A pack of playful dogs cavorts through the pages as little ones and their grown-ups are encouraged to engage through gentle prompts.
Panels of bold blocks of color zero in on a variety of dogs, sometimes as many as three in one 5 ½–inch-square page. When the text is not describing each canine (“BIG dog. / Little DOG”), it is encouraging youngsters to fill in blanks (“____ dog” next to a picture of a hot dog in its bun) or repeat back words and simple phrases (“Let’s say YELLOW, FURRY dog!”). On the back cover, the author, a pediatrician, states that the rationale for these prompts is to promote brain growth, build vocabulary, and encourage early literacy skills in young children as well as to bring grown-ups and children together. Parents new to reading with toddlers may need a little more guidance than Hutton provides, but his approach is novel and engaging. Cenko’s richly colored paintings, in what looks to be acrylics, are winsome, imbuing each pup with a distinct personality. However, some of the panels are too small and others are too dark. A dark-brown dachshund is lost against a dark-purple background, a dark-blue sky makes the beach scene look moonlit, and it is difficult to figure out what a cone-wearing dog is up to due to the lack of contrast and the size of the panel.
While it’s a playful and useful offering, readers will wish it were a bit bigger and higher contrast. (Board book. 2-4)