As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” Switch that out for “pawprints,” and the quote remains the same. Our four-legged friends are with us through thick and thin, and have earned their place in our hearts.

But have we ever stopped and thought about how things look from our dogs’ perspective? How do they view their relationships with humans, or with each other? That’s exactly what Mark Chartrand discusses in his story A Dog Named Chilli: My New Home (Dorrance Publishing). This charming children’s book shows that friendship can transcend species and other barriers that may keep us apart.

FRIENDSHIP FROM A DOG’S POINT OF VIEW

Our story starts with Chilli, a rescue puppy who’s just been brought to his new home. His owners, Ryan and Laura, introduce Chilli to his new brothers — two cats, named Thomas and Higgins. The cats aren’t interested in Chilli, however. Instead, they tease him, calling him a mutt and telling him to scram to the backyard. There, at least, Chilli finds some kinder companions — including a scaredy-dog German Shepherd named Hercules, and Rose, the glamourous Spitz show dog.

Not all the neighborhood dogs are friendly, however. Chilli soon has the misfortune of meeting the Farillo brothers, a pair of “wise guy” Dobermans named Vince and Mac. After starting off on the wrong paw, the brothers now have it out for Chilli and his ragtag bunch of friends. And the Farillo brothers are only the beginning of troubling things to come. As obnoxious as those two Dobermans are, nothing compares to the fear in every dog’s eyes whenever the name “Razor” is mentioned. It seems that Chilli has shifted the neighborhood’s status quo among its four-legged citizens, and now he must try and make things right before all hope for peace is lost.

IMPORTANT SOCIAL LESSONS

Chartrand’s imaginative setting for A Dog Named Chilli is a tight-knit neighborhood full of bickering animal residents, where every dog knows every dog. In the middle of it all is Chilli, a dog who has a talent for making friends with nearly anyone or anything. Along with forging deep connections with his fellow canines, he also befriends local wildlife like rabbits, crows, raccoons and even rats! 

This isn’t simply a spoof on the small-town drama that can happen between human neighbors, however; Chartrand’s story utilizes this dynamic to help teach important lessons to young readers. Social circles are complicated for both humans and dogs, and as children age, these groups only become more intricate. From birthday party invites to fighting within friend groups to bullying, children need to learn how to navigate some difficult dynamics.

That’s why Chilli and his friends are here to help. At 195 pages, A Dog Named Chilli is definitely for stronger readers (9 to 12 years old), but the lessons in the book are vital to that age group. By following Chilli’s lead, children can absorb the lessons of kindness and open-mindedness that will help them navigate conflicts in their own personal lives. Chilli’s powerful spirit of comradery helps break down the barriers that have driven this neighborhood apart, and instead helps start a new wave of understanding between the different animals. Chilli’s kind nature drives home the point of the story — that if you keep an open mind, you may find a truly special friendship where you least expected it.

Buy this book!

Mark Chartrand has written eighteen books, but A Dog Named Chilli is his first publication. He is a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan, as well as a huge soccer fan. Anything that has to do with the ocean, he enjoys.