• Happy birthday Michael Bond (Paddington Bear series).
  • It’s the birth date of Horatio Alger (1832–1899), Ragged Dick, Struggling Upward, and Albert Lamorisse (1922–1970), The Red Balloon.
  • Happy birthday to Britain’s daily paper, The Times, first published in 1785 as The Daily Universal Register.
  • In 1910, the first public radio broadcast was a transmission from the Metropolitan Opera House of a live performance. Therefore, it’s Public Radio Broadcasting Day. Read Radio Fifth Grade by Gordon Korman.
  • Celebrate the bathtub icon on Rubber Ducky Day. Read It’s Useful to Have a Duck by Isol, and Ducky by Eve Bunting, illustrated by David Wisniewski.

January 8  through 14 is designated Universal Letter Writing week, celebrating the art of writing and receiving a hand-written letter. Certainly in the age of computers, letter writing on paper has suffered in popularity. Even the protagonist of our book of the day, Emma, uses the keyboard to send off her letter. Possibly Emma can be forgiven for not using pen and paper because she happens to be, after all, a dog. In Eileen Christelow’s humorous masterpiece, Letters from a Desperate Dog, illustrated in the comic-book style that endears the artist to her readers, Christelow demonstrates a keen understanding of canine behavior.

From Emma’s point of view, her owner George, an artist, seems completely unreasonable. He gets upset if she sleeps on the couch or explores the trash. He tells her “no” or that she is a “bad dog.” So, in despair, Emma writes to the new canine advice column “Ask Queenie!” Fortunately her local public library provides computer access to all. Queenie tells Emma to keep her tail wagging and everything will work out well in the end—certainly brilliant advice for any dog. Unfortunately when Emma tries it, she dips her tail into George’s red paint can and the results are disastrous. “I would have been better off taking a nap on the couch,” Emma complains.

On Queenie’s advice Emma goes out to get work. After she applies for a part in a play, Emma rides away on the bus that takes the performers on tour. Eventually, George sees the errors of his ways because he misses her. But even as all ends well, Emma confides to Queenie, “this probably won’t be my last e-mail. You know how unpredictable George can be!”

Eileen Christelow has been enchanting children for years with her Five Little Monkeys series. For Letters for a Desperate Dog, she drew from personal experience—watching some exchanges between her husband and their dog Emma. Emma had been a real challenge as a puppy, and they had even returned her to the Humane Society only to bring her home again. In the book, Eileen certainly supports Emma’s point of view—or at least she knows it makes the funnier story.

As I write today, Lancelot, a small Bernese Mountain Dog, chews on my chair. He’s a dog still in need of training. I’m glad I have the keyboard now; no doubt he’d sound a bit like Emma. For all who love dogs, love humor, and want to see a letter-writing exchange that will keep them laughing, pick up Letters from a Desperate Dog and its sequel The Desperate Dog Writes Again. Personally I’m just going to make sure that Lancelot never learns to type!

Here’s a page from Letters from a Desperate Dog:


Originally posted January 13, 2011. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Dogs, Humor
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Letters from a Desperate Dog


  1. Becky Dullea says:

    Hi Anita-I just found your “Book-A-Day” blog this year. I am a librarian in a middle/high school library. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on all these wonderful books (and including a peek inside them!). I mainly am writing to say that I love to hear about Lancelot! I have a young BMD too, Smoochie, that I love to spoil. No yelling at her for being on the couch! The garbage is a different story. Thank goodness she stays out of it-I am not sure I could yell at her. (Big brown, droopy eyes staring lovingly at me??? Not gonna happen.) Love the blog!!

  2. Marcia Marques says:

    Hello, I have just found your blog through Activity Village but I have already become a fan. As a teacher I will be coming back regularly; as a reader, every day. Thank you very much.

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