I want to dedicate this post to the author Kelly DiPucchio’s own sweet little pooch, Whimsy, who passed away a couple of weeks ago. Run in peace, Whimsy DiPucchio, 2000-2015. I am sure you were the inspiration for many stories and much love!
Written by: Kelly DiPucchio
Illustrated by: Christian Robinson
Published by: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
Themes/Topics: Poodles, bulldogs, individuality, mix-ups
Suitable for ages: 3-7
Opening: Mrs. Poodle admired her new puppies. Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La and Gaston.
This begins as the story of four puppies: Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston. Gaston works the hardest at all his mama’s lessons on how to be a proper poodle. He sips—never slobbers (mostly)! He yips—never yaps (mostly)! And he walks with grace—never races (mostly)! With a little bit of doggy license, Gaston is fitting in fine with his poodle sisters.
But a chance encounter with a bulldog family in the park—Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette—reveals there’s been a mix-up. Mama Poodle and Bulldog give the pups the choice and both Gaston and Antoinette opt to switch places. It takes just twenty four hours for Gaston and Antoinette to realize that though the new families look right, they don’t feel right. The Mama dogs meet in the park the following day for a very satisfying final scene.
Why I like This Book:
A bulldog and a poodle and their families learn that family is about love, bonding and acceptance, not appearances in this fun doggy tale. There is some intentional stereotyping (though Gaston pulls off pink really well), both with dog breeds and genders, and for me this only adds to he humor of this beautifully illustrated book about individuality, fortitude and family. There is a good balance of being oneself and fitting in, in the story, which is realistic.
DiPucchio’s French poodle names just beg to be read aloud and her text is tight and ticklish, e.g. Gaston balking and the boy-words, brutish, brawny or brown. I think kids will find the mix up funny and Antoinette and Gaston’s choices totally appropriate.
Robinson’s acrylic paintings are childlike and yet precise in their economy. He uses a full palette and with simple brush strokes creates vivid cahracter-rich scenes. The bold strokes and cheerfulness will, I believe, be mimicked by young artists. This is a great author/illustrator team!
Here’s a great list of the fifty most popular dog breeds in the USA. enchanted learning.com
Activities about dogs for children, aka.org
Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.