If there is such a thing as a perfect picture book, then Hello Goodbye Dog is probably it. I hardly know where to begin!
A girl, a dog, and a wheelchair
First and most important, Hello Goodbye Dog is about a biracial girl who uses a wheelchair to get around. But the book is not about race, and it’s not about disability. It’s about the relationship between the girl and the dog who adores her.
That’s incredibly important. When groups of people don’t show up in the books that children read, the children conclude that people in those groups are not worth knowing about. That’s true both when the child is a member of the missing group, and when the child is not a member of that group.
For children to learn that people with disabilities are valuable people, worth knowing about and worth knowing, they need to see those people in books. That’s why R.J. Hughes and I wanted to include a child with a visible disability in our books, Catherine’s Pascha and The Saint Nicholas Day Snow.
Of course, for a book to make a difference, it has to be a good book. And Hello Goodbye Dog is wonderful.
The main character, Zara, is a little girl who has a big dog named Moose. Moose loves Zara. He loves to tell Zara hello. He hates to say goodbye.
But when Zara goes to school, Moose feels the goodbye like “an itch that couldn’t be scratched.” So Moose finds a way to go to Zara, to say hello.
Every time Moose goes to school, he is delightfully happy. And every time he gets there, it takes more and more adults to get her away. First, it’s Mom and Dad. Then it’s Mom, Dad, Zara, and Mrs. Perkins. And so on, until finally, it takes Mom, Dad, Zara, Mrs. Perkins, Ms. Chen, Principal Evans, and all the lunch ladies to get Moose to leave.
And Moose is sadder than sad.
Then Zara has an idea. If Moose went to therapy dog school, he could become the class reading dog. And that’s exactly what happens.
Maria Gianferrari’s use of a cumulative structure, adding more and more people to get Moose out of the school each time, is brilliant. Young children will want to recite everyone involved every time.
And the metaphors she uses for hello and goodbye are all from the dog’s point of view. That’s likely to be a stretch for some of the youngest children listening to this book on a parent’s lap. But it’s a stretch that will build a child’s thinking skills, use of language, and theory of mind.
The writing in Hello Goodbye Dog is delightful and charming. And the delight and charm are increased exponentially by Patrice Barton’s illustrations. Especially her illustrations of Moose.
If you have a dog in your life, you know how their face, their tail, their entire body radiates their emotions. That’s how it is with Moose. When you look at her, you can see her devotion to Zara. You can see her joy with every hello. You can see her sorrow when she is separated from her beloved girl.
Hello Goodbye Dog is a gorgeous book. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The best picture books with disabled characters: Children who do not have disabilities need books with disabled characters just as much as disabled children do. And this list will help you find some terrific books for the children you love.
Arabella: A sailboat, a storm, and a grandfather’s love: When Matthew slides out of his wheelchair and into his grandfather’s sailboat after a storm, without permission, he doesn’t read the weather right. The storm demands more skill and strength than he knows he has.
King for a Day: A picture book for Basant: Malik creates a small, speedy kite for the kite-flying festival of Basant. If he can use it to snag all the other kites out of the sky, he’ll be King of Basant.