In Sleepy Pendoodle, written by Malachy Doyle and illustrated by Julie Vivas (Walker Books 2002), a little girl finds a tiny puppy and cares for him. She is desperate for the pup to open his eyes, and asks her uncle for advice. Her efforts to remember her uncle's instructions are just delightful, and made me laugh aloud. Young readers will rejoice with her when the puppy finally opens his eyes and takes his first steps toward being a big, red dog.
The author got the idea for Sleepy Pendoodle from an Irish folk tale, and I believe he has retained a hint of that in the book, with snippets of rhyme, strong rhythm and repetition making the story a pleasure to read aloud. I've just added Malachy Doyle to my list of picture book writers who demonstrate their own love of language and know how to encourage kids to love it too. How could any child resist the fun of "pendoodle" morphing into "popwaddle" and "penduddle"?
Julie Vivas is one of my favourite illustrators. The little girl in this picture book is an earnest pre-schooler with chubby hands, and hair bunches jutting every which way. The puppy, in various poses, is the essence of baby dog, especially when he finally opens his milky blue eyes. My favourite page is a double spread of pup and girl playing in the grass, where Vivas makes us feel the flick of his whippy tail, and the slobber of his wet lick!
Sleepy Pendoodle would be an excellent gift for a child who is soon to get a puppy, or one who loves dogs. It's also a super choice for a read-aloud. Follow up with some fun memory games like "I went to the store", Chinese Whispers, concentration or a variation on Kim's Game. Start a collection of names for baby animals - how many can you find? If you're really up for a challenge, take some photos of pets, and see if you can write a caption for each one.
What books about pets do you love?