You’ve heard of a Yorkiepoo, Labradoodle, Puggle, and other “designer dogs.” But have you heard of—or even imagined—a Schnaumation, Chidle, or Poozer? With Leslie Browne and Beverley Crosby’s new, colorful flip book My Dog is a WHAT?, you can do just that. This unique, interactive book will appeal to children of all ages.
The spiral-bound book consists of sturdy pages containing engaging images of nine dog breeds, split down the middle so they can be flipped into myriad new combinations. The two-syllable names of each breed are printed in all caps at the bottom of each page, so when flipped they create hilarious new names such as Bull-huahua or Dal-gi. Each breed is color coded on the back as well as on paw-print tabs for flipping, so children can easily find their favorites or return to the original whole dog by matching colors or flipping the remembered colored tab.
Created by two former preschool/kindergarten teachers, the book is designed with young children in mind, teaching multiple basic concepts such as rainbow color recognition, matching, word recognition, phonics, syllabic awareness, and fine motor skills. It is the easy-to-handle size of an iPad, with a child-friendly format that has a lot going on, but in simple form.
“I was sitting on my back deck with my westie, Mac,” explained Browne, “when the idea just struck me out of the blue, like lightning: wouldn’t it be cute to have a book that switched dogs?
“I immediately told my husband, and then called Beverley”—who loved the idea so much, she began sending artwork that same evening. That was back in 2015. Crosby made the mockups over that Winter Break, and they copyrighted the idea in 2016. Soon the collaboration became WhimSee Books. “It was a collaboration from the beginning,” Browne declared.
“We’ve been birthing this baby for a long time,” noted Crosby. “Our biggest stumbling block was the search for a publisher, because of the format.” It took two years until they found Patricia Castelli of Paper Shoe Books right in their own back yard—in Keswick. Castelli wrote a book on Keswick Hall and has published many others. Her first question was, “do you have a series in mind?” to which Browne and Crosby answered a resounding “yes!” They are planning various follow up titles such as My Pet is a WHAT? and versions featuring baby farm animals and African animals. After much searching for the cutest and sassiest dog images, they purchased them from Shutter Stock. The physical book—which features a true binding surrounding the spiral format, so the book can be shelved with its title showing— was finally published in March of 2019. Its back cover credits each photographer along with photos not of the authors, but of their dogs. Sadly, Crosby’s doxle Cody (a dachshund beagle mix) passed away this summer, but not before he found fame.
“It all started with our love of learning, literacy, and laughter,” said Crosby. “There is nothing like exposing a child to a book and seeing them light up.” The book includes no front matter or instructions for parents and teachers. “We went back and forth and even wrote a page of guidance, but finally decided to leave it out,” she explained. “We wanted the reader to invent how to use it. This book is about creativity, discovery, and imagination— it’s more of a toy than a workbook. We wouldn’t tell children how to play with a toy.” A Did You Know? page at the back shares one fun fact about each breed represented.
The book can be used in a classroom or family setting, or on car and plane trips. With a classroom set, it could become a circle time or paired activity, with the teacher or one child making a new dog and challenging the others to match it. The overall action of silly-matching the dog pictures and their breed names is stimulating and fun, appealing to the child in all of us—including seniors. It is distributed at the Old Trail Lodge and Westminster Canterbury, and has been used for occupational therapy.
Browne and Crosby are two live wires bubbling over with joie de vivre. Friends for 25 years, they met as neighbors in Goochland County and later taught preschool and kindergarten in Richmond. Browne taught at the Learning Cottage and the St. Christopher’s Little Saints program, while Crosby was a kindergarten assistant and lead teacher in the kindergarten art program at Collegiate School. It was while teaching 2-6 year olds together at the Canterbury Community Nursery School that the idea for the book evolved. Browne, who was a member of Western Albemarle High School’s second graduating class in 1980, now lives in Batesville and manages the tasting room at Cardinal Point Winery; Crosby lives in Richmond. Their mascot WhimSee, a realistic dog puppet from Folkmanis, accompanies them to school fairs such as the upcoming Fall Festival at St. Christopher’s on Oct. 18-19.
My Dog is a WHAT? is available for $12.99 at many stores in Charlottesville and Richmond—including Parkway Pharmacy, Rockfish Gap Country Store, New Dominion, Roxie Daisy, Toys That Teach, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) shop, as well as on Amazon or directly from the WhimSee Books website www.whimseebooks.com. Up to 2% of the book’s profits will be donated to the ASPCA, “to help our furry friends in need.”