Book Review: “The Blue House Dog” Written By Deborah Blumenthal, Illustrated By Adam Gustavson

The Blue House Dog is a story about “A boy without a dog-and a dog without an owner”.

“Some people call him Bones

because he’s so thin.

But nobody knows his real name.”

“He’s just a stray dog,

people say,

and not a special one…”

“Only his eyes are special.

One is brown

and the other

sapphire blue.”

The above is a description of “Bones” (as he is called by Cody, the little boy who tells us the story of The Blue House Dog).  From the day that Cody first noticed Bones,  he  spends his days watching  him, giving him food, worrying about his welfare.

You see, Bones once had a home. He lived with a man in a big blue house. One day the man suddenly died.  Bones, after being frightened by the police who come to the home, escapes and is left to wander the neighborhood.

He spends much of his time searching for food and trying to elude the evil dog-catcher.

To make matters worse, the big blue house that Bones used to live in was torn down.

It was the only home that Bones had ever known.

Bones is heartbroken  and lonely.

So is Cody. You see, Cody once had a dog of his own  named Teddy, that he loved very much.  Teddy used to curl up in bed with Cody every night. Cody used to tell him secrets because he  considered Teddy to be his “best friend in the world.”

One day Teddy became sick and died.  Cody doesn’t know why.  All he knows is that he is still hurting. He still Teddy’s  picture in his room.  He has kept Teddy’s bright fire-engine red dog bowl wrapped in a brown paper bag, stashed deep in the closet of his bedroom,  because he cannot bear to look at it.

“When you lose someone

who’s as close as your own skin,

the only place

you can find him again

is hidden

inside your memories.”

Throughout this tug-at-your-heartstrings story,  Cody and Bones cautiously grow closer, both are afraid of being hurt again.  They both must relearn how to love and trust.

“Bones is just a stray dog,

people say,

and not a special one.

But he is to me.

Dogs find their way

inside you

and you want to keep them there.”


Will Bones and Cody ever learn to trust and love each other?

I’m not telling.

You will have to read this touching story to find out.


“Readers will be deeply affected by Deborah Blumenthal’s story of love and loss. Adam Gustavson’s full-color illustrations reveal the shadows and light, as well as the quiet drama, of neighborhood life, and highlight the emerging relationship between the narrator and the lonely, dispirited dog that captures his attention, and finally, his heart.”

  • Hardcover: $15.95
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-537-9
  • Total Pages: 32




Deborah Blumenthal has written nine children’s books, including two Book Sense 76 winners. She has also been a regular contributor to the New York Times, covering beauty and fitness. Blumenthal lives in New York.

You can visit Deborah Blumenthal’s website here.



Adam Gustavson has illustrated sixteen books for children, including Mind Your Manners, Alice Roosevelt! and Snow Day!.He lives in New Jersey.

You can visit Adam Gustavson’s website here



IN FULL DISCLOSURE: I was not compensated for this blog post. I was sent a copy of The Blue House Dog to  review.


Book Review: “First Dog Fala”, Written By Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, Illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery

Today Mom gave me my first American History lesson.

Frankly, Mom had a lesson in American History herself.

Mom told me she was never very good in history when she was a young pup in school, so she was happy to learn a lot of interesting and fun things while reading me First Dog Fala,  which was written by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk and illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery.

Mom was given the book First Dog Fala for me to read and review. She knew that Fala was the adorable Scottish Terrier  that was owned by President Franklin D.Roosevelt. She didn’t remember this fact from school. Nope, she remembered it because Fala is a frequent answer in the New York Times crossword puzzles that  Mom used to be addicted to. That was before the days of computers of course.

Mom told me that throughout history it is a well-known fact that many Presidents had dogs by their sides while they carried out the most important job of the United States,  that of being President.

Here is a partial list of some American Presidents and the names and breeds of the dogs that they owned. When Mom and I researched this we saw that there are TONS! We will only list a few:


1974 – 1977 Gerald Ford
Gerald Ford owned a Golden Retriever called Liberty who gave birth to nine puppies at the White House.

1993 – 2001  President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton owned a chocolate Labrador called Buddy

2009 President Barack Obama
From the beginning of his presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to buy his daughters Malia and Sasha a dog whether he won the presidential election or not. In January 2009, President Obama kept
his word and ‘Amigo’s New Hope’ which his daughters have nicknamed ‘Bo’ moved into the Whitehouse. Bo is a black-and-white Portuguese water dog and was a gift from Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who also owns Portuguese water dogs. Portuguese water dogs are known as working dogs and are recognised for their intelligence, strength, and stamina.

this  partial list came from: American Presidents Dogs if you would like to see how many more Presidents had dogs just click on the link.

“Meet the Scottish terrier who won the heart of a U.S. president and the hearts of the American people.”

First Dog Fala is for children (and doggies) ages 4-8  (although Mom thinks that has to be some pretty smart four-year olds if they would be able to understand the concept of being President.

The book details how President Roosevelt acquired Fala, some historical events that took place while he was President and owned Fala and gives us some insight about what Fala’s personality and life at the White House was like.

There are a number of things that Mom and I enjoyed about First Dog Fala.

  • It is interesting
  • It is highly educational
  • It makes learning fun because children are learning about Fala and are so caught up in the story about Fala that they don’t even realize they are having a history lesson  at the same time
  • The  marvelous,  deeply rich  illustrations!

Mom is pretty artistic so the illustrations by Michael G. Montgomery really caught her eye. She told me they looked like they were done in the style of the era that President Roosevelt was in office  (World War II). Mom said they had an “old-time” feel and they looked like paintings, not just illustrations.  They also reminded Mom of  newspaper photographs from the 1940s,  only in color (back in those days newspapers didn’t have color photos like they do now). Mom was completely smitten by the portrait quality of the illustrations  and felt they were the perfect companion to the wonderfully written and interesting story of Fala.


This would be the perfect “Back-to-school” book.  Mom isn’t sure if they still do book reports in elementary school but if they do (and even if they don’t!) , she strongly suggests First Dog Fala for those students in 5th, 4th, or 3rd grade.

  • Hardcover: $16.95
  • ISBN: 978-1-56145-411-2
  • Total Pages: 32
  • Size: 10 7/8 x 8 3/8
  • Language: English
  • Rights: World
  • Status: active



Elizabeth Van Steenwyk is the award-winning author of more than 70 published books for young people. After graduating from Knox College, she went on to spend ten years writing for radio and television with a concentration on children’s programming. She lives in California.


Michael G. Montgomery has illustrated numerous children’s books. He attended Georgia Southern University and the University of Georgia. Montgomery lives in Georgia.

You can visit Michael G. Montgomery’s website here.



KC3 Reading Program (nominee) ―Greater Kansas City Association of School Librarians 2010-2011

California Collection (elementary) ―California Readers

Kansas State Reading Circle Recommended Reading List (intermediate) ―Kansas National Education Association

KIND Children’s Honorable Mention Book ―Humane Society Youth

Teachers’ Choices (primary) ―IRA