Written and Illustrated by: Hazel Mitchell
Published by: Candlewick, September 13th, 2016
Themes: dog adoption, single parent families, companionship, transition, loneliness
“Hey bud, can you help me unpack?”
“Sure. Dad…” “Can we get a dog?”
“Well, if you promise to take care of it, we can.”
A young boy and his dad move home at the beginning of winter. While unpacking, the boy comes across an ad for the local animal refuge and asks his dad if they can adopt a dog. They soon visit the rescue and the boy bonds with the most timid looking dog in all the cages. They take Toby home but Toby refuses to respond to all attempts to play or even treats. The dog’s adjustment goes from disinterest to destruction and the reader will wonder if Toby will truly be able to make this his forever home.
Why I like this book:
This heartwarming dog adoption story told in the first person by a little boy touches on many themes: loneliness in a new neighborhood (and maybe as an only child of a one parent family), perseverance, empathy, the bond between a dog and its owner, one kid+one parent families. Toby’s initial shyness will be relatable for many children when facing new situations, as well as the ensuing mishaps and mischief as Toby’s confidence and desire to please develops (peeing inside and accidentally breaking dad’s glasses). The little boy demonstrates an adorable desire to ensure he can keep Toby through really following through with diligent training, sacrifice and love. Toby proves himself too, through his own act of kindness and ingenuity and the end suggests a relationship of commitment between boy and dog, which can only get better with time.
The illustrations in Toby are filled with subtle warm shades except for an intentional use of red for certain items, which I would encourage children to look for and ask why. Some pages, such as the evocative front and back end pages are full page story spreads (Hazel talks about this in her interview), others are four panels more in a comic storytelling style. Mood and movement sweep the reader in, especially Toby’s adorable expressions. His transformation from timid to playful pup is delightful. A big aw factor. I also loved seeing a single dad in this story and his relationship with his son.
Adopting a dog can have many challenges and this story shares both the cost and reward and would make a terrific read for any family wanting to rescue a pet. The reciprocity of any relationship makes it worth while.
Interview with the author, where she speaks more of the adoption of the real Toby. Hazel Mitchel – Illustrator Interview
Google local rescues and have children pick a pet whose story they will tell through pictures and/or words.
Lucky Kids Club is designed to involve kids in our mission of rescuing homeless and abandoned animals, primarily dogs from rural high-kill shelters where they don’t have a good chance of survival.
There are activities, posters, teacher’s guide etc on Hazel Mitchel’s website.
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/or 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.
GIVEAWAY OF SIGNED COPY OF TOBY (Sorry, only available to North American addresses)
To enter this giveaway, please leave a comment about your favorite animal adoption story, if you have one, or about a pet before midnight on Thursday, 29th.