My Dog is the Best
Author: Laurie Ann Thompson
Illustrator: Paul Schmid
Published: June 9, 2015 by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Goodreads Summary: What do you get when you combine one energetic, enthusiastic little boy with his sleepy but tolerant dog? Unconditional love. Using simple words and spare illustrations, My Dog Is the Best celebrates the special bond that exists between a young child and a beloved family pet. It’s the heartwarming story of two best friends. . . told by a boy with a very active imagination.
Ricki’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This charming tale will surely win the hearts of many children. It made me feel a bit guilty that I don’t have a dog for my son! I can imagine teachers reading this story aloud to captivated audiences. Teachers might ask students to compare this story with others in their classrooms. The way the illustrator and text focuses on the two subjects makes their friendship shine. You can find an example of the text’s playfulness in the flagged page below. It made me smile! After reading this story, I would encourage my students to write their own stories about friendships that they have.
Kellee’s Review and Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: This book makes me want a dog (and like Ricki said, I feel a bit guilty for not having a dog for Trent!). I loved this sweet story of a sleepy dog and a rambunctious child who is going to have fun with his dog no matter what the dog thinks about it. The play between the words and illustrations is what really made this book special and made the quiet humor really ring through. I also think that kids are really going to like the end of the book. Like Ricki, I think that this text could be a great mentor text for writing about times of imagination and friendship. What other ways could the boy have played with the dog? How do you play with your pet/toy? I also think that it is a great story to use to talk about humor and irony. Why was the ending funny?
Discussion Questions: What kinds of games do you play with your best friend/pet/toy?; Do you have a pet? How is your relationship with your pet similar or dissimilar with this story?; In what ways is it obvious that the author and illustrator worked together to create this book? How do the drawings enhance the story?; Why is the ending ironic?
Read This if You Loved: Look! by Jeff Mack; The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey; May the Best Dog Win by Kelly Hashway; Bark, George by Jules Feiffer; Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
Interview with the Laurie Ann Thompson and Paul Schmid!
Questions to Laurie:
- What inspired you to write this book?
I first wrote the text as an assignment for a course I was taking, Anastasia Suen’s Easy Reader/Chapter Book Workshop. I’ve always loved dogs, and it’s a great word for beginning readers, so I started there. I noticed that most of the time when I said, “Good dog!” to my poor old dog, Sara, she was either curling up and getting ready to go to sleep or already sleeping. She would give me this confused look that said, “What? I’m not doing anything!” She’d been a hyperactive, crazy dog in her younger years, so it was a huge relief when she finally started slowing down a little. I appreciated the humor in those interactions. At the same time, I had an awfully busy little boy at home, so both the tension between their very different energy levels and their special “best friends” relationship were natural ingredients for the story.
- Did you have a specific dog when you were growing up that you were thinking of as you wrote this book?
It’s really a collection of all of them. My dogs were my best friends, and they put up with so much of my probably unwanted attention. I had one special dog named Sammy that I used to dress up in doll clothes, push in a baby swing, and take for rides in my bicycle basket. (He loved those last two activities, but I’m pretty sure he merely tolerated the first!) He was the best. When I was bit older, my dog Ripper used to wait at the end of our driveway—every single day—for the school bus to bring me home. He listened to all of my tales of teenage angst and always let me dry my tears on his fur. He was devoted and dependable. He was the best. Then, as an adult, there was Sara. She was the best, too. I think whatever dog we make room for in our lives becomes “the best,” just by virtue of us loving them.
- You write both YA and children’s books. How is your writing process different for each?
It’s very different! For my YA books, I’m a rather obsessive planner. I research and outline, then research some more and revise the outline and so on, for a long time, before I’m finally ready to start writing. For my picture books, I like to just play. I just start writing and see what happens. As a result, I typically spend less time revising the YA books than the picture books, even though the picture books are much, much shorter! It usually takes a lot of revision to make a picture book work just right.
- What was it like to work with an illustrator?
With my YA books, like Be a Changemaker, there is no illustrator, so the final product is the result of the collaboration between my editors and me—and we’re all primarily word people. As a picture book author, though, it’s always exciting to see what another person with a very different way of working and of seeing the world will bring to my original vision. Authors don’t usually get much say in the illustrations (and rightly so, as I surely am no art expert!). With my second book (and first picture book), Emmanuel’s Dream, I had never met the illustrator, Sean Qualls, and I didn’t see any of his stunning artwork until it was almost all finished. I was on pins and needles, but what a pleasant surprise! For My Dog Is the Best the experience was a bit unusual but every bit as special. It just happened that Paul Schmid and I live not far apart and had known each other for years. When he took on the manuscript, I was ecstatic! We kept in touch throughout the process, and I even got to spend a day collaborating with him in his studio—one of my all-time favorite writing days ever! We both ended up influencing both the art and the text, and we ended up with something we’re both really proud of.
Questions to Paul:
- How did you decide what the characters would look like?
Initially, I form a clear picture of the characters personalities. Are they active? Sedentary? Outgoing or shy? The design of a character should provide solid clues to who they are. Our dog in the book just wants to nap, and I imagined an old, tolerant, comfortable Basset Hound of established habits. The boy is much more active, but young and naive. He is also sweet and loving, as the book is itself. So I felt the boy needed a kind, gullible, gentle look that was at the same time visually sympathetic to his dog, in order to form an emotional connection between the two for the reader. As a result, they both ended up round and gentle looking.
- What does the artistic process look like?
Many many sketches. Then many more. Then a few more. Eventually I have to start the final art. I don’t think I ever really feel like I’m done improving things, but a deadline shows up and helps me stop.
Early sketch of the dog
Dog sketch and boy sketch
Early cover design
Another early cover design
Second stage spread
Follow My Dog is the Best on Tour!:
6/6/2015 Booking Mama http://www.bookingmama.net
6/8/2015 Jean Reidy http://jeanreidy.com
6/9/2015 Watch. Connect. Read. http://mrschureads.blogspot.com
6/10/2015 5 Minutes for Books http://books.5minutesformom.com
6/11/2015 KidLit Frenzy http://www.kidlitfrenzy.com
6/12/2015 Unleashing Readers https://www.unleashingreaders.com
6/16/2015 Anastasia Suen: Booktalk http://www.anastasiasuen.com
6/19/2015 Kirby’s Lane http://kirbyslane.com
7/1/2015 Library Lions http://LibraryLionsRoar.blogspot.com
Thank you to Laurie and Paul for taking part in the interview and for having us as part of the blog tour!