Dog Diaries 1: Ginger

By Kate Klimo. Illustrated by Tim Jessell. Random House. $6.99.

Ginger, a loving golden retriever, is a survivor. Not only does she move beyond a puppy mill, pet shop and a first family who gives up on her for all the wrong reasons, but she eventually finds happiness in a new household.

This 147-page volume in her words is designed to teach children – and their parents – the many caveats surrounding the adoption of a puppy. In other words, don’t succumb to that cute puppy-mill or pet-shop lure or to thinking a puppy is the perfect Christmas gift for that young child in the family. You will pay a steeper price later – most likely in the form of behavioral and health issues not apparent on first view.

For awhile, Ginger refers to people as “two-leggers” but few of them offer her anything positive. “Ginger” is a basic primer and an excellent children’s educational tool on the importance of doing your homework before encouraging your parents to bring a puppy into your home.

The nicely balanced appendix includes a short history of the golden retriever breed, plus vignettes about puppy mills, rescue groups, animal shelters and how to pick a dog.

“Ginger” connects powerfully to the young reader with a narrative thread that breathes vivid realism into a part self-help, part motivational story.

Klimo has a counterpart “Dog Diaries 2: Buddy” also due out this month.

Here’s a synopsis:

A German shepherd—the first dog trained at Dorothy Eustis’s famous Seeing Eye guide-dog school for the blind—looks back at her life. Chosen for her intelligence, obedience and willingness to learn, Kiss knows there is more to life than chasing balls and chewing bones.

After spending months learning to take care of her beloved trainer Jack, why does he suddenly want her to take care of Morris—a strange, clumsy man who wants to change her name to Buddy? Could it be that Morris needs Kiss to take care of him even more than Jack did?

Based on a true story, and featuring realistic black-and-white illustrations by Jessell (plus an appendix with information about German shepherds, the history and training of guide dogs, hosting guide-dog puppies, and much more), this , too, is designed for middle-grade readers!