Two by Phillip C. Stead: Every Dog in the Neighborhood illustrated by Matthew Cordell and The Sun Is Late and So Is the Farmer illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Both published by Neal Porter Books

Summary: In Every Dog in the Neighborhood, a boy wishes for a dog. When his grandmother tells him there are enough dogs in the neighborhood, he decides to find out the exact number. Watching his grandmother write to city hall about an issue of her own, then get to work when she receives an unsatisfactory reply, the boy decides to do a dog census himself. As he knocks on doors and collects his doggy data, Grandma is seen working in an abandoned lot nearby. The boy learns there are 20 dogs in the neighborhood, but dog #20 needs a new home. He gets his dog, and all the dogs in the neighborhood get to enjoy the dog park that Grandma has created. 40 pages; ages 4-8.

It should come as no surprise that both the sun and the farmer are late in The Sun Is Late and So Is the Farmer. This worries the mule, the milk cow, and the miniature horse, who are concerned that they may not get breakfast. They consult wise Barn Owl, who sends them on a journey out of their familiar barnyard to the very edge of the world (or the farm, depending on your perspective). “Bring Rooster,” the owl tells them. “Rooster will know what to do.” So off they go, following the route and occasionally ruminating on such questions as what do sheep dream about? When they reach their destination, Rooster lets out a tremendous “Cock-a-doodle-doo” practically under the farmer’s window. The last page shows her, coffee in hand, leading the three animals back to the barnyard. 32 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros and cons: I sometimes find Philip Stead a bit esoteric for my admittedly lowbrow tendencies, and I quickly skimmed Every Dog in the Neighborhood months ago and dismissed it. Fortunately, the publisher sent me a free copy which has been in my library, and when I saw The Sun Is Late, I decided to give it another try. I really loved it this time and appreciate Matthew Cordell’s quirky drawings of the dogs and their owners (with a few jokes that will probably go over kids’ heads but will be appreciated by their adults). The Sun Is Late borders on that esoteric line, but it’s a sweet story, almost like a folktale, and kids will surely enjoy the animals and get a chuckle from their big quest.

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