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The Picture Book Buzz

Bad Dog - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

Did you ever pretend, by yourself or with siblings or friends, that you (or they) were the dog, cat, horse, or other pet you desperately wanted? I can remember my siblings and I having many exciting afternoons pretending to gallop around, as if on horses, or "train" each other to do an obstacle course (as dogs). But I never remember any of us totally believing, or forcing, an alternate reality, until my youngest brother came along. And no, we didn't pretend he was a dog. At least, I don't think they did. I had left for college at the time.

The first Christmas I brought someone home to my family, my youngest brother had just turned four. For some reason, unknown to the rest of the family, he decided my boyfriend's name was "Grogan." None of us had ever heard this name before, nor had any idea where it came from. But he was adamant and my boyfriend was a good sport.

Suddenly, after an hour or so, when someone else used this "new" name, my brother announced, "No! It's not his name! His name is John Smith." [real name changed to protect the "innocent."]

The ability of children to create and stand by their own reality is amazing. I saw it time and again, where he (and then my kids) would declare something to have a different name or a different nature and stick by that assertion of reality for days at a time.

Mike Boldt perfectly captured this stubborn, intense ability of a child to ignore an obvious truth.

Bad Dog

Author/Illustrator: Mike Boldt

Publisher: Doubleday Books For Young Readers (2019)

Ages: 3-7



Humor, cats, dogs, pets, and imagination.


"Look what I got for my birthday! A pet dog!" says a little girl holding a . . . cat? Rocky doesn't listen or obey like all the other dogs. (Because Rocky is a cat.) And Rocky hates her leash and doesn't seem to like other dogs. (Probably because Rocky is a cat.) And rather than play fetch, Rocky prefers to . . . lick between her toes? Ew. Rocky is a bad "dog"! BUT Rocky doesn't bark, and is so cute when she sleeps in sunny spots. Maybe Rocky IS a good dog? (Or, you know, maybe Rocky is a cat.) Cat lovers and dog lovers alike will howl with laughter at this little girl's willful insistence that her cat is a dog. The hilarious ways in which cats and dogs are different are brilliantly illuminated with each turn of the page and will leave young readers and their grown-ups giggling.

Opening Lines:

"Look what I got for my birthday!

A pet dog!"

What I liked about this book:

The cat's face on the cover, that synopsis from Barnes & Noble, and this initial spread all cracked me up.

© Mike Boldt, 2019.

I was chuckling and snorting. What a hilarious premise and hook. I just had to read the book. I had to find out why the girl thought Rocky (the cat) was a dog and whether she would ever admit the truth.

Mike Boldt skillfully set up the joke and the conundrum from the opening end page - "My Birthday List 1. Dog, 2. ____ ." The reader knows the one and only thing the little girl wants is a DOG. Then, the reader sees a box with a paw emerging. Mike perfectly captures the studied indifference of a cat and the insistent determination of a child to believe that her one wish had been granted.

© Mike Boldt, 2019.

Slowly, the girl begins to acknowledge that unlike a regular dog, Rocky does NOT bark at the mailman, have accidents on the floor, or chew her toys. Throughout, the bright, bold, expressive illustrations continually contradict the sparse text, heightening the humor and providing some extra gags and treasures. Promising many fun readings.

Ultimately, the girl describes some good and bad things about Rocky; things that any cat owner will identify with. All the while humorously comparing and contrasting the differences between cats and dogs. Each spread will have the kids and their grown-ups snickering and snorting.

© Mike Boldt, 2019.

But you're going to have to read the book to discover how these two ultimately come to a compromise about their relationship. Overall, this is a great book on adjusting ones dreams, comparing some of the differences between cats and dogs, and highlighting the love between a child and a pet. I simply love this duo and adore Rocky.


- do you know what is the best pet for you and your family? Try this quiz

- describe or draw your favorite pet - real or imaginary - what would be your biggest challenge with that pet;

- there are cats that like to chase balls and walk on leases, does that make them "good dogs"? Or dogs that sleep in the sun and play with yarn, are they "good cats"? What make a dog a dog and a cat a cat?

- what other animal would make a "bad dog"? Would a dog make a "bad cat"?

If you missed Mike Boldt's interview on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.

Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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