Today I’ve chosen one of my husband Phil’s childhood favorites, a beginning reader called The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins and illustrated by Eric Gurney. Phil remembers reading this book over and over when he was little. Then as a parent, he read it several hundred times to his own kids. When I proudly showed him my new copy, he grinned and grabbed it from me. “See?” he said, pointing to the dog on the cover. “Look at that face!” Then he did his best imitation of the dog’s happy, panting expression.
Title: The Digging-est Dog
Author/Illustrator: Al Perkins/Eric Gurney
Publisher: Random House, 1967
Genre: Fiction, Easy Reader
Ages: 3-7 years, preschool-grade 2
Themes: animal rescue, persistence, fitting in, fixing mistakes, forgiveness
Opening: “I was the saddest dog you could ever see, Sad because no one wanted me. The pet shop window was my jail. The sign behind me said, ‘For Sale.'”
Phil’s favorite part: “I fell on my ear. I fell on my face. I fell on myself all over the place.”
Synopsis: A rescued dog who has to learn how to dig doesn’t stop until he has dug up the whole town. When he realizes what he’s done, he has to own up to his over-enthusiasm and put things right.
What I thought: I liked the sad dog on the first page who instantly turns into the happy, energetic Duke after his new owner Sammy buys him at the pet store. From a glass cage to a forever home on a farm… lucky dog! The rhyming text is cute and has a good rhythm, and with my kooky sense of humor, I laughed a lot at some of the rhymes, like “gates” with “Thwaites” and “Thayer” with “chair.” REALLY?! A star-nosed mole, of all things, makes a guest appearance as Duke is learning to dig, unusual in a book without too many extras in the illustrations. Al Perkins and Eric Gurney are the same duo who produced Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb, another long-lived and much-loved rhythmic beginning reader from 1969.
The Digging-est Dog appears to have been in print since it was first published 46 years ago, a testament to its enduring popularity and appeal to kids as well as the grown-ups who remember it fondly. Thanks Phil!
Enjoy and let me know what books you remember best!