Right in time for National Puppy Day (March 23) and to celebrate the Year of the Dog, National Geographic is publishing not one, but two great nonfiction children’s books about our furry friends, dogs.

It’s a Puppy’s Life by photographer Seth Casteel is a picture book with an irresistible combination of adorable photographs of puppies and romping, bouncy partially-rhyming text.

Pups need to eat to grow big and strong…
a nibble,
some kibble,
then time to move on.

As we would expect from National Geographic, the photographs are fantastic, funny and cute. The author/photographer of the wildly popular Underwater Dogs, Seth Casteel obviously has a passion for his subjects. We see puppies playing, sniffing, making a mess, and sleeping.

Where’s the science? In the back matter are 32 thumbnails of the photographs used in the book with captions that identify each by breed. The puppies range from basset hounds to Yorkshire terriers, allowing readers to explore the concept of inheritance and variation of traits, a Next Generation Science standard.

Even the most reluctant reader is going to enjoy It’s a Puppy’s Life. It is an obvious choice for anyone who is a dog enthusiast, plus would be a great choice to share for National Puppy Day!

Age Range: 4 – 8 years
Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books (March 20, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1426330693
ISBN-13: 978-1426330698

Dog Days of History: The Incredible Story of Our Best Friends (Animals) by Sarah Albee is intended for older children.

Albee starts out with a discussion of where dogs come from. The scientific name for dogs is Canis lupus familiaris, which indicates it is a subspecies of wolf (Canis lupus). In fact, dogs share most of their DNA with wolves, but show incredible variation in appearances.

Progressing in chronological order, the following chapters explore the relations of people and dogs in the ancient world, middle ages, etc., through modern times. Albee features famous dogs through history, like Lewis and Clark’s dog, Seaman. The final chapter wraps up with the role of dogs in modern culture and a glimpse of the future of dogs.

The book is illustrated with a combination of high-quality stock photographs and art featuring dogs from a variety of times and places.

The back matter is extensive, including “A Note About the Research,” which explains that many stories about dogs seen on the Internet may be exaggerated or fabricated. She includes a fun list of the words used in various languages to represent the sounds dogs make, from “arf-arf” or “bow-wow” in English to “wff-wff” in Welsh. As appropriate for a history book, there is an extensive three-page “Bibliodography” (too cute), plus references for all the quotes.

Dog Days of History will thrill both dog lovers and history buffs. It is a handy reference young readers are likely to return to again and again.

Age Range: 9 – 12 years
Publisher: National Geographic Children’s Books (March 27, 2018)
ISBN-10: 1426329717
ISBN-13: 978-1426329715

Related Dog Science Activities/Lessons:

  1. Dog Coat Color Genetics – this British website delves deeply into genetics. If nothing else check out all the different dog coat colors
  2. Extensive lesson on Artificial Selection and Dog Breeding from UCMP for older students
  3. NatureWorks has some nice fact sheets about the other members of the Canidae, including: Arctic Fox, Coyote, Gray Fox, Red Wolf, and Red Fox.
  4. Fun Dog Behavior Test:  Check whether your dog(s) is (are) right or left pawed. Offer your dog a treat or toy slightly under a chair or piece of furniture (with an opening big enough so it can easily get a paw under without injury or chance of getting trapped). Which paw does it use to retrieve it? Is it consistent? Or keep records of which paw your dog uses when it starts walking. Research how this might relate to other behaviors.

Check out our growing list of children’s nonfiction books about dogs at Science Books for Kids.


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