Book Review: wag!

Review cross-posted on our sister site:

By Patrick McDonnell
Little, Brown and Company, 2009
Age Range: 3 to 6

If you are like me, you know Patrick McDonnell mainly for his comic strip, Mutts, which records the adventures of Mooch the cat, his best friend Earl (a dog), and their human companions. While I enjoy the comic strip, and its content and whimsical drawing style seem pretty well suited for sharing with preschoolers, I personally find reading comic strips out loud rather tedious, so had been saving the Mutts revelation for when The Four-Year-Old was old enough to read it for herself.

Last Christmas, my brother proved that his uncanny ability to match readers with writers was not limited to the rapidly approaching 40 set by giving my four-year-old Patrick McDonnell’s book Just Like Heaven. At first blush the revelation that Patrick McDonnell had a children’s book may appear to be more exciting for me than The Four-Year-Old. But through Just Like Heaven The Four-Year-Old has come to love the Mutts characters nearly as much as I do.

So why review wag! instead?

While The Four-Year-Old loves Just Like Heaven and will curl up contentedly on my lap listening to me read it for as long as my voice will hold out, The Four-Year-Old will actually read wag! to me. (Or more accurately, to her T. Rex puppet, Rainbow, while I record the whole thing on my iPhone.)

Much of it is recited from memory, of course. But The Four-Year-Old recognizes the odd word here and there, and uses those prompts to recall the rest of the story, much as you or I might use a slide deck to bluff our way through a speech. She really gets into her storytelling, and uses slightly different voices for the narrator of the story and Mooch the cat. (No really. I have the video to prove it.)

Maybe it’s the whimsical art. Maybe it’s the simple text. But whatever the source of the pixie dust, wag! transforms The Four-Year-Old from passive listener to active reader, a feat for which the crew at bostonwriters give it 5 stars.

And now it’s your turn. What are you reading this week?

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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