Review of I Want a Dog

I Want a Dog
by Jon Agee; illus. by the author
Preschool, Primary    Dial    40 pp.
9/19    978-0-525-55546-9    $17.99

A determined girl heads to the Happy-dale Animal Shelter, pulling a red wagon. When she tells the shelter worker that she wants a dog, he shows her everything but a dog. His offerings become increasingly absurd — an anteater, a python (wrapped around his head, no less), a lizard “dressed up as a dog,” a wombat, and more. Eventually the man admits, head hanging low, that he has no dog to give her. But then the girl falls for a large seal named Lucinda, balances her atop her tiny wagon, and takes her home. There’s abundant humor in the nonsensical pet options (a dead goldfish) and the man’s suggestions (just teach the lizard to say woof). The man is exceedingly tall, thereby emphasizing the girl’s diminutive size; this becomes all the funnier as she continues to dig in her heels. Close to the end, she passionately lists a dog’s attributes, making this book, in part, a tribute to dogs…that features no dogs. It’s also a tribute to the stubborn, yet highly adaptable, nature of children. This is signature Agee: the pictures, punch lines, and expert pacing carry the weight (with the body language being particularly expressive). The barrels of fish spotted near the girl’s swimming pool at home indicate that her new pet is very much here to stay.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson
Julie Danielson writes about picture books at the blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. She also writes for Kirkus Reviews and BookPage and is a lecturer for the School of Information Sciences graduate program at the University of Tennessee. Her book Wild Things!: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature, written with Betsy Bird and Peter D. Sieruta, was published in 2014.

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