to be my favourite story about Harry the dog. I remember reading it as a child and I still love the illustrations and the way the story unfolds, with gentle humour, awkward moments, and a quirky ending.

Harry, a white dog with black spots, has been given a birthday present from Grandma. Unfortunately, it’s a green knitted woollen jumper patterned with roses and Harry definitely does not like it. Despite the jumper being quite cosy to wear, Harry decides to lose it at the very first opportunity. But after a few clever attempts to lose it, leave it, and drop it, the jumper keeps finding its way back to Harry.

Alone at last in the park, Harry notices a loose stitch in the jumper and a nearby bird does too. Before Harry knows what is happening, the bird has flown down, picked up the loose strand of wool and zoomed away again. Before long, the jumper has unravelled altogether.

This is where the story gets really interesting! Harry knows where the bird has gone, but the reader doesn’t. What happens when Grandma comes for a surprise visit and no one at home can find the special jumper that she knitted for Harry?

The ending will make you smile, if you are not already smiling. The illustrations are gorgeous and tell the tale with so much flair using only black, green and orange for colour, in the style of Dr Seuss. The characters are endearing, and the streetscapes are filled with all the everyday things we know, similar to the art of Anna Walker and Serge Bloch.

If you like this story, there are more titles in the series, Harry the Dirty Dog (1956), Harry and the Lady Next Door (1960), and Harry by the Sea (1956) – all created by Gene Zion and his wife and collaborator Margaret Bloy Graham.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore the idea of gifts and gift giving, some welcome, some thoughtful and some altogether unexpected:

Strega Nona’s Harvest
by Tomie dePaola

The Spiffiest Giant in Town
by Julian Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

What is Given from the Heart
by Patricia C. McKissack
Illustrated by April Harrison

The Gift of Nothing
by Patrick McDonnell

The Gift by Penny Matthews Illustrated by Martin McKenna

Harold Loves His Woolly Hat
by Vern Kousky

Mr Nick’s Knitting
by Margaret Wild
Illustrated by Dee Huxley

You won’t like this present
as much as I do!
by Lauren Child

Thankyou, Omu! by Oge Mora

A Chair for Mother
by Vera B. Williams

The Gift by Michael Speechley

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett Illustrated by Jon Klassen

Erandi’s Braids by
Antonio Hernandez Madrigal Illustrated by Tomie dePaola

The Thank-you Present
by Jane Martino
Illustrated by Anne White

The Anzac Billy by Claire Saxby Illustrated by Mark Jackson & Heather Potter

My Name is Lizzie Flynn
by Claire Saxby
Illustrated by Lizzy Newcomb

The Not Very Merry Pout-Pout Fish by Deborah Diesen
Illustrated by Dan Hanna
A Present for Mother Bear
by Else Holmelund Minarik Illustrated by Chris Hahner

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

Give and Take by Chris Raschka

Alfie Gives a Hand
by Shirley Hughes

If you give a mouse a cookie
by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond

The Little Drummer Boy
by Ezra Jack Keats

A Christmas for Bear
by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by
Kady MacDonald Denton

Lynley Dodd: A Dragon in a Wagon

Illustrated by the author

First published by Puffin, 1988

Today is one of those days for lying down on the grass and looking up at the clouds and imagining what all the shapes could be. I can’t remember the last time I did that. Lynley Dodd’s little board book has nudged me in that direction this afternoon and I find myself looking out of the window and letting my mind wander around wishes and things that might be. 

In this little board book, Susie Fogg has taken Sam her dog for a walk along Jackson’s Stream. While she is there, with the lead in her hand and the grass and trees all around, her mind wanders and she wishes and imagines just what it might be like if Sam was something more than a dog.

“Sam,” she said,

You’re very good,

you never bark or bite.

The holes you dig

are not TOO big,

and you’re always home

at night.

But just this once

it might be fun

if you changed from dog,” she said.

“To something HUGE

or something FIERCE

or something ODD

instead.”

After these lively, bouncing, rhyming words we follow Susie and all her various imaginative transformations of Sam. He is a dragon in a wagon, a bat with a hat, a whale in a pail, a chimp with a limp, a shark in the dark and more!

But after tripping over a mossy log, Susie is glad to find her beloved Sam right there beside her. After all, we could wish our lives away and never truly appreciate what we have already.

Lynley Dodd is best known for her award-winning picture books about Hairy Maclary and his friends: Slinky Malinki, Scarface Claw, Schnitzel von Krumm and others. From New Zealand, her picture books have been loved and celebrated around the world and have sold millions of copies.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 3-6 years, and below are more suggestions for picture books which explore using your imagination, making wishes, and asking yourself the intriguing “What if…?” question:

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie
by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond

All I Said Was
by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Ross Collins

A Bear-y Tale
by Anthony Browne

Captain Jack and the Pirates
by Peter Bently
Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Not A Stick by Antoinette Portis

Gerald the Lion by Jessica Souhami

I Am A Tiger by Karl Newson Illustrated by Ross Collins

I Wish That I Had Duck Feet
by Dr Seuss, Theo LeSieg Illustrated by Barney Tobey

Imagine by Alison Lester

Would You Rather
by John Burningham

If I Had a Raptor
by George O’Connor

Not Just a Book
by Jeanne Willis
Illustrated by Tony Ross

Journey by Aaron Becker

The Something by Rebecca Cobb

Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

If I Had a Horse by Gianna Marino

My Elephant by Petr Horacek

If I Had a Unicorn
by Gabby Dawnay
Illustrated by Alex Barrow

If I Had an Octopus
by Gabby Dawnay
Illustrated by Alex Barrow

Julia Donaldson: The Hospital Dog

Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Published by Macmillan Children’s Books, Pan Macmillan, 2020

Dogs make wonderful pets. Some dogs are so wonderful, they become therapists!

We have friends who own two Havanese dogs, Josh and Viva. They are so well loved and hard working. Anne brings them with her when she visits residents in aged care facilities, nursing homes and respite care. They have little jackets to wear on these special visiting days. That way, everyone knows they have unique jobs to do. Sometimes just their presence is enough to bring a smile on someone’s face for the first time that day. Other times, the dogs’ exuberance is just the thing that encourages someone to go for a walk or get out of bed. Often, all a person needs is the unconditional acceptance of their little bodies being close and two hearts beating together. The residents will say to Anne, “Don’t come visiting again, unless you bring Josh and Viva with you!”

This picture book is all about a Dalmatian called Dot and her owner Rose, “with rings on her fingers and specs on her nose”. Rose takes Dot to all the sick children in Wallaby Ward and there we see how Dot can change the way people feel in one afternoon. Whether it’s calming someone’s anxiety or relieving the boredom of being cooped up and immobile, Dot seems to know just what to do. And Dot doesn’t just help the children who are sick, she also seems to sense that doctors and mothers need attention and care too.

One afternoon Dot does something very brave. In a moment, the tables have turned, and Dot is the one who needs to be patted, stroked, and cared for. The children of Wallaby Ward come to the rescue in the best way possible.

Julia Donaldson tells this story with so much love, bubbliness, and rhythm. The illustrations superbly compliment the text, with extraordinary details on every page. It’s as if Sara Ogilvie has taken her notepad to the hospital ward and sketched everyone and everything she saw. There are crutches leaning up against the wall, hand sanitizers, tea trolleys, pigeons, stethoscopes and all the paraphernalia of life to be seen on these pages. It’s comforting and familiar. I feel like I know Rose and Dot, they could be my neighbours…I wish they were!

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-6 years, it’s a sensitive introduction to the importance and relevance of pet therapy and how it can be used in a hospital setting. Below are more picture book suggestions that explore what it is like to feel unwell and going to hospital:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee
by Philip C. Stead
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Do I Have to Go to the Hospital?
by Pat Thomas

Clifford Visits the Hospital by Norman Bridwell

Maisy Goes to the Hospital
by Lucy Cousins

Curious George
Goes to the Hospital
by Margret Rey & H.A. Rey

Franklin Goes to the Hospital
by Paulette Bourgeois
Illustrated by Brenda Clark

I Broke My Trunk! by Mo Willems

Nurse Clementine by Simon James

Llama Llama Home with Mama
by Anna Dewdney

The Sniffles for Bear
by Bonny Becker
Illustrated by
Kady MacDonald Denton

How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon?by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague

Get Well Soon, Spot by Eric Hill

Betsy Goes to the Doctor
by Helen Stephens

Next Door’s Dog is a Therapy Dog by Gina Dawson
Illustrated by Vivienne da Silva

Taking Care of Mama Rabbit
by Anita Lobel

The Berenstain Bears
Go to the Doctor
by Stan & Jan Berenstain

I Don’t Want to go to the Hospital Tony Ross

I’m Really Ever So Not Well
by Lauren Child

Briony Stewart: We Love You, Magoo

Illustrated by the author

Published by Puffin Books, Penguin Random House, 2020

The engaging cover of this picture book just begs you to pick it up, and when you do, the story begins dramatically with no end papers to rustle through. Magoo, the silliest dogoo, is already into mischief on the first page. Lapping up eggs that are just waiting to be eaten, chewing teddy bears that should only be cuddled, scratching up doors that are barring his way in, drinking toilet water in the bowl…well, why not? It’s a pretty colour of blue! Like a cheeky toddler, Magoo manages to cause mayhem and mischief everywhere he goes, in the most endearing way.

Each time Magoo does something he shouldn’t, his adult owners show him what he can do. But being good is never quite as fun! The repeated refrain, “No, Magoo. This is for you,” is easy to learn and young readers will delight in yelling it out when Magoo is especially naughty.

The gentle rhyming text, the thick glossy paper, the wonderful illustrations and the charming character of Magoo himself all combine to make this an easy, breezy read. The end of the story is a happy one too, there is finally a YES for cheeky Magoo!

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years and below are more of my favorite picture books featuring dogs:

Oh No, George! by Chris Haughton

My Dog Bigsy by Alison Lester

Bark, George by Jules Feiffer

Angus and the Cat
by Margorie Flack

Hairy Maclary from Donaldson’s Dairy by Lynley Dodd

How Do Dinosaurs Love Their Dogs? by Jane Yolen
Illustrated by Mark Teague

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

Charlie Star by Terry Milne

Kipper and Roly by Mick Inkpen

Mr Scruff by Simon James

Dog on the Tuckerbox
by Corinne Fenton
Illustrated by Peter Gouldthorpe

Spot Goes to the Farm
by Eric Hill

The Hospital Dog
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Sarah Ogilvie

Perdu by Richard Jones

Raymond by Yann &
Gwendal Le Bec

My Little Golden Book About Dogs by Lori Haskins Houran

Ruffles and the red, red coat
by David Melling

Moira Court: At the Dog Park

Illustrated by the author

Published by Fremantle Press, WA, 2020

My son and I have been going for long walks in the morning just about every day of the week. Our goal is to visit the lakes nearby and say hullo to the ducks and satisfy ourselves that all is well with them and their babies. On the way we pass two big parks, sometimes home to cricket, football or soccer games, but mostly we see people with their dogs. Fortunately, the parks are enclosed, and the dogs make the most of this by running around wildly chasing balls and each other. Like liquorice, there are all sorts, shaggy and smooth, fast and slow, black and white.

This picture book has an abundance of dogs in all shapes and sizes. They are wonderfully crafted out of paper. Moira Court is an artist who works in print making, creating her images using her own prints. The result is so life-like that you could name all the breeds if you were that clever.

Each double spread has an image of two dogs which have opposite attributes: one is noisy and the other is quiet, one is clean and the other is grubby, one is idle and the other is busy. They are placed on a green grassy background, but each double spread has a different kind of green texture, pattern and hue. An added reading bonus is that each couplet rhymes and you can hear the gentle rhythm of the text as you read it aloud.

I can highly recommend this picture book for children 2-4 years as well as for anyone who loves dogs and paper in equal amounts! Below are some of my favorite picture books about dogs:

Dogs by Emily Gravett

Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest Ilustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion Illustrated by Margaret B. Graham

It’s a Dog’s Life
by Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Patrick Benson

A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka

Fetch by Jorey Hurley

The Detective Dog
by Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie

Dogger by Shirley Hughes

Bob the Railway Dog
by Corinne Fenton
Illustrated by Andrew McLean

The Pocket Dogs by Margaret Wild Illustrated by Stephen M. King

Dog on a Train
by Kate Prendergast

The Perfect Guest by Paula Metcalf

McDuff and the Baby
by Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

My Friend Fred by Frances Watts Illustrated by A. Yi

Charlie and Lola: A Dog with Nice Ears by Lauren Child

‘Let’s Get a Pup!” by Bob Graham

If You Give a Dog a Donut
by Laura Numeroff
Illustrated by Felicia Bond

Daisy Hirst: I Like Trains

Illustrated by the author

Published by Walker Books, London, 2020

Trains. They are big and noisy. They come and go. They take us to new places and return us home again. Boom gates announce their arrival and the ding-dong signals tell everyone to keep clear of the tracks. Trains even make a sound that is unique to them as they ride the tracks, chuff, chuff, chuffing along. No wonder trains are fascinating for little ones.

Daisy Hirst has written a wonderfully simple yet comprehensive story about Small Dog and his love of trains. Big text, few words, clean images on a white background all combine to make this a very accessible story for pre-schoolers.

In the story, we see Small dog playing with his own train set, setting up some of his toy animals as passengers as they ride the tracks. Small Dog even imagines himself as a conductor of his own train, made with cardboard boxes. Books teach him more about trains, there are so many different types: freight trains, bullet trains and steam trains.

But best of all is going to the station and riding the train with Mum. Buying the tickets, finding the platform, taking a seat by the window and watching the scenery fly past and arriving finally to see Grandma waiting on the platform.

This a warm, feel good story that encapsulates the wonder of trains with the joy of discovery and the security of family. I can highly recommend it for children 2 -4 years and below there are more suggestions about some of my favourite picture books which feature trains. All aboard!

Dog on a Train by
Kate Prendergast
Trains Go by
Steve Light
That’s Not My Train by
Fiona Watt
Mr Nick’s Knitting by
Margaret Wild
Illustrated by
Dee Huxley
The Little Train by
Graham Greene
Illustrated by
Edward Ardizzone
James the Red Engine
by Rev. W. Awdry
Freight Train by
Donald Crews
Hamish Takes the Train
by Daisy Hirst