LaRochelle, David. 2004. THE BEST PET OF ALL. Ill. Hanako Wakiyama. New York: Dutton. ISBN 0525471294 [Suggested Grade Levels K-3]
A story about a young boy who wants a dog, and a mom who stands opposed, is a common theme that will resonate with all children. To this common tale, LaRochelle adds a twist, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday the boy asks for a dog and his mother says, “no.” On Thursday, he asks for a dragon, and she replies with a qualified yes. Underestimating her son’s persistence, determination, and fantastical possibilities, she is surprised when he finds a willing dragon at the drugstore and more than a little dismayed when the creature turns out to be a difficult pet, roasting hot dogs in the living room and eating spaghetti in the bathtub. Luckily, the dragon is afraid of dogs, so at the boy’s suggestion they advertise their doggy need and are immediately answered by a willing pooch. The dragon leaves, the dog stays, and both the mother and son are overjoyed to finally have the “best pet of all.”
LaRochelle keeps his text simple, straight forward and often understated. This approach allows the illustrations to do their part in telling the story, and Wakiyama’s pictures do just that. Her retro style lends the characters an immediate sense of humor and her juxtaposition of fantastical elements with a realistically drawn setting makes the story at once whimsical and familiar. Also, her ability to imbue the characters emotion through a few cleverly drawn lines breathes life into the boy and his mother. THE BEST PET OF ALL works because LaRochelle’s text and Wakiyama’s illustrations complement each other at all times and derive much from a deceptively simple style.
Reread the pages that tell about the dragon being a pain in the house. Brainstorm all of the problems that could accrue from having a dragon as a pet, and have each child draw a picture of a dragon being a pest and then let them share their pictures with each other.
Other books about pets:
Day, Alexandra. GOOD DOG CARL. ISBN 0671752049
Kimmel, Elizabeth Cody. MY PENGUIN OSBERT. ISBN 0763616990
Schneider, Howie. CHEWY LOUIE. ISBN 0873587650
By Erin Miklauz