Welcome to KidLit Gems!

Join us in a coffee-style chat about favorite children’s books and the elements that make them shine.

This month’s theme: Reptilian Tales

Text © 2004, David LaRochelle
Illustrations © 2004, Hanako Wakiyama



Age Range:
3-6 years

Grade Level:
2nd Grade

a division of Penguin Young Reader’s Group

Starred Review, American
Library Association

Publisher’s Weekly,
Starred Review

“Finally my mother got angry. She stomped her foot. She told the dragon to leave this minute OR ELSE. The dragon just shook his head. He went back to eating spaghetti in the bathtub.”

How to convince a reluctant mother to adopt a dog? First get an ill-behaved dragon, of course! In The Best Pet of All, Minnesota author David LaRochelle spins a new twist on a child asking for a pet. Cool retro illustrations by Hanako Wakiyama perfectly match this classic theme.

So what author’s technique makes this book shine? In my opinion, it’s LaRochelle masterful use of patterns to pace the story events. Everything begins with a child asking for a dog on Monday, and his daily requests continue. By Thursday, however, LaRochelle throws in a twist: a dragon. To avoid predictability, he then drops the days of the week pattern and switches to using repetition instead: Four attempts to find a dragon, three attempts to lure the dragon home, five dragon misbehaviors, and three attempts to dislodge the dragon from the home.

Young readers won’t close the book with a satisfied sigh and say, “Boy, that guy really knows how to move a story along with clever use of patterning.” But they’ll likely say, “Read it again!” After all, just like in show biz, it’s the skillful work behind the curtains that gets us clapping for an encore.

~ Lou

Dragons are not easy to find. At last I found a dragon. This dragon was at the drugstore. He was wearing dark glasses and a hat. ~ The Best Pet of All

David LaRochelle applies the lesser-of-two evils-principle to a picture book, making this the ultimate how-to guide for kids perfecting the art of persuasion regarding pet (specifically dog) ownership.

It seems unusual for someone with David LaRochelle’s artistic talent to step aside and let someone else illustrate his baby, but David LaRochelle has more humility than most and this gives way to literary success. It’s his humility and humor that has reaped him the Sid Fleischman Humor Award, SCBWI Golden Kite Honor Award, Minnesota Book Award, and his amazing books–over 25 of them, so far.

I wonder if he wants it back?Hanako Wakiyama’s flawless 50’s -60’s flavor makes me feel warm and fuzzy–and little again. Everyone wants that hip mom. And Wakiyama’s retro style reminds me of my vintage Whitman Tiny-Tot Tale Fun At The Beach by Gloria Trachtenberg, illustrated by Dagmar Wilson (that I borrowed  from my cousin in the 1960’s and never returned).

Tiny-Tot Tales' FUN AT THE BEACH

Tiny-Tot Tales’ FUN AT THE BEACH

BruceHaleWakiyama’s dragon reminds me of children’s author Bruce Hale, but it could just be the hat.

The Best Pet Of All is worthy to be read everywhere, even on the White House lawn.

Oh, wait! See below!

~ Anna


KEM Diamond

Watch for another pick from Lou next week!

We want to hear from you!
What’s you favorite reptilian tale?

August’s KidLit Gem Theme – Survivor Stories