“Goodnight, Good Dog” By Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Rebecca Malone, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99, ages 4-7
The canine mind has been the subject of intense, wishful speculation by owners, the source of ridicule from cat enthusiasts, and the theme of many memes. “Goodnight, Good Dog” takes its particular dog POV seriously, beautifully imagining the thoughts of a dog at bedtime. The results are subtle and convincingly associative: “He knows the sounds the dark makes. Those small night sounds. He knows the shadows in the corners of the rooms. He also knows the quiet that comes: moon quiet. And he knows his bed, round like the moon.” Matched with soft, affectionate images — captured with acrylics on watercolor paper — the story makes for a poetic, dreamy launch to bedtime.
“The Plan” By Alison Paul, illustrated by Barbara Lehman, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99, ages 4-7
Future Scrabble players of the world rejoice: “The Plan” is here to demonstrate the pleasures of wordplay to the next generation. And on the surface, at least, “The Plan” is all fun and games, because the text is an extended puzzle, building the story one word at a time. Plan becomes plane, which becomes planet, which becomes plant, which becomes pant and so on, for a total of 20 words. It sounds simple, but Barbara Lehman’s homey, rich pictures deepen the tale. They tell a complex story, set in the earlier half of the 20th century, about a farm girl and her dog, who, early in the story, dream of piloting a biplane — which sits in their fields — into space. During their chores (“plant”) they find a key in a pocket (“pants!”) that leads the friends (“pals”) to make a remarkable discovery: that the girl’s parents were once daring barnstormers. The revelation leads to rewards that are both emotional and aerial. The last picture shows the dad piloting the plane, his daughter and dog along for the ride. They don’t reach outer space, but the flight lifts the family and their spirits toward the celestial.