Colorful Lessons in 'How to Be a Good Dog' The picture book How to Be a Good Dog is quite an engaging read. And Lulu, the ever-clever canine, has plenty of good things to say about it herself.
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Colorful Lessons in 'How to Be a Good Dog'

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Colorful Lessons in 'How to Be a Good Dog'

Colorful Lessons in 'How to Be a Good Dog'

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SCOTT SIMON, host: Sometimes it can difficult to know how to behave, especially when you're a dog. I mean, there's no canine Emily Post. However, there is a new book, How To Be A Good Dog. The catch is that the book is for children, not for dogs. And bigger catch yet, the advice is dispensed by a cat. How To Be A Good Dog is written and illustrated by Gail Page.

Our ambassador to the world of children's literature, Daniel Pinkwater, joins us now.

Daniel, thanks...

(Soundbite of dog barking)

SIMON: Good dog. Ruff!

Mr. DANIEL PINKWATER (Children's Literature Author And Expert): Hi, Scott. That wasn't me clearing my throat. We have a canine expert with us.

SIMON: This is Lulu, your dog, right?

Mr. PINKWATER: This is Lulu. She's going to help with this reading. Scott, I wanted to say that in choosing books to schlep in here and show you, I tend to specialize in picture books because they are a convenient size. But since it's a radio program, I find myself skipping some very good books, because maybe they're more visual than verbal, not a problem when you're holding the book in your hand.

(Soundbite of dog barking) SIMON: She's like your amen chorus. She just, she agrees with everything you say.

Mr. PINKWATER: Everything I say.

SIMON: Well, should we read the book and then try and describe the action?

Mr. PINKWATER: Okay, now, so the listener's been forewarned that we're going to have to really do a lot of describing. And also, I'm going to ask Lulu to read some of the pages.

(Soundbite of Lulu barking)

SIMON: Sure.

Mr. PINKWATER: Okay. You'll get, you'll take your turn. One moment.

SIMON: Begins on two pages of our dog Bobo in a field of green picking, are they daisies?

Mr. PINKWATER: Bobo is bending over picking some flowers, standing on others. And it says, Bob tried hard to be a good dog.

SIMON: Flip the page and you see an orange cat standing in the kitchen washing, washing dishes. The cat obviously, since this is the cat's perspective, feels she's doing all the household chores while...

Mr. PINKWATER: Well, the cat's more responsible in this story.

SIMON: Right.

Mr. PINKWATER: Which is often the case.

SIMON: So Bobo recollects he'd love to hear Mrs. Birdhead say, You're a good dog, Bobo. Come, let's get you a treat.

Mr. PINKWATER: Now, this is a beautiful drawing, the materials are gouache or acrylic or something, full of little eyeball kicks, cartoonists call them, little funny- shaped teapots. And Mrs. Birdhead has a kind of an apparatus strapped to her head, supporting a bird's nest with a bird in it. There's no explanation, Birdhead by name, birdhead by nature.

SIMON: Now, the next two pages, I must say, are my favorite. And I'll read the text.


SIMON: But being good was sometimes very difficult.

Mr. PINKWATER: Let Lulu take the next one.

SIMON: Exactly.

Mr. PINKWATER: Lulu, can you read this line? No, read it. She says she doesn't understand the motivation of the character. Bark, bark, bark.

(Soundbite of Lulu barking)

Mr. PINKWATER: That's it.

SIMON: And the pictures of Bobo reading the newspaper and knocking over a vase of flowers.

Mr. PINKWATER: He's lolling. He's reading. He's barking. He's eating. He's raiding the icebox. He's tearing up somebody's homework, one of a dog's duties. And we move on to the next page. And when Bobo was a bad dog, Mrs. Birdhead got strict. She's pointing the finger of shame, and he's schlumping off towards his doghouse.

SIMON: Bobo missed Mrs. Birdhead, he even missed Cat.

Mr. PINKWATER: There he is, thinking it over in the doghouse. And much to Cat's surprise, and there's the cat sitting pensively on the sofa.

SIMON: She missed Bobo.

Mr. PINKWATER: How could she get him back into the house? She scratches her head standing in front of the adorable bookcase.

SIMON: Then she picks up a book that says Good Dog, and reads, With a few easy commands, you can teach your dog to be good, the book said.

Mr. PINKWATER: When Mrs. Birdhead went out to run errands, Cat gave Bobo his first lesson.

(Soundbite of dog barking)

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: They began with shake. It went very well.

Mr. PINKWATER: Bobo is doing the politician double-handshake.

SIMON: Yes, exactly. And next was Fetch.

Mr. PINKWATER: The cat's about to throw the ball. Bobo's going out for a pass. Oops, Bobo missed.

SIMON: Then it was time to practice sit. Lie down was next. It came naturally to Bobo.

Mr. PINKWATER: Now, in preparing to lie down, he's getting into his pajamas and then the cat is tucking him into his bed. And rollover was a bit harder. We have him tangled in the covers and the cat is sort of trying to sort of direct him.

SIMON: But stay was the easiest command of all.

Mr. PINKWATER: Bobo has arranged himself under the quilt. The cat has fallen asleep leaning up against the bed, and they are both making Z's.

SIMON: Well, it was easy until...

Mr. PINKWATER: Mrs. Birdhead came home with the groceries.

SIMON: Cat tried to control Bobo. Sit. Stay. Lie down. But nothing worked. Bobo couldn't wait to show Mrs. Birdhead everything he'd learned.

Mr. PINKWATER: Kapow! There's a tremendous collision. The groceries fly everywhere. Mrs. Birdhead is flying in the air. The bird is flying in the air. The cat is flying.

SIMON: But before Mrs. Birdhead could get mad, Bobo showed her how he could...



Mr. PINKWATER: Lie down.

SIMON: Roll over.


SIMON: Fetch.

Mr. PINKWATER: You are a good dog, Bobo.

SIMON: And when Mrs. Birdhead told him he was a good dog...

Mr. PINKWATER: Bobo stayed. And stayed and stayed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PINKWATER: Everything is organized again. They're having a little tea party. Cat, dog, Birdhead, bird sitting at the table. Total nonsense.

SIMON: This is a wonderful book, Daniel. It really is.

Mr. PINKWATER: It's a wonderful book. The character of the dog is just delicious. The colors are magnificent. It's completely lovable. I know that even with Lulu's help we didn't convey what a sweet book it is, but I hope that people will get a chance to take a look at it.

SIMON: Well, I think we can say that Lulu gives, do we say paws up? Or what's the...

Mr. PINKWATER: She seems to like it. She was looking at the pictures. Shall I ask her what she thought?

SIMON: Yeah, by all means.

Mr. PINKWATER: Lulu, do you want to rate the book? What do you think?

(Soundbite of barking)

Mr. PINKWATER: That's affirmative.

SIMON: Daniel, thank you very much.

Mr. PINKWATER: Scott, woof, woof.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: And Lulu, thank you very much. The book is called How to Be a Good Dog. It's by Gail Page, also illustrated by Gail Page. Daniel Pinkwater has written many fine books for children and adults. What's your latest, Daniel?

Mr. PINKWATER: Bad Bear Detectives.

SIMON: And Lulu Pinkwater, she does carry your last name, doesn't she?

Mr. PINKWATER: No. No, we're not related.

SIMON: Oh, just Lulu, okay. Okay. Lulu and Daniel Pinkwater joined us from their home in Upstate New York. Daniel, what kind of dog is Lulu?

Mr. PINKWATER: Lulu is a Canadian Inuit dog. Her mother pulled a sled, and she hasn't done a lick of work in her whole life.

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