There’s a reason these sultry days of July and August are called “dog days of summer,” but it has nothing to do with your canine companion.
The phrase gets its name from long ago when people associated the hot weather with the star Sirius, the brightest in the sky. Sirius is part of the Canis Major (Large Dog) constellation. And because of this, it became known as the Dog Star.
In late summer, in the Northern Hemisphere, Sirius rises and sets with the sun. As a result, early stargazers believed the star’s heat added to the heat of the sun, creating a stretch of stifling weather from July to August.
Turns out they were wrong. The heat is actually the result of the Earth’s tilt. Still, what better way to celebrate these dog days than to take a look at books about man’s (and woman’s) best friend.
Below are a few that have been published in the last five years. (Dates are for first year of publication.)
For a look at some older dog books, click on this classic MUF post: No Dead Dogs
A Dog Called Homeless by Sarah Lean (2012)
Cally Fisher knows she can see her dead mother, but the only other living soul who does is a mysterious wolfhound who always seems to be there when her mom appears. How can Cally convince anyone that her mom is still with the family, or persuade her dad that the huge silver-gray dog belongs with them. With beautiful, spare writing and adorable animals, A Dog Called Homeless is perfect for readers of favorite middle-grade novels starring dogs, such as Because of Winn-Dixie and Shiloh.
Dog Days: The Carver Chronicles, Book One by Karen English (2013)
It’s tough being the new kid at Carver Elementary. Gavin had lots of friends at his old school, but the kids here don’t even know that he’s pretty good at skateboarding, or how awesome he is at soccer. And when his classmate Richard comes over and the boys end up in trouble, not only does Gavin risk losing his one new friend, he has to take care of his great aunt Myrtle’s horrible little dog as punishment. To make matters worse, Gavin seems to have attracted the attention of the school bully. Will he be able to avoid getting pounded at the skate park? And how is he ever going to prove he’s cool with a yappy little Pomeranian wearing a pink bow at his side?
Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors (2011)
Homer Pudding, an ordinary farm boy, has big dreams of following in the footsteps of his famous treasure-hunting uncle. But when Uncle Drake mysteriously disappears, Homer inherits two things: a lazy, droopy dog with no sense of smell, and a mystery. Why would his uncle call this clumsy dog his “most treasured possession?” And why did he put a gold coin on the dog’s collar? Join Homer, his sister Gwendolyn, and Dog on an adventure that will test their wits and courage as they leave their peaceful farm and head into a world where ruthless treasure hunters hide around every corner. Where they discover that Dog has a hidden talent and that treasure might be closer than they ever imagined. This is the first in a series of books about Homer and Dog.
Rescue on the Oregon Trail: Ranger in Time #1 by Kate Messner (2015)
Ranger has been trained as a search-and-rescue dog, but can’t officially pass the test because he’s always getting distracted by squirrels during exercises. One day, he finds a mysterious first-aid kit in the garden and is transported to the year 1850, where he meets a young boy named Sam Abbott. Sam’s family is migrating west on the Oregon Trail, and soon after Ranger arrives, he helps the boy save his little sister. Ranger thinks his job is done, but the Oregon Trail can be dangerous, and the Abbotts need Ranger’s help more than they realize! See also: Danger in Ancient in Rome: Ranger in Time #2, also by Kate Messner.
This collection is full of heartwarming and hilarious stories about the Pawley Rescue Center, where rescued dogs find their way into hearts and homes. You’ll meet Foxtrot, a feisty Pomeranian who can’t bear the thought of leaving her best friend. And Beatrice, whose bark is definitely worse than her bite. And then there’s Pumpkin, one of the 101 Chihuahuas who turn life at the center upside down. Lucky Dog features sweet and silly stories about playful pups and the kids who love them by some of your favorite authors: Randi Barrow, Marlane Kennedy, Elizabeth Cody Kimmel, Kirby Larson, C. Alexander London, Leslie Margolis, Jane B. Mason and Sarah Hines Stephens, Ellen Miles, Michael Northrop, Teddy Slater, Tui T. Sutherland, and Allan Woodrow.
There is trouble brewing in the Louisiana swamp — Bowser can smell it. Bowser is a very handsome and only slightly slobbery dog, and he can smell lots of things. Like bacon. And rawhide chews! And the sweat on humans when they’re lying. Birdie Gaux, the girl Bowser lives with, also knows something is wrong. It’s not just that her grammy’s stuffed prize marlin has been stolen. It’s the weird rumor that the marlin is linked to a missing treasure. It’s the truck that seems to be following Birdie and the bad feeling on the back of her neck. When Birdie and Bowser start digging into the mystery, not even Bowser’s powerful sniffer can smell just how menacing the threat is. And when the danger comes straight for Birdie, Bowser knows it up to him to sic ’em.
Duke by Kirby Larson (2013)
With World War II raging and his father fighting overseas in Europe, eleven-year-old Hobie Hanson is determined to do his part to help his family and his country, even if it means giving up his beloved German shepherd, Duke. Hoping to help end the war and bring his dad home faster, Hobie decides to donate Duke to Dogs for Defense, an organization that urges Americans to “loan” their pets to the military to act as sentries, mine sniffers, and patrol dogs. Hobie immediately regrets his decision and tries everything he can to get Duke back, even jeopardizing his friendship with the new boy at school. But when his father is taken prisoner by the Germans, Hobie realizes he must let Duke go and reach deep within himself to be brave. Will Hobie ever see Duke, or his father, again?
Dogs are disappearing in her neighborhood, and Maggie Brooklyn Sinclair knows all about it. After all, she has a semi-secret after-school gig as a professional (ok, amateur) dog-walker. Maggie hates to see a pup in trouble, so she’s even willing to help her ex-best friend Ivy recover her rescue-dog, Kermit. Kermit’s being held for ransom, and Maggie has noticed some suspicious behavior lately. But she never suspected her crush Milo could be involved.
Boy’s Best Friend by Kate Banks and Rupert Sheldrake (2015)
Eleven-year-old George has a dog, Bart, who seems to know everything about him—from when he is feeling sad to when he will arrive home from school. George’s new neighbor and classmate, Lester, also has a dog, Bill Gates, and Lester thinks he is the smartest animal in the world. When their teacher assigns a school science project about animal behavior, George and Lester decide to conduct an experiment based on the world-famous Rupert Sheldrake’s experiments about dogs. George even has an email exchange with Dr. Sheldrake to help him with the project—and he and Lester soon find out that, through a few simple experiments, kids can make scientific discoveries, too. This middle-grade dogs story is inspired by Rupert Sheldrake’s bestselling adult book, Dogs that Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home.
Remy, Micayla, Bennett, and the C Twins are back on Seagate Island for another summer of beach traditions, new and old. A new tradition: keeping Remy’s dog-sitting business going. Remy loves seeing her dog friends (and her real friends, too), but the doldrums start to sink in when it turns into the rainiest summer on record, with evacuation constantly threatening to ruin the world’s most perfect vacation spot. Tempers are short and dogs are bored. What can one 12-year-old do to create summer magic when the summer doesn’t seem to be showing up? See also: Welcome to Dog Beach: The Seagate Summers Book One, also by Lisa Greenwald.
Dash by Kirby Larson (2014)
Although Mitsi Kashino and her family are swept up in the wave of anti-Japanese sentiment following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Mitsi never expects to lose her home—or her beloved dog, Dash. But, as World War II rages and people of Japanese descent are forced into incarceration camps, Mitsi is separated from Dash, her classmates, and life as she knows it. The camp is a crowded and unfamiliar place, whose dusty floors, seemingly endless lines, and barbed wire fences begin to unravel the strong Kashino family ties. With the help of a friendly neighbor back home, Mitsi remains connected to Dash in spite of the hard times, holding on to the hope that the war will end soon and life will return to normal. Though they’ve lost their home, will the Kashino family also lose their sense of family? And will Mitsi and Dash ever be reunited?
Sniffer Dogs: How Dogs (and Their Noses) Save the World by Nancy F. Castaldo (2014)
Anyone who has ever spent time with a dog knows that dogs love sniffing! They sniff out hidden food, dirty socks, and the visitor who comes to the door. But some dogs work with police officers, soldiers and even scientists to put their “sniffers” to work. Sniffer dogs make use of the amazing biology behind their noses to protect people from bombs, catch criminals smuggling drugs, or help researchers locate a hard to find snail in a forest. In Sniffer Dogs you will meet many dogs and their handlers and learn all about their jobs. Some of these dogs are raised from birth to detect blood sugar levels in their owners. Others are rescued from animal shelters and their boisterous personalities help make them excellent sniffer dogs. Featuring a balance between science and social science, Sniffer Dogs will appeal to dog lovers and science lovers alike.
Dorian Cirrone has written several books for children and teens. Her middle-grade novel, The First Last Day, which takes place on the New Jersey Shore, will be out in May 2016 from S&S/Aladdin. You can find her on Facebook and on Twitter as @DorianCirrone. She gives writing tips and does occasional giveaways on her blog at: http://doriancirrone.com/welcome/blog/