Perfect Picture Book Review: Dogfish

Inside: Book review of Dogfish and fun book-related activities.

I was given this delightful book as an end-of-year gift by one of my sweet students. I really enjoyed reading it and hopefully you do, too!

Title: Dogfish
Author: Gillian Shields
Illustrator: Dan Taylor
Publisher: Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2008

Opening Lines:

Everyone has a dog … except me.


Dogfish is a charming story about a little boy who desperately wants a dog. But mom doesn’t understand his desire because why would he need a dog when he has a perfectly good goldfish?

The first half of the book, as you would expect, is full of reasons why the boy SHOULD have a dog, and counter-arguments by mom.

But here’s where it gets interesting … the boy realizes mom is standing her ground, so he figures he might as well make the best of the situation and he decides to start teaching his goldfish dog tricks. It’s a lot of work, but eventually they succeed and he quickly learns to appreciate his goldfish (there are many many advantages, after all, to having a fish over a dog :)) But more importantly, the goldfish is now loved and feeling “utterly, totally” blissful. Can I hear an “Awww”?

Why I Like This Book:

Besides the cute illustrations there are a couple of reasons why I think this book is a very worthwhile read. I LOVE that mom doesn’t give into the boy’s demands. She stands her ground and says to her young son, “Well, if you can’t have what you want, you could try to want what you have.”

Isn’t that the most perfect thing to say?

And happily, the boy takes mom’s message to heart and learns to appreciate the pet he already has. He gives his little fish tons of attention and the fish, of course, blossoms with all this love.

I think this is an important message, not just for kids, but for everyone! Learn to love and appreciate what you already have. Learn to be grateful.

Follow-Up Activities:

1. Grand Conversation: Take the time to talk to the kids about the author’s big message (which, by the way, is very obvious, but not in-your-face). I love having these big circle conversations … the kids usually surprise me with their depth of understanding.

2. Write: I think it would be fun and worthwhile to ask the kids to think of something (a toy or a pet) and list all the reasons why they’re grateful for that toy or pet. Or better yet, start a gratitude journal! They could write in it once a week.

3. Learn How to Draw a Goldfish: I have to say, I’ve seen some of the strangest fish drawings in my career as a Grade 1 teacher. But if you follow this step-by-step drawing tutorial by Art Projects for Kids, your students’ goldfish will look amazing!

4. Fish Weaving: Here’s a fun art project for K’s and 1’s from Mrs. Knight’s Smartest Artists (just click the pic for directions).

Fish Weave: Art lesson for Grade 1

5. Be Inspired Mama has some lovely tips for teaching kids gratitude. One idea she mentions is a gratitude tree. That would be easy and fun to set up in the classroom. Here’s a beautiful tree from Simply Vintage Girl (click the pic).

The Thankful Tree. This would be great to have in the classroom.

6. Three years ago I posted a link to a photo essay of children’s bedrooms from around the world. It clearly shows the disparity in wealth AND values. This could be another good starting point for a gratitude discussion.


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