Here are a few books for kids about pets (suggested reading ages indicated). Most offer valuable life lessons about pets and are entertaining - even for adult readers:
* Harry the Dirty Dog, by Gene Zion, pictures by Margaret Bloy Graham (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2006; $15.99). Ages 3 to 8. The 50th anniversary edition of this 1956 classic tells the story of a lovable dog who much prefers staying dirty to taking a bath. Before the bath, he is a black dog with white spots. After the bath, it turns out Harry is really a white dog with black spots.
* A Labrador's Tale: An Eye for Heroism, by Craig Pierce, illustrated by Tony Santiago (Ideate Prairie, 2006; $15). Ages 4 to 10. The book begins, "Roy Cook tells family and everyone he knows, 'My eyes have four legs and a cold, wet nose . . . and doggie breath too!' " This is the heartwarming story of a guide dog named Specs. It teaches kids what guide dogs are able to do, and is superb. A poster of Specs is included.
* A Greyhound's Tail: Running For Glory, Walking for Home, by Craig Pierce, illustrated by Tony Santiago (Ideate Prairie, 2006; $15). Ages 4 to 10. Illustrations and words bring the characters to life; this is an astonishing book that shouldn't be lost on adults, either. There is a happy ending, but at the point where it didn't seem likely. I challenge any reader not to be touched. Beware of kids asking to adopt a greyhound after reading this book.
* Tails Are Not For Pulling, by Elizabeth Verdick, illustrated by Marieka Heinlen (Free Spirit Publishing, 2006; $11.95). Ages 4 to 7. "Fur is for petting, not grabbing" is one of the many messages, all teaching kindness to animals. The message written specifically for parents says it all: Tails Are Not For Pulling can help children understand that although animals may not have words, they communicate. This is a good book to read before buying a first pet of any kind, from a fish to a dog.
* The Cat Who Wouldn't Come Inside, written and illustrated by Cynthia von Buhler (Houghton Mifflin, 2006; $16). Ages 2 to 5. According to press materials, illustrations from this book have won awards, and it's not surprising. It's as if they're somehow 3-D. The tale (a true story) begins, "On a cold winter day, I looked out my window, and on my porch sat a cat with snow on his back. I said, 'Come inside Kitty.' And the cat ran away." An author's note for adults offers information on how to bring outdoor cats inside.
* Pug in a Truck, by Nancy Coffelt (Houghton Mifflin, 2006; $12.95). Ages 2 to 5. You apparently haven't lived until you've driven a truck with a pug riding beside you. Not only will young kids enjoy this book, but truck drivers who travel with pugs (and they're out there) will relate.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. He will answer those of general interest in his column. Write to Steve at Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207. Send e-mail to email@example.com.