Book Review: Spunky Tells All

Author: Ann Cameron
Illustrator: Lauren Castillo
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR)
Publication Date: October 11, 2011
Read Alone: Grades 2nd to 4th
Read Aloud: Grades 1st to 3rd
Source: Purchased
Fiction* Animal Narration * Early Chapter Book

Description from GoodReads:
Spunky the dog would be happy to share all of his secrets, if only his human family spoke his language. But no matter how hard he tries to talk, it's all "yerf!" to them. Through a series of unfortunate miscommunications, his family decides that Spunky wants a friend--specifically, a cat. Spunky can't imagine anything worse than having to share his family, especially Huey and Julian, with the snobby  Balinese Fiona. But when headstrong Fiona keeps getting into trouble and it's up to Spunky to save her, he is astonished to find that being her protector has given his life new purpose and meaning.

"Every dog needs boy or a girl.  Huey is my boy, and I love him.  I protect him. I think about 
him even in my dreams." - p. 12

My thoughts on the book:
I confess.  I am actually a cat fan. I have a deep-seated fear of most dogs.  However, I fell in love with the cover of this book, and it came recommended by John Schu (@mrschureads).  Though I may not be a dog fan, I have many students who love dogs, and I had a feeling they might just like this one.

Ann Cameron has created a loveable character in Spunky, the family pet dog.  By utilizing Spunky as narrator for the story, the reader gets a unique perspective on life as a dog (ancient dog customs, importance of smell, and how dogs communicate in dreams).  Spunky also provides unique observations of the various family members and his relationships with each one of them.  When the family decides to adopt a new kitten, life in the Bates household becomes even more entertaining.  The dialogue between Spunky, and Fiona, the cat, was particularly funny.  Fiona might see herself as more important than Spunky, but she soon learns how important her canine family member is to her well-being.    

Writing for children in the reading range between early readers and middle grade novels is difficult.  Maintaining a balance between a well told story and the use of limited vocabulary creates unique challenges.  Cameron has met the demands of this age group by providing a story that is enjoyable, flows well, and allows students transitioning to chapter books to find reading success.  

Classroom teachers looking for chapter books to read aloud to first through third graders would find a win in Spunky Tells All.   It would also make for a great addition to both classroom and school libraries in the transitional book section.  I look forward to sharing this one with my second graders when I return to school next week.

Who is Ann Cameron?  Find out more on her website: or on MacMillian's author page:

Who is Lauren Castillo? Find out more on her website: or on her blog: