If You Were a Dog
If You Were a Dog lickety-sloppedy
If You Were a Dog hot-dog-stealing
If You Were a Dog swish-swish
If You Were a Dog Hiss!
If You Were a Dog

Illustrated by Chris Raschka (thanks, Chris!)
published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, September 30, 2014
ages two and up will enjoy this book

CCSS-Aligned Discussion and Activity Guide

About the book
If you could be any kind of animal, what would you be? Would you be a dog that goes ARRRROOOOOOO? Or maybe you would be a sharp-toothed dinosaur that can CHOMP, STOMP, ROAR! Perhaps you might want to be a hopping frog that goes BOING, BOING, RIBBET! But maybe you would want to be the best kind of animal of all: a child!.

Awards and Honors
Junior Library Guild selection

"Swenson's playful and vibrant text matched with Raschka's kinetic style makes this one of the best read-aloud books of the year." —Minh Le, "50 New Picture Books for Fall," Huffington Post

When I’m not writing, I’m working at a public library in a very busy Children’s Department. I love working at the library for more reasons than I could ever list—but one reason is because the kids and families I work with inspire me as much or more than I could ever hope to inspire them. The story behind If You Were a Dog is a good example of this.

One day a little boy, who I knew very well, came running up to me at the desk. I said hello and he barked happily. His grandmother quickly explained that today he was not a boy, today he was a dog named Henrietta. Henrietta the dog wagged and barked in agreement. I grinned and asked Henrietta what sort of dog he was—would he bark in storytime? Would he chew on the computers and books? Through a series of barks and wags Henrietta confirmed that he was the best sort of dog and would not cause any problems in the library. Then, Henrietta ran off to play with the other kids. And then, suddenly, we had a room filled with at least four more “dogs” and one rather annoyed “cat” (who kept batting at the dogs). I loved that the parents/grandparents were playing along—and that the kids were having such a good time.

That interaction stayed with me the whole day. Soon I was thinking about how many sorts of dogs there were in the world. Best-friend sorts of dogs, howling-at-moon sorts of dogs … and I started thinking about the dogs I had personally known. I remembered a picnic from my childhood with my little brothers when a friendly looking dog walked over and then suddenly snatched my little brother’s hotdog and ran away! And another time when my dog, Ruby, climbed into my bed and flopped down on my pillow—and wouldn’t move. I went home that afternoon with so many thoughts in my head and wrote the following:

If you were a dog, would you be a speedy-quick,
Frisbee catching,
Hotdog stealing,
Pillow hogging,
Best-friend-ever sort of dog?
Would you howl at the moon?
Some dogs do.

Once I wrote that—I knew I was onto something. It took many months and years to complete the book—and to finally find a home for it—but the inspiration will always be one little boy at the library who, for one day at least, was a book-loving, puzzle-playing, bark-for-joy sort of dog.
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