I Want a Dog by Jon Agee – at a glance
The School Reading Lists’ five word review: heart’s desire, animal, love, special.
Children’s book title: I Want a Dog.
Children’s author: Jon Agee.
Genre: Picture book.
Published by: Scallywag Press.
Recommended for children aged: 4+ year-olds.
First published: Paperback September 2023.
This children’s book is ideal for: discussing choices.
To see the latest price or order, click on the book cover image.
When the small girl in this story (she is not named) calls in at the Happydale Animal Shelter, wedged between the local cake shop and the newsagents, she has only one thing on her mind. She has come equipped with her trolley, to take home her heart’s desire: a dog.
But the man running the shelter has no dogs to offer. Instead, he suggests a porcupine, then a weasel. Then he presents, in turn, an armadillo, a baby baboon, a python, a frog and a goldfish in a bowl. These are followed by a lizard dressed to look (a bit) like a dog, then an albatross, a kangaroo and a wombat. Finally, he asks the girl, ‘What’s so special about a dog ?’
The girl’s answer is the reason why anyone might want any animal to keep and take care of.
‘A dog is loyal, loving, smart, cuddly, goofy, courageous….and it’s the best friend you could ever have in the world.’
The man says he has the very thing she needs and strides off, returning with a seal. ‘This is Lucinda! She eats twenty pounds of fish every day and needs to swim in at least 3,000 cubic feet of salt water. So what do you think ?’
At this point, the look that Jon Agee has created between the seal and the girl would melt the flintiest heart. I know many accomplished actors who would give a lot to achieve such subtlety of messaging with their eyes alone.
‘I’ll take her,’ says the girl. She puts the seal in her trolley and trundles home, ignoring the puzzled look of a passing car driver. ‘Dogs are overrated,’ she says, as they play together in a pool.
As always, with picture books like this, I tried it out with my five-year-old grandson.
‘So what happened at the end ?’ ‘She loved the seal. It didn’t matter it wasn’t a dog. She wanted to love and take care of an animal.’
This is a lovely book, using straightforward language in just the right amount and at the right register, clearly and economically illustrated and revealing an important insight, which I have for some time now tried to ensure that my grandson can absorb.
It is that just below, or slightly to one side of, the world which everyone else sees is one’s own personal angle of vision, with its own language, sympathies and, above all, humour. As children grow, we have to make sure that certain antennae – ones that enable them to see what is safe or dangerous, ones that can detect pain or joy in others – are properly developed. Just as important is the power to see the true oddness of the world.
Many thanks to Scallywag Press for the review copy.
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If you like I Want a Dog by Jon Agee you might also like: our reviews of My Dad is a Tree by Jon Agee, Free Kid to Good Home by Hiroshi Ito, Pops by Gavin Bishop, The Little Thing by Nick Cave, NO! said Rabbit by Marjoke Henrichs, I say Oh, You say No by John Kane and our list of books for year 1.
Browse our list of books for KS1.