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The Stray Dog

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A Caldecott Honor Book, based on a true story by Reiko Sassa and retold by Marc Simont, tells of a family who finds a stray dog. Beautiful watercolors.

32 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2001

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About the author

Marc Simont

130 books22 followers
Artist, political cartoonist, and illustrator of more than a hundred children's books, Marc Simont was born in 1915 in Paris. His parents were from the Catalonia region of Spain, and his childhood was spent in France, Spain, and the United States. Encouraged by his father, Joseph Simont, an artist and staff illustrator for the magazine L'Illustration, Marc Simont drew from a young age. Though he later attended art school in Paris and New York, he considers his father to have been his greatest teacher.
When he was nineteen, Mr. Simont settled in America permanently, determined to support himself as an artist. His first illustrations for a children's book appeared in 1939. Since then, Mr. Simont has illustrated nearly a hundred books, working with authors as diverse as Margaret Wise Brown and James Thurber. He won a Caldecott Honor in 1950 for illustrating Ruth Krauss's The Happy Day, and in in 1957 he was awarded the Caldecott Medal for his pictures in A Tree is Nice, by Janice May Udry.
Internationally acclaimed for its grace, humor, and beauty, Marc Simont's art is in collections as far afield at the Kijo Picture Book Museum in Japan, but the honor he holds most dear is having been chosen as the 1997 Illustrator of the Year in his native Catalonia. Mr. Simont and his wife have one grown son, two dogs and a cat. They live in West Cornwall, Connecticut. Marc Simont's most recent book is The Stray Dog.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 317 reviews
Profile Image for Mir.
4,868 reviews5,034 followers
March 1, 2017
A sweet and simple story about a family who meets a friendly dog while picnicking and, after thinking about him all week, go back to find him. My only criticism would be that leaving the dog in the first place is not very responsible. Even if, as the parents tell the concerned children, the dog already has a family that is looking for him, the appropriate response would be to try to find the owners, or take it home and then put up ads, or take it to a shelter and see if it were claimed, not leave it alone with no food and the risk of being hurt by a car or other living thing.
Profile Image for Calista.
4,071 reviews31.3k followers
July 25, 2019
This is a cute beginning story. It’s simple and straight forward. A family goes for a picnic one weekend and they see a scruffy dog. They feed it and play with it and leave it thinking it belonged to someone else. All of them are thinking about the dog all week long. The next weekend they are back looking for the dog. I’m sure you can guess what happened.

I’m not crazy for the artwork, but it’s decent enough. The story is to the point and has a few lines per page. It’s a short story.

The nephew thought that scruffy dog was the cutest thing ever. He wants a real dog he can play with. He and our dog, Cooper, don’t get along real well. In some ways they are too alike. Our dog looks like Dobby the house elf. Anyway he gave this 4 stars. The niece thought this was a simple story. She doesn’t like mess and she thinks one dog is enough. She thought the story was a little boring as she knew what was going to happen. She gave this 2 stars.
Profile Image for Kathryn.
4,341 reviews
April 29, 2011
A heartwarming story of a stray dog and the family who meets him on a picnic one day. They leave him after their day of fun, thinking he must have a family (or using this as an excuse not to worry about him) but the children--and even Mom and Dad!--can't stop thinking about him. Will he be there when they go back? There are some harrowing moments before the eventual happy ending, and I just love that, wrapped in the simplicity of this story, are so many moments of humor, suspense, pathos, joy and love. The illustrations are so charming! I love the little Stray Dog :-)
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,802 reviews1,234 followers
March 9, 2011
Charming illustrations! In particular, the many dogs are great, including the main dog, Willy, who’s adorable. I felt joy while viewing each illustration, and it’s fun to search and find Willy on the second to last page.

The story might feel a bit suspenseful for young children or others who won’t recognize the formula ahead of time. I had a bit of a hard time with the family’s original decision, although I did understand it. Overall, I ended up liking the story, even though I have mixed feelings about it. Luckily, throughout, there was some humor to go along with the angst. And the illustrations really shine. I’ve always loved dogs and I’m sure that had I had this book read to me when I was young I would have looked at this book’s pictures over and over and over, paying attention to and memorizing all the details.

The reader is told on the title page that this story is “from a true story by Reiko Sassa” and that Marc Simont has retold (and illustrated) it. Because of that, I felt touched. If I’d assumed the story was entirely fictional I think I’d have been irked that the story was trying to manipulate readers’/listeners’ emotions.
Profile Image for Abigail.
7,174 reviews187 followers
March 5, 2020
In this delightful picture-book, based upon a story told him by a friend (Reiko Sassa, credited on the cover and title page), Marc Simont unfolds a simple but heartwarming tale of a family, their picnic in the park, and the stray dog who wins their hearts. Naming this new canine friend Willy, the children of the family play with him all day, and beg to be allowed to bring him home. Their parents, thinking he might belong to someone (or perhaps that it is too great a responsibility?) demur, and family and dog part. Willy remains in each family member's mind, however, and when they return to the park the next Saturday, they look for him again...

I can easily see why this title won Simont a Caldecott Honor in 2002 - he was also so honored for Ruth Krauss's The Happy Day , and won the Caldecott Medal outright for his work on Janice May Udry's A Tree Is Nice - as the illustrations are simply charming! Willy's depiction, in particular, is very effective, capturing his canine moods, from elation to depression, perfectly! The story is likewise very winsome, with a happy ending that will bring a smile to the face of young dog-lovers. It is to them I would recommend The Stray Dog, and to fans of the artist.
Profile Image for Hákon Gunnarsson.
Author 27 books134 followers
February 24, 2018
I like this book. It’s based on a true story, and it does have less fantastical quality than some children’s books, but the plot and the illustrations are good. It’s about how one family unexpectedly got a new pet. A really sweet little story.
Profile Image for Diz.
1,606 reviews98 followers
April 30, 2019
This is a simple story about adopting a stray dog. The illustrations are quite nice. It would be nice if the characters had a little more personality, though.
Profile Image for Josiah.
3,220 reviews147 followers
July 25, 2019
The Stray Dog at first glance is unusually simplistic for a Caldecott Honor recipient, but it's one of those books that contain an intangible element which makes it worth reading. Perhaps it's Marc Simont's charming illustrations. I would put The Stray Dog in the small group of books I find myself drawn to, but would have a difficult time explaining why. I like this story, and would bet dollars to doughnuts I'll read it again sometime. :-)
Profile Image for Noble.
593 reviews12 followers
November 18, 2016
cute (true, right?) story about how a family bonds and gets their dog!
dont read in korea -_- the kids didnt understand that the people werent going to eat the dog (because they were at a picnic when they met the dog.) its not even common to eat dog in korea but it used to be and idk the kids were confused as to why the family wasnt eating the dog. ugh.
Profile Image for Tammy J.
60 reviews
October 7, 2015
What a perfect book. The stray dog tells a story about a family who goes on a picnic. As they are there, they see a dog. They don't know who's dog and don't know what he wants. Each of the family members comes up with something different about what the dog wants. They play with the dog and leave it because they think it is someone else's. They had a great time with the dog but realize they can't take something that isn't theirs. The illustrations are great and go along to tell the story. After they go home they think about Willy who is the dog and a week later go back to the same place they were when they met him. They wait for the dog since he isn't there when they arrive. After a while the dog runs by..We see in the picture that the dog is being chased by a dog catcher. The family is near by and fend for the dog. The dog catcher notices that he has no tags or collar. The kids are smart and the boy takes off his belt and the girl takes out her hair ribbon. They tell the dog catcher that he has a collar, his name is Willy and that he is theirs. It's funny what you will do for the one's you love. They give him a home which is so great.

Themes: pets, family, helping, learning about homelessness and taking care of pets. I feel we might incorporate citizenship and rewards.

I can recall a time when we took in strays. We always tried to find their owners and when we couldn't we took them in. This story touches my heart because my mom just took in a stray dog about two years ago. The poor dog was left cause the family moved. He was left on a chain with food thrown on the floor that he couldn't reach. I felt so sorry for him that I said we had to help him. He is such a great friend to my mom.

This book would be great for pre- k to first grade. It can talk about friendship and taking care of pets and going above and beyond to help others. Responsibility might also be discussed. Having specific jobs in the classroom were children can learn to take care of something or helping someone may be of benefit to them.
Profile Image for Baby Bookworm.
1,642 reviews93 followers
January 9, 2018

This review was originally written for The Baby Bookworm. Visit us for new picture books reviews daily!

Hello, everyone! Today’s book is the modern classic The Stray Dog by Marc Simont, based on a true story by Reiko Sassa. It’s a wonderfully sweet tale about a little dog and the family who decide to give him a home.

A family is out for a picnic one day when a little dog wanders up and charms them. They invite him to share their meal, play with him and teach him to sit up, and call him Willy. When the time comes to leave, the children ask to bring Willy home with them, but the parents insist that such a friendly and sweet dog must have someone looking for him. But on the way home, the daughter asks the question that will stick in their minds all week: “What if Willy doesn’t have anybody?” After a week of contemplating, wondering and worrying about the sweet little dog, they return to their picnic spot, hoping to find their friend. And there he is – but has the dogcatcher found him first?

Like many of the modern classics that came out after my childhood, I missed out on this book when it was originally published, but I’m so glad a friend recommended it to me! Who doesn’t love a story about an animal finding a loving home, and a family bringing the joy of a pet into their lives? The plot is simple yet compelling, and the lovely illustrations do well to compliment and add on to the text. The length is perfect for baby bookworms, and JJ and I both loved it, so if you haven’t checked this one out yet, you absolutely should. Baby Bookworm approved!

Be sure to check out The Baby Bookworm for more reviews!
Profile Image for Amie.
54 reviews
October 8, 2009
The Stray Dog was my favorite book this week. I actually read it twice and learned so much more the second time around. This true story is about Willy, a stray dog who spends the afternoon with a family picnicing in the park, and they all are forever changed by it. They leave the dog behind with the excuse that it must be someone else's, but as the week goes by, they can't get Willy out of their minds. They go back to the same park to picnic again in hopes of seeing Willy. When Willy rushes past them with a dog catcher on his tail, they rush to rescue him, claiming that he is their dog. And he is from that day forward.
From the moment you open the book the story has started. Marc Simont gives the readers hints about what Willy does for food and how the children desperately want a dog of their own before you even get to the title page. The text is simple and well-placed, but what makes this story so special is that Simont's use of color, light, page layout and cartoon style allows the reader to see how the mood and emotions change through out the book. Some pages are filled with color to show a fantastic scene while some have just a small illustration so the reader can focus in on that character and how he is feeling. I would share this with students Pre-K through 3rd grade.
Profile Image for Eva-Marie.
1,673 reviews124 followers
December 9, 2010
*I'm not sure why this isn't already listed because I'm positive that we've taken this from the library and read it months ago.*
This book is about a family on a picnic who sees a dog while in the park. The kids ask the parents to keep the dog and are told no but throughout the next week everyone in the family, including the parents, are thinking about this little dog.
The next weekend the family is again at the park having a picnic but this time something is different. Two little bowls sit off to the side of the table, one with water, one with food. But no dog comes.
All of a sudden they see the dog run past with a dogcatcher running after him. The children take off to save "their" dog. When the dogcatcher explains that the dog has no collar and no lease and therefore is a stray the kids think fast and come up with what they need. The little boy has a belt that makes a collar. The little girl has a hair ribbon that serves as a leash.
After this the dogcatcher has no choice but to allow the children to take their dog. And everyone lives happily ever after.
The illustrations are so-so, nothing spectacular IMO and the story is fun to read but again, nothing overly exciting.
Profile Image for Jordan Caton.
28 reviews
October 3, 2011
The Stray Dog was one of the books I chose for my picture storybook. This book is about a dog named Willy who was found in the park by a family having a picnic. Because they thought he probably belonged to someone, they didn't take him home but the whole family was sad about it. On another trip to the park, the family spots Willy being captured by the dog catcher and claims the dog. This story was cute and I think kids would enjoy it.

This book was a Caldecott award winner. I really enjoyed the illustrations in this book, along with the colors. The pictures added a lot to the story by adding in different details. Some pages had huge double spreads, while others had a lot of white background with a couple pictures. This made me as a reader interested the whole book. The colors in this book were also great. The page with the city and bridge had such rich colors and I thought it looked great.

I would say this book would be for kindergarden-third grade.
February 5, 2010
Title: The Stray dog
Author: Reiko Sassa. Retold by Marc Simont
Illustrator: Marc Simont
Publisher: Harper Collins
Year originally published:2001
Translator (if applicable):
Approximate Interest Level/Reading Level: Ages 4-8
Format (picture book, audio book, book read online, chapter book/novel, graphic novel): Picture book
Rating system: ****
Brief summary: This is a heartwarming book that tells how a family saved a stray dog from the clutches of a dogcatcher by claiming that it belongs to them. The pictures are great showing the family going on a picnic together and how they can’t do anything right because their minds are on the dog they left behind at the picnic grove. I would use this story when talking about dogs, or families and what they do together.
Profile Image for Ch_amyM.
47 reviews
February 22, 2010
When a family meets a stray dog while in the park for a picnic they have a hard time parting with it after a day of fun. They even name the dog Willy. Despite wanting to take the dog home, they leave the dog just in case someone is looking for him. All week long the family thinks about Willy. When they return to the park they see Willy being chased by the "Dog Warden" and quickly come to his rescue.

Beautiful watercolors help to tell this heart-warming tale that young listeners are sure to love. I would use this book as a read-aloud for early primary classrooms. It would also be a good book to talk about the responsibilities that come with taking care of a pet; making sure it has tags, is well fed, and what happens when the dog wardens find stray dogs.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
34 reviews
February 10, 2016
The Stray Dog was a cute book about a family who was out on a picnic when out of the woods appeared a dog with out any identification. The family's children began to play with and name the dog, Willy. Everyone is sad to leave Willy and soon they will ask themselves if he has a place called home. What will happen to Willy?

This story would be great for K-2 students who are working on the skill of predicting. There are a few wordless pages which leave the reader to wonder where Willy is going or if the family will catch up with him. I can see many classes having a discussion about what is happening in the forest, why the family is having another picnic, and what happens during the family's week with out Willy.

Awards: Caldecott Honor (2002)
Profile Image for Tamara Stallins.
25 reviews
September 9, 2015
"The Stray Dog" is a story about a family who found a dog while they were having a picnic one day. The next week, when they had a picnic in the park; the family saw the dog running from a dog catcher. They found out that the dog was a stray, and they took him into their family. The pictures in the book is really good. The pictures look children friendly, but almost real to a point. I read this book to a four year during the summer almost every Wednesday night at church while working on my Sunday School room. She loved the story. I like the story and the pictures going along with the story fit so well with story line.
Profile Image for Sarah.
517 reviews4 followers
August 4, 2017
I picked this book up to look closely at the illustrations. It was shared at a program on illustrating books. It is a cute story and really is told through the paintings. They are simple, yet so full of life and surprising little details. Simont's illustrations are filled with emotions and cleverness. I love the page where the girl and boy have the dog and the little boy who has used his belt as a collar is now holding up his pants. The final spread made me think of Seurat's Sunday on Le Grande Jatte. http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/....
Profile Image for Jennifer (JenIsNotaBookSnob).
982 reviews12 followers
February 14, 2017
One of those books which is fun for small children to look through. The pictures tell the whole story, so even a child who isn't reading yet can nearly tell themselves the story from the illustrations. Text is sparse, only what is necessary, it really lets the illustrations do the talking. The illustrations are charming, they have a lot of heart to them. You can see why it received a Caldecott honor.

24 reviews1 follower
September 20, 2012
I love this picture storybook! This is a beautifully written, and exciting story about a lost dog and a family who finds it. This is a good book for children to be able to predict what happens next. I thought it was so exciting that they got to keep the dog and I know the children do too! This book is an exciting story to read aloud to a classroom full of children!
54 reviews2 followers
July 7, 2013
This little dog will steal your heart! This Caldecott Medalist Winner can teach children what to do when stray dogs are wandering in the park. Could also be used to teach 'beginning, middle and end' for advanced readers.
October 16, 2018
The Stray Dog by Marc Simont is such a joy to read and will have anyone, child or adult, wanting to read it over and over again! The story starts off with a peaceful day in the park with a picnic. There sits a family of four enjoying their weekend. Suddenly, a skinny black and white dog comes up to them. The kids play with him all day long and even name him Willy. But when it's time to go home, the parents tell the kids that Willy can't come home with them because he might belong to someone. So they leave Willy in the park and go home. However, the only thing on the family's minds all week is Willy. No one can concentrate because they're worried about Willy. That Saturday, the family is at the park again. No one mentions Willy, but they're all secretly looking out for him. Suddenly, they see a black and white blur run past them followed by a dog catcher. The kids soon catch up to him and explain that Willy is theirs. The dog catcher states that Willy has no collar and no leash, and the boy takes off his belt and the girl takes out her ribbon from her hair. Satisfied, he lets the kids take Willy home. When they get home, they bathe Willy, feed him, and even give him a dog bed. He's happy in his new home.

This story is great because it's a story in which many can relate. Even if a reader cannot relate, they can still enjoy the book with its deep and descriptive drawings. When Willy is running away from the dog catcher, the reader can sense his emotions by looking at his panicked expression and the way he is running. Simont paints a wonderful picture of what it's like to take home that cute little animal that you've adopted/found and how the animal feels when they are brought home. One can almost feel the love and happiness radiating off the page at the end of the story when Willy lays down in his new bed. This story can give insight to taking care of pets and loving them for small children. It also teaches empathy and sympathy in a manner that doesn't seem too mushy or boring to readers. This book is short and easy to read and has an easy concept that even smaller children can understand. A good idea after reading this book would be asking your child(ren) if they have ever had a dog and whether or not they were adopted/found. A great skill to pair with this book would be using prediction to find the ending of the book. This book is all about sequencing (days of the week, the process of Willy's life, etc.) and students can infer and predict what might happen to Willy at the end of the story.
Profile Image for Gabi.
21 reviews1 follower
May 9, 2021
This book was a simple read with beautiful watercolor illustrations. The story starts out with a family spending time in the park for a picnic. While there, they meet a stray dog, who they later name Willy. After spending some time with him, they decide to leave him in hopes that he belongs to someone at the park. Against their children’s wishes, they return home. However, they are all having a hard time getting Willy out of their mind. They begin to worry if he is okay, and decide to go back to the park the next weekend to find him. Once they return to the park, they see Willy being chased by a dog-catcher! Quickly, the children form a plan - the boy taking off his belt and the girl supplying her hair tie - to say that Willy is actually theirs. The dog catcher believes it and they take Willy home!

The illustrations were simple, yet captivating. I believe that the illustrations did a great job on focusing on the dog, Willy, and not drawing too much attention to the family members. Also, the illustrations were able to showcase a range of emotions. For example, some pages were filled with vibrant colors and large pictures, and others were smaller images highlighting the characters thoughts. I could see this book being read in primary grades and children loving Willy!

In the classroom, I would use this book to teach the value of responsibility and how that relates to taking care of pets. The students could discuss what they need to do in order to take care of a dog and why these things are important. Also, the students could discuss how the illustrations contribute to the characters emotions.
October 29, 2022
The Stray Dog by Marc Simont was the Caldecott Honor book winner in the year 2002. This story is fantastically written with illustrations that add character and meaning to the written words. The Stray Dog is based on a true story about an individual adopting a dog and the emotions that come with the companion. This children's book can be enjoyed by those of all ages. Happily ever after animal stories will always get a 5/5 from me. Go check out The Stray Dog by Marc Simont! The Stray Dog by Marc Simont
Profile Image for Ashley Eckard.
22 reviews
January 28, 2020
Text-to-self connection:

This book reminds me of how I got my dog Grizzly. He was a stray just like the dog in the story and I found him and took him home, but my parents wanted me to get rid of him after a couple of days having him. I took him to a different family and I just could not get him off my mind and neither my parents. Even though they wanted him gone they were sad and I was sad because he was with a new family. However, after a couple of hours later the family called and said that they didn't want him and for me to come get him. So I did and that's how we ended up with my dog Grizzly. All I could think about while reading this book was my Grizzly boy.
Profile Image for Kennedy Fiscus.
16 reviews
October 18, 2021
This Caldecott Honor book is a great read for young children. Marc Simont is both the author and the illustrator of this picture book. The illustrator’s craft of this book is watercolors, and Simont does a wonderful job of creating illustrations that help tell the story. This book is a great realistic fiction book for children, as many of them can relate to the feeling of getting a family pet. I am currently shadowing in a first-grade classroom and my students recently received this book and they all love it! I highly recommend it for other beginning readers as well!
1,140 reviews
August 11, 2011
The Stray Dog by Marc Simont is a Caldecott Honor book about a family who encounters a stray dog at a park. This story really resonates with me, since my family adopted a stray dog that looked a bit like Willy after he was apparently dumped near our farm.

Simont uses short sentences to tell the simple, emotional, appealing true story of a family that adopts a stray dog. Initially after playing with the dog all day, the family leaves him, thinking the dog may belong to some other family. The next week, quick thinking and talking convinces the dog warden to let the kids have the dog.

The illustrations raise this story to a near perfect level. Starting before the title page, we are wordlessly shown the stray dog eating from a garbage bag, then two children standing together watching dogs at a dog park. Another wordless picture shows the family packing the car for a cookout before any text begins. Two double page wordless spreads show a dog warden chasing Willy, and the kids celebrating after rescuing their new pet. My favorite pictures include the family thinking distractedly about Willy, and Willy's communal cleanup bath with the kids. A clever picture shows a water bowl and food bowl awiting Willy at the second picnic. The family's red car is shown crossing what appears to be the Brooklyn Bridge twice.

The foreshadowing and showing of the children's interest in a dog wordlessly is wonderfully done. The story is seamlessly told in a combination of words and pictures, and richly deserves the Caldecott Honor Award it received. The only thing that would have been made it perfect would have been showing Willy visiting a vet. I have used The Stray Dog as a read aloud in Story Time several times and it's always a hit.

For ages 3 to 6, dogs, strays, pets, humane education, families, and fans of Marc Simont.
29 reviews
September 9, 2014
The Stray Dog, by Marc Simont, is a story about a family who finds a stray dog in the park. The children fell in love with their new friend as they chased him around and taught him tricks. Once it was time to go, the family pack up their belongings but left the puppy behind. As the week went on, the whole family remembered what fun it was the week before when they played with the dog they had found. So, the following weekend the family went back to the park. When the dog came around the corner, they noticed a Dog Catcher chasing after him. What they did next allowed the dog and the family to live happily ever after.
This story was short, but well written. The content was not complex by any means and gave enough detail which allowed the reader to sympathize with the characters. The illustrations explained the story better than the words. On the page where the family is leaving the park for the first time, the pages are white with a picture of a car on one and the dog on the other. This provided the audience a vibe that at that moment, nothing else mattered. The dog wanted to be with the family and the family wanted the dog. Also, on the pages where the Dog Catcher is chasing the dog, you can feel the sense of adventure and excitement as the bodies jump from page to page. This book is appropriate for most age levels and can be easily enjoyed.
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