The Best Pet of All and Bertha Takes a Drive

The Best Pet of All and Bertha Takes a Drive are picture books about boys and moms. In the first, a boy asks his mom for a dog. In the second, two boys take an unusual ride.

The Best Pet of All by David LaRochelle, illustrated by Hanako Wakiyama. Dutton, 2004, unpaged.

cover image of The Best Pet of All

Reading level: Picture book, ages 4-8

Recommended for: Ages 4-8

When an author/illustrator wins a medal from any of the ALA committees, their previous body of work is likely to be revisited. See the Cat was the Geisel award winner in 2020, and my family loves it. Similar whimsy and childlikeness is found in The Best Pet of All. Thankfully it is still in print, or you may find it at your local library.

A common theme in literature is “Boy wants dog. Parents refuse. Boy finds creative means of persuasion. Parents relent.” In this story, a boy repeatedly asks for a dog, but in vain. Dogs are messy. Dogs are loud. How about a dragon? Well, okay, if you can find a dragon, that would be fine.

So the boys finds a dragon and invites him home. But the dragon is messy and loud. How will they get rid of him? A very fun story in a vintage 1950’s setting.

Overall Rating: 4 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4
  • Artistic/literary value: 4

Bertha Takes a Drive: How the Benz Automobile Changed the World by Jan Adkins. Charlesbridge, 2017, unpaged.

Reading Level: Ages 4-8

Recommended for: Ages 4-8

What’s wrong with driving a car? Well in late 19th-century Germany, it’s forbidden by the emperor and the church. Not only that, a simple trip to visit grandma is full of mechanical, geographical, and logistical challenges.

Based on a true story, an inventor’s wife and mother of several children took an unprecedented ride in a Benz automobile in 1888 to prove that it was a safe and practical form of transportation. Her journey includes various minor breakdowns, but Bertha Benz exercises creative resourcefulness to unclog a fuel line, replace a rubber gasket, acquire naphtha for fuel, and invent brake linings. (All this without a smudge of grease on her gloves?)

It’s an interesting account that makes you grateful for industrial progress we now enjoy and the fact that our day trips can include a stop at Starbucks rather than looking for a shoemaker.

One writing critique: my 14yo son would die before he giggled or squealed, even in an experience like Bertha’s son Richard experienced in the story. Grin, holler, and smack his brother more likely. These are instances where “said” would have been perfectly adequate.

Overall Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 4
  • Artistic/literary value: 3

Also at Redeemed Reader:

  • Reviews: Here’s our review of a book about a boy who probably would have preferred a pet dragon instead of a dog: John Ronald’s Dragons
  • Reviews: For those who just can’t get enough books about automobiles and the history of transportation, here’s a review of Machines in Motion
  • Reviews: Do you know about this famous boy and his even more famous dog? You might know them better by different names. Sparky & Spike is a picture book biography, also with a classic feel.

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Megan Saben

Megan is Associate Editor for Redeemed Reader, and she loves nothing more than discovering Truth and Story in literature. She is the author of Something Better Coming, and is quite particular about which pottery mug is best suited to her favorite hot drinks throughout the day. Megan lives with her husband and five boys in Virginia.

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