Monday, August 03, 2020

MMGM- Our Dogs, Ourselves

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday
and #IMWAYR day 
Horowitz, Alexandra. Our Dogs, Ourselves -- How We Live with Dogs: Young Readers Edition
August 4th 2020 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Ms. Horowitz is a scientist who studies dogs and who has written several books about dogs and their behavior, including Inside of a Dog. This current volume is more concerned with the interactions we have with our dogs. This was quite interesting to me, since I read it during the stay-at-home portion of the pandemic, so my dog Sylvie and I had just spent just about every second of six weeks together, so the first chapter about the human-dog bond? It hit home.

The various chapters hit on high interest topics that should appeal to young readers. Starting with a chapter on dog names is perfect, since that is one of the first ways we interact with pets, even before we get them. I loved the overview of the history of dog names, and the array of names that Horowitz has seen in her work. It's also interesting when Horowitz mentions her own pets and their names. There are some chapters that address the ethics of pet owning in a way that will be accessible to younger readers; is a pet property or part of the family? What are humans' obligations to dogs? Most importantly, what is the correct way to breed dogs, adopt dogs, and deal with medical issues relating to them, such as spaying and neutering as well as breed specific surgeries?

Lighter chapters include one on how people talk to their dogs, statistics about different observations Horowitz has had in her lab, pets as a force in consumerism, and the science behind the "guilty look" that dogs often exhibit, which I have long suspected is just a reaction to being reprimanded. Horowitz agrees.

I've read a number of books on the history of human/dog interactions, but I can't remember the titles because they were adult books and I didn't buy them for my library. It's a topic that I find fascinating, but haven't seen well represented in middle grade literature. There are some good historical overviews, like Sarah Albee's Dog Days, but this is the best book I've seen on every day interactions with dogs as pets. Or, as Horowitz points out, members of our families that just happen to have four legs.

Whipple, Annette. The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide
August 4th 2020 by Chicago Review Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Disclaimer: I don't have an answer for how the US should address the fact that our entire country wouldn't exist if it weren't for the fact that most of our history involves stealing land from indigenous people and treating them badly. That was standard behavior for countries for some time (Alexander the Great, Roman Empire, British Empire, etc.); it is no longer acceptable. Westward Expansion happened at the expense of Native Americans, but it happened. Pioneers changed the western landscape. Those of us who grew up during the 1970s were not told about the horrible parts of history, and many of us were drawn to Wilder's stories (including Linda Sue Park). The ten-year-old me would have worn a copy of this book to rags; the present day just doesn't know what to do with it.

I talk a lot to my students about what their "essential fandom" is. There are Star Wars geeks, Whovians, Tolkien Readers, and a lot of speculative fiction communities. My essential fandom is Little House of the Prairie. I was nine when the t.v. show appeared, and had just finished the first couple of books. I was enthralled. I had a prairie dress. I wanted to churn butter.

I needed this book.

Whipple does an absolutely amazing job at going through all of the books-- chapter by chapter, really-- and picking out the most interesting bits of information and most amusing recipes and crafts. How badly did you want to pour maple syrup on snow to make candy, and how disappointing was it to find that pancake syrup did not have the same result? Now you know why that failed. There's an impressive amount of research into all manner of things, and there are some nice pictures of family homes and people that are nice to have in one place. I learned a lot-- Mary probably didn't go blind because of scarlet fever, but that made more sense to readers; Wilder skipped parts of family history in writing the books. There was even a discussion of why The First Four Years is so different in tone. There are even discussion questions at the end of each chapter about themes in the books as a whole.

The issue with Native Americans is addressed; there's really no way to do this properly and still be able to take joy from the books.

I haven't bought many of the Chicago Review Press books for my library (like Rasmussen's World War I for Kids: A History with 21 Activities or  Pitamic and Laidlaw's Modern Art Adventures: 36 Creative, Hands-On Projects Inspired by Artists from Monet to Banksy) for several reasons; most are an odd size (this is not), they are paperback, and they deal with very specific passions that don't interest the majority of my students. They would make fantastic gifts.

I thought a lot about my mother while reading this. While she was generally supportive of my interests (one family trip included a journey 100 miles out of our way to see DeSmet, South Dakota!), she wasn't one to get excited about doing crafts or cooking projects with me. I would have wanted to do every single project in this entire book, and I can imagine her hiding it at some point to get some peace! Should I buy a copy in case I ever have grandchildren?


  1. Our Dogs, Ourselves sounds like a fascinating book! It sounds like there are a ton of interesting facts and discussions in it. I also appreciate your thoughts about The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion and the relationship between her books and the American treatment of Native Americans. Thank you for the great post!

  2. My dog is now spoiled having me around so much. I will be tracking down a copy of this one as I'm still trying to figure out what makes my pup tick. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  3. What a fascinating book for teens about dogs -- am sure adults would enjoy this one. My dog was spoiled having me around daily -- I'm sure there are things I could have learned from this book. Archie certainly spoke to me with his paw and his stares -- I knew each one.

    I'm fascinated with the Wilder companion book. I have Prairie Lotus in my stack to review -- so I'll be interested in what Linda Sue Park says. I loved Little House on the Prairie, books and movie. I've always wondered about the depiction of the Native Americans in those shows. I just may get a copy. Second Story Press publishes so many stories about what Canada did to its Indgenous families -- the kidnapping of children, putting them in school, stealing their land etc. I've learned more about what happened to the Indgenous through their books than I can find in our US literature for kids. Enjoyed both your shares today. THanks!

  4. I have put the Wilder companion book on my library hold list. Although I never got to South Dakota, I did reread the whole series several times and wanted a pig bladder balloon.

  5. Though I've never read the Little House books, I also watched the TV show in the 70s. And no, I never learned about what was done to Native Americans during westward expansion. But I could also get into a book like the Wilder Companion for the same crafting, cooking reasons. Interestingly, Little House was still so popular with teachers when I began blogging in 2010. Things have really changed in the last 10 years. Thank you for being so honest in your review.

  6. Our Dogs: Ourselves sounds like a book that will be interesting to pet owners everywhere. I will have to check it out.

    I also loved Little House and wanted to churn butter, dress like Half Pint, etc. I didn't know anything about history (and what really happened) when I was reading the series. This companion book sounds interesting. I don't know how many kids today still read the series- I do catch reruns of the show from time to time (and every one makes me cry at some point).

  7. The cover on Our Dogs: Ourselves is so cute. I'm sure a lot of kids will pick it just because of that. It sounds like an interesting book. I grew up on the Wilder books and loved them as did my daughters. I hope teachers and parents will talk about the issues the book raises rather than ditching them. This companion book sounds fabulous. I am going to have to get my hands on a copy. I have liked every book I've read from Chicago Review Press. Thanks for the post.

  8. By all means, get a copy for potential grandchildren. We read the entire series to our daughter when she was little and she loved them. She also learned about the Native Americans when she grew older. I learned all about the treatment of the Native Americans when I was in school in the early '60's. We also learned about slavery. We learned about history in a balanced way back then. We learned about the good and didn't flinch from seeing the bad. We need to do the same with our kids and grandkids. Tell them how the Wilder books create some bad impressions but also how they talk about family and love and sticking together through tough times. Does this sound reasonable? I hate to stir up even potential controversy.

  9. Thank you so much for reviewing The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion. I appreciate your thoughts and sharing it with your readers!