A Dog's Tale of Hope and Friendship

Ideas,Themes and Teachable Moments

Valuable life lessons as catalysts for teacher and parent-led discussions include:

  • Cliques - the prairie dogs speak their own cool language and play only with each other; they look fun and friendly, and even inviting, but they are not interested in making new friends. Has this ever happened to you?

  • Bullies - the mean llama is a bully who holds his ground by intimidating others. There are many ways to bully people. The llama spit at Rags and chased her away. Have you ever seen or experienced someone who is a bully? How did it make you feel? Who should you talk to if you or someone else is being bullied?

  • Sometimes help comes from unexpected places - Rags hopes the roadrunner will be her friend, but it is not meant to be. Still, the bird is a hero who saves her from the rattler. Even though she did not get what she had hoped for, she did, in fact, receive "a gift." When have you received helped from an unexpected person or place?

  • Shyness - When Rags first comes to Jake's house, she is timid in the presence of new faces and new places. She doesn't want to leave her cubbyhole. Have you ever felt shy? Where is your safe place?

  • Finding comfort and refreshment in the beauty of nature - Rags is lonely, but she feels replenished by the beauty of the sunrise and the wildflowers. When you are feeling sad, what do you do? What special place lifts your spirits?

  • Perseverance - Rags never gives up. She is hot and lonely, hungry and thirsty, but she never loses hope and keeps moving forward. In the end, her perseverance pays off. Can you share a time when you never gave up and were rewarded for your efforts?

  • Real friendship - Good friends like Colleen and Rags love each other just the way they are. Rags has a snaggle-toothed smile and is missing part of an ear, but she is beautiful to Colleen who admires her inner qualities. Rags and Colleen share interests and feel comfortable with each other. In fact, both of them are better "people" because of the friendship. Real friends bring out the best in each other, they encourage us, share with us, show us the beauty around us, and take care of us when we need help. Tell us about your special friend?

  • Generosity - Jake had grown attached to Rags, too, but he understands that Colleen and Rags have a special relationship and that Rags is the happiest when she is with Colleen. It was very hard for Jake to give up Rags, but he made a decision that was unselfish because he wanted what was best for Rags. Have you ever given something away that was special to you because you knew it was more important to someone else?

Educational ideas for achieving classroom objectives include:

  • Use the book to explore the animal, climate and terrain of West Texas.

  • Use the website to discover how to explore the Internet through links and interactive tools.

  • Use the story to study literary devices... alliteration, onomatopoeia, metaphor...active vs. passive verbs, etc.

  • Use the story to launch research and discussion on the plight of rescue dogs.

  • Use the story to encourage students to undertake writing assignments on various themes: their own pets/best friends/times when they felt lonely/shy/frightened...

Rags to Riches is also available at the iBook store Purchase the Rags to Riches book

By Carey McKeon Pearson and Patti Nero Kivestu

Illustrations by Sarah Thornton