Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp (with bonus real-life Bonnie!)

Madeline Finn does not like to read. She especially does not like reading out loud. She never gets a star from her teacher. After a week of miserable struggle, Madeline visits the public library where she's introduced to a special group of friends - reading dogs! Madeline meets Bonnie, "a big, snowy polar bear" and she tries again. It doesn't go well at first. Madeline still struggles painfully. But Bonnie's gentle acceptance and patient support help her keep going. Madeline learns to be patient and keep trying - and eventually she gets her star! When she takes it to the library to show Bonnie, Bonnie has a special surprise for her too...

The soft, gentle pictures show a sweet but stubborn little girl and the patient dog who wins her heart and helps her keep trying. Madeline's class is diverse and I appreciated that the reluctant reader was a girl, not a boy.

Libraries who have their own reading dog will note a few inconsistencies - there are a LOT of dogs pictured and I don't know any libraries who put that many in the same room. We also wouldn't normally invite a dog and her puppies to visit, however cute they are. However, the sweetness and delight of the book outweighs any minor details in my view.

When I first saw ads for this book I was ecstatic - because my library has our own Bonnie! Her name is Pearl and she's been visiting with us for over a year. We've tried reading dogs a few times before but Pearl is the one who's really clicked for us. While everyone runs their program differently, what's worked for us is very casual. We've tried scheduling time slots with a reading dog in the past and it really didn't work for our community. Pearl comes in, hangs out in the play area or Storyroom, and visits with kids. Like Bonnie she's a Great Pyrenees and they are very gentle and patient. She's been read to in English, Korean, and Spanish. She's been hugged by toddlers and viewed with awe by babies, cuddled by middle schoolers and oohed and aahed over by adults. I do strongly suggest having a certified therapy dog (which Pearl is) which will make things more relaxed and also gauging your community. I have a lot of kids with special needs and some of them are afraid of animals so I make sure Pearl's time at the library is very clearly stated. We don't have any severe dog allergies, but I've scheduled Pearl late Monday afternoon and if there is going to be a program after her visit I'll swing through with the vacuum cleaner just in case. It also really helps to have a trainer who's awesome! Pearl's mom is great with kids and knows just when to ask Pearl to back off from a nervous child (she is awfully big) and when to gently encourage parents to step back and let their child meet Pearl and read her some stories!

Verdict: Buy this book and get your library a reading dog! Talk to your community first and see what will fit best with their needs and interests and go from there.

ISBN: 9781561459100; Published 2016 by Peachtree; Purchased for the library

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