Gaston – Perfect Picture Book Friday

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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!


gastonTitle: Gaston

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

Activities about dogs for children,

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.

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34 Responses to Gaston – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Oh, I LOVE those illos! We are looking to adopt a furry friend, and this books is making me want one even more. Thanks Joanna!

  2. This book sounds like a delightful way to explore similarities and differences, and what really matters in friendship and family. Thanks for sharing it, Joanna. And what a lovely dedication to little Whimsy.

  3. Patricia Toht says:

    I love this book! One of those terrific pairings of perfect illustrations to wonderful story.

  4. Such and inspiring dog tale for kids. I love the theme that family is all about love, support and differences. I think adopted children would benefit from this book. The illustration you shared tells it all in such a simple manner. Looks like an important read for kids.

  5. Patricia Nozell says:

    Pups, park, family – a must-read combo for sure! Love how the illustrations amplify the message of different children fitting in the family. A great choice, Joanna! Thanks for sharing.

  6. I love this book! The names that beg to be read with a bad French accent, and the message of family. It is a fitting tribute for all our furry family members.

  7. Joanne Sher says:

    This look darling AND clever. Definitely need to pick it up! Thanks for the recommendation, Joanna!

  8. Ha, we must be thinking along similar lines. I love the tribute you have connected with your choice of book. It sounds very cute. Great message for kids.

  9. Liv and I oohed and ahhed over this one! So sad it didn’t make the finalists list fro the CAs.

  10. Carrie F says:

    This looks so adorable and I LOVE the poodle names. Fi-fi, Foo-Foo and Ooh-La-La – ROTFL!!!

  11. Oh, I love Gaston. And Rest in Peace Whimsy.

  12. I’m so sorry about Whimsy, Kelly ;( I see that s/he? was a part of your family for 15 years, but alas it’s never, ever long enough. I can definitely see how your love of dogs inspired Gaston–it’s one of my all-time favorite books. I laugh and I cry when I read it. And Christian Robinson’s art is just perfect. Hang in there!

  13. I’m sad to hear about the passing of Kelly’s doggie, but look forward to reading this book. Have a nice weekend, Joanna.

  14. Erik - TKRB says:

    This sounds really awesome and funny! 😀

  15. This looks like a fun story – and I love the names! All the fancy poodle names and then Gaston. Such a sturdy name. Can’t wait to read.

  16. rhythm says:

    Ah, sweet Whimsy seems to have been greatly loved by all. You have given her a fine tribute! This book, Gaston, looks really cute! It brings to mind a family story that I hear sometimes. My Nanny Person once wanted a poodle pup. A friend had a beautiful little toy poodle who was pregnant. There was much anticipation. The poodle mom had 3 babies. 2 tiny cute little brown things and 1 rather large black and white one. They were named Filet, Mignon, and Lambchop. My Nanny person chose Lambchop and loved the rather odd poodle for many, many years.

  17. Tyvek japy says:

    There is also a great blog post over at Chronicle about how to read wordless picture books with kids click HERE

  18. Pingback: 2016, Bring it on! | Miss Marple's Musings

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