The best children’s books about dogs, poetry, and dogs in poetry

Marty Rhodes Figley Author Of Emily and Carlo
By Marty Rhodes Figley

Who am I?

Years ago, I returned to school at Mount Holyoke College to complete my bachelor’s degree in American Studies. I took a course on Emily Dickinson at the poet’s home in Amherst, Massachusetts—what a thrill! On the first day of class I learned that for sixteen years Emily’s constant companion was Carlo, a Newfoundland dog. Having experienced a hairy, slobbery encounter with a Newf when I was twenty while wearing a white dress, I knew the myth of Emily, pristinely dressed, untouched by the more earthy emotions was wrong. A new story needed to be told. That was the beginning of Emily and Carlo.

I wrote...

Emily and Carlo

By Marty Rhodes Figley, Catherine Stock (illustrator),

Book cover of Emily and Carlo

What is my book about?

By telling the story of Emily Dickinson and Carlo, the poet becomes a real person who loved a very large, messy, hairy dog for sixteen years. He was her playmate, friend, guide, and protector. Carlo was lauded in many of her poems and letters. According to Emily, “The dog is the noblest work of art.” As a fellow dog-lover, I agree. Dogs bring out the best in us. I think Carlo did the same for Emily. Also, the fabulously talented illustrator, Catherine Stock, another Emily admirer, brought out the best in my story with her gorgeous art.

The books I picked & why

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Once I Ate a Pie

By Patricia MacLachlan, Emily MacLachlan Charest, Katy Schneider (illustrator)

Book cover of Once I Ate a Pie

Why this book?

This is “dog confidential” presented in charming free verse. Just like people, all dogs are different. We find this out from fourteen assorted pooches. These appealing canines, depicted in soulful, richly oil-painted illustrations, confide to the reader about their likes, dislikes, and proclivities.  Among this revealing group are a barker, a pie-eater (I can identify with that), a cuddler, a people herder, a shy shrinking violet, a sleeper—and a party animal. I know all my dogs have had different personalities, and this charming book sends that message in a most unique and appealing way. It’s a good reminder for us all about our special “best friends.”

Officer Buckle and Gloria

By Peggy Rathmann,

Book cover of Officer Buckle and Gloria

Why this book?

I‘ve loved this book for years and if you haven’t read it, please give yourself a treat. Gloria, a dog of few words but lots of action, is one of my all-time favorite picture book characters. Officer Buckle is earnest when he gives his school talks on safety. Gloria, the police dog, is his sidekick and buddy. They have ice cream after their presentations. He thinks she obeys. But when he discovers she has been delighting their audiences while sneakily upstaging him with her antics, he refuses to do any more school talks. The show must go one with just Gloria—alone. But it’s no good. There is a happy ending to this book about teamwork and friendship. The Caldecott Medal-winning art is sublime.

Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare

By William Shakespeare, Merce Lopez (illustrator),

Book cover of Poetry for Kids: William Shakespeare

Why this book?

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ear.” This is a must-have for any library. I wish I had begun reading William Shakespeare much earlier than high school! This 48-page volume provides a wonderful introduction for young and older readers with an assortment of Bard’s poems and speeches. Each entry is beautifully illustrated and explained by an expert. Definitions of hard-to-understand words are thoughtfully included at the bottom of each page.

Love That Dog

By Sharon Creech,

Book cover of Love That Dog

Why this book?

Want a book that tells a poignant story and will inspire you to write poetry? Well, have your tissues ready for this one. Jack, an elementary school student, balks at writing poetry. When Miss Stretchberry’s class examines various famous poets’ work he is critical. For example, he thinks “Mr. Robert Frost has a little too much time on his hands.” This short funny and moving novel in free verse follows Jack’s journey as he learns to use poetry to express his feelings and to eulogize his beloved yellow dog, Sky. The poems mentioned in the book are included at the end. Just like poetry at its best, Love That Dog will enchant readers while using only a few special words. 

Dog Heaven

By Cynthia Rylant,

Book cover of Dog Heaven

Why this book?

I’ve had friends tell me that they don’t want to love another dog because they can’t bear it when the dog dies. It’s hard to lose a pet, no matter whether you are old or young. Dog Heaven allows us to imagine our old friends in an afterlife that’s fashioned just for them. God knows what dogs like—a place to run, dog treats in funny shapes, fluffy clouds as dog beds, and special homes where they are petted and reminded how good they are all day long. This hopeful picture book offers comfort as our Angel dogs “will be there when old friends show up. They will be there at the door.” 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in dogs, poetry, and police?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about dogs, poetry, and police.

Dogs Explore 239 books about dogs
Poetry Explore 174 books about poetry
Police Explore 93 books about police

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Shakespeare's Dog: A Novel, Little Prince: The Story of a Shetland Pony, and Gaspard and Lisa Friends Forever (Misadventures of Gaspard and Lisa) if you like this list.