I'll Teach My Dog 100 Words

October 16, 2017

Poetic primer.


It's one of those books published by Random House which piggybacks on the popularity of Dr. Seuss by being called a "Cat in the Hat Presents" book, without actually being written by Seuss. It's also illustrated by P.D. Eastman, the illustrator and writer of "Are You My Mother?", another classic children's book. It's not quite repetitive, but it's pedantic. It's almost patronizing. It's basically a primer with a tenuous thread of a story running through it, with words like "walk" and "run" and "day" and "night" and opposites and colors. It's clearly trying to teach the child these words, but as I've stated in other reviews, you don't have to teach children words individually. They will pick them up in context. That's how childhood language acquisition works. You CAN teach them words specifically, but you don't need to.

It's in more complete sentences than "See Jane. See Jane run. Run, Jane, run," or something like that, and it's got this silly conceit about all the people in the town being fascinated with a semi-intelligent dog. He doesn't talk; he's not a talking dog, but he identifies commands and colors, like "Comb your hair," and "Beat a drum." The meter is usually pretty solid, but occasionally a bit shaky. Like, "The first six words I'll teach my pup/Are 'dig a hole' and 'fill it up.'/I'll teach him 'walk' and 'run' and then/'Catch a ball,' now that makes ten./And Mr. Smith, who lives next door/Will say, 'That's great! Can you teach him more?'" Where you have to combine two syllables in to one somewhere in the last sentence, or put the stress somewhere non-intuitive. Maybe I obsess over these kinds of things, but it makes it hard to read this without stumbling over it, and not in a good way like "Fox in Socks."

Again, it's silly, fairly well-written, but nothing amazing. It's okay. It's kind of an average children's book, although the vast amount of mediocre ones out there make that not as high a compliment as it sounds. I guess it's a 6/10 where the vast majority of the ones I read are maybe 3/10 at best in quality. There's no real message here, I don't think it's actually claiming that dogs can be taught words like this. The narrator merely claims that he will do that in the future. And at the end he says, "I think I'll start next year," either as he realizes it's a difficult undertaking, or revealing that the narrator is just bragging. It's just a list of words. It's a rhyming list of words, so maybe that's a little bit entertaining. But there's nothing to it. There's no story. The rhyming is the only thing that could possibly keep your attention in this. It's decent rhyming, and decent meter, so what it's trying to do it does well, but in my opinion it's not trying to do enough, and comes off as disappointing.



Publication Year
  • 1973
Age Range
Age Range: 
Number of Pages
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Number of Words on Typical Page
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