Summary: Jake has a puppyhood dream of the kindest man in the world being his owner. However, he is given away to a cruel man who beats him instead. He escapes the abuse only to be temporarily loved by a homeless woman, set upon by a gang of dogs, makes a few animal friends, and is hit by a car.
Personal Reaction: Simple story for young children who can tackle a chapter a day (167 page book) – I don’t know if I can recommend it as a bedtime story given some of the imagery. It’s going to be fine for 1st to 3rd graders, as long as they’re not oversensitive to the fact that people aren’t always nice to their pets (you can be assured it will turn out well because of the title). Another self-published book that could use editorial eyes, though as a read aloud/along it shouldn’t be an issue. For older kids, grades 4 and up, I much prefer the depth and richness of Flawed Dogs by B. Breathed. Both involve dogs talking about death, neglectful owners, and both even involve shootings.
Curriculum or discussion topics: Possible use as an elementary read for a class that’s taking a field trip to the pound or having an animal control officer or animal charity rep come to speak, or maybe taking up items/collections for a local animal group need.
Connections to other books: There are lots of good pet stories out there… Animal Ark Series series by Baglio, Runt by Bauer, One Small Dog by Hurwitz, Love That Dog (poetry) by Creech, Lewis and Clark and Me: A Dog’s Tale by Myers
Items to display with book: Dog stuff – collar, squeaky toys, bowl; cast iron toy truck; stuffed dogs (and a cat)
Food items connected to story: I doubt you’d be serving dog food, but there are plenty of stews you could try to make your kids laugh and cookies you could bake into dog biscuit shapes. The dog and his homeless companion visit 3 restaurants (pizzaria, bar-b-que and bar&grill) for food, but no special dishes are mentioned.