• Happy birthday Jane Yolen (Owl Moon), Toshi Maruki (Hiroshima No Pika), and Holly Keller (Farfallina & Marcel).
  • It’s the birth date of Mabel Esther Allan (1915–1998), Wood Street series.
  • Thomas Edison (1847–1931) was born on this day, which is now National Inventors’ Day.
  • In 1990, South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela is freed after twenty-seven years in prison. He will be elected president of his country four years later. Read Nelson Mandela: “No Easy Walk to Freedom” by Barry Denenberg.
  • It’s Don't Cry Over Spilled Milk Day. Read The Moon Might Be Milk by Lisa Shulman, illustrated by Will Hillenbrand and Oops by Arthur Geisert.

February has been designated Responsible Pet Owners Month. The book of the day, Jim Paulsen and Gary Paulsen’s Road Trip, has been dedicated to “everyone who’s ever loved and been loved by a really good dog.” It was pressed into my hands recently by Carol Stoltz of Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, when I was talking about the recent death of my own “very good dog” Lady. And although nothing can compensate for my beautiful canine companion, this book certainly made me laugh and smile.

Gary Paulsen worked on the story with his son Jim. It depicts a road trip of a father and son as they set out to bring home a rescued border collie before it is put down. They travel with their own very wise dog Atticus, another border collie. Along the way they pick up a fugitive from justice and a fired diner employee. A broken-down school bus and the mechanic who can repair it get added to the mix. As events spin out of control, Atticus the dog provides very insightful commentary. When the humans seem clueless, he manages to keep his eyes on the prize.

The book, for grades two through five, has many of the same qualities that make Ingrid Law’s Savvy  such a delight to read. Few authors write as well for this age group as Paulsen, whether he is telling survival stories like Hatchet or urban adventures like Lawn Boy. Because the chapters are short and punchy, Road Trip would make an excellent choice for a read-aloud. In this picaresque jaunt, readers get to enjoy some very quirky characters, fast-paced adventure, and also find out about the fate of abandoned pets. It goes a long way toward helping children understand the ideas behind Responsible Pet Owners Month. Fortunately for those who love animals, all the dogs live, and two delightful border collies also get to find each other.

In his author’s note, Paulsen sums up my own feelings about dogs brilliantly: They “never lie or cheat, and their default setting is love. Some may seem grumpy, but all dogs have horror, humor, and dignity, and if you’re really lucky and you pay attention, they will bring out those same characteristics in you.” That is what my really good dog Lady did for me for more than twelve years.

But Gary Paulsen doesn’t only understand dogs; he knows how to craft a book that makes young readers happy to have found it.

Here’s a passage from Road Trip:


I wasn’t paying full attention when the boss and my boy were talking before we left. They were near the truck and the only thing on my mind was getting in the front seat before they left without me. They forget sometimes and try to drive off without me. When that happens, I sulk. Sometimes I chew a sock. Not a good one, but the next time, they think twice about forgetting me.

The boss is driving too fast. He always does when he’s excited. And my boy has no idea what’s really going on. I do, though, and I’m worried.

Plus, I don’t want a dog. Getting a dog is a terrible idea. Dogs are not my favorite things. Dogs are messy and need.




Originally posted February 11, 2013. Updated for .

Tags: Animals, Dogs
Instructional materials from TeachingBooks.net for Road Trip


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