Hot Dog

“City summer

steamy sidewalks

concrete crumbles

sirens screech”

What’s the Story?

Hot Dog by Doug Salati follows a dachshund getting walked around the chaotic summer streets of New York City. Overwhelmed by being dragged through all the crowds, noise, and heat, the dog refuses to take one more step and plops herself down in the middle of the street. 


In the case of this dachshund, however, her owner knows just what to do. 


After an escape by taxi, train, and ferry, the dog and her owner find themselves at the beach. Here, a dog can run free, unleashed, to explore, relax, and enjoy nature. 


When they return to the big city, things don’t seem so crazy any more. 

I can relate. 


Homeschooling our five children means that noise, messes, and chaos are an everyday part of life.


It can be overwhelming.


Sometimes, you just need a break from the daily grind. Our kids feel it, too. We’ve had some bad days: nothing seems to go right. Everyone is in a bad mood. Messes, fights, yelling. Why won’t it just stop? But I’ve learned that, like the dog in this book plopping herself down in the middle of the street, my kids aren’t necessarily trying to be bad.


They just need a break. 


Sometimes it’s time to put the textbooks down and take an impromptu adventure. But how? With five kids, our house is crowded. Our backyard is a postage stamp. So when everyone needs a break we go to “the Wild.”

The Wild is a strip of woods between our neighborhood and a hair salon. In the suburbs, that’s practically a jungle. There, everyone can run free and get a breath of fresh air. 


Our kids have adopted this unexpected refuge. They pick up trash, clean up dead brush, pick daffodils, and plant pumpkin seeds. All their neighborhood friends visit the Wild now, too. Everyone pitches in and everyone has fun.


Like the dog in this story, when we get home, everyone is refreshed. 

Why is it Great?

“A picture is worth a thousand words” and with a talented illustrator like Doug Salati this is certainly true. Hot Dog is a picture book in the truest sense of the term: it is a story told primarily through pictures. In fact, Doug Salati so masterfully conveys meaning through imagery that many pages of Hot Dog require no words at all. 


The scenes of the dog in the city feel crowded with lots of sharp corners, jagged edges, and everything and everyone crowded too close together. You can feel the hot crowded streets and the claustrophobia.


The pictures of the beach, however, are completely different. They are open and spacious. Whereas the pictures of the city are contained in thick black borders, the beach pictures have no borders. They are unrestrained. 


As the dog enjoys the beach, words cease. We are treated to two page spreads of her antics and to share in the peace that silence brings.


Doug Salati’s Hot Dog won the Caldecott Medal in 2023. The Caldecott is one of the most prestigious accolades in children’s publishing and is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.


His skill and passion for storytelling certainly deserve recognition and Hot Dog is a great addition to any picture book collection.

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