‘Dog Man’ has his day at Beaver Meadow

Third graders Vlad Milanovic (center) and Ashton Beauchesne (right) react as they get their Dav Pilkey’€™s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder at Beaver Meadow School on Monday, June 10, 2024.

Third graders Vlad Milanovic (center) and Ashton Beauchesne (right) react as they get their Dav Pilkey’€™s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder at Beaver Meadow School on Monday, June 10, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Third graders Vlad Milanovic (center) and Ashton Beauchesne (right) react as they get their copies of Dav Pilkey’s latest book, “Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder” at Beaver Meadow School on Monday.

Third graders Vlad Milanovic (center) and Ashton Beauchesne (right) react as they get their copies of Dav Pilkey’s latest book, “Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder” at Beaver Meadow School on Monday. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

Students say bye to Dog Man after receiving Dav Pilkey’€™s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder at Beaver Meadow School on Monday, June 10, 2024.

Students say bye to Dog Man after receiving Dav Pilkey’€™s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder at Beaver Meadow School on Monday, June 10, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Third grade teacher Michele Cernuda passes out Dav Pilkey’€™s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder to her students at Beaver Meadow School on Monday.

Third grade teacher Michele Cernuda passes out Dav Pilkey’€™s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder to her students at Beaver Meadow School on Monday.

Students say bye to Dog Man after receiving Dav Pilkey’s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder at Beaver Meadow School on Monday, June 10, 2024.

Students say bye to Dog Man after receiving Dav Pilkey’s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder at Beaver Meadow School on Monday, June 10, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Third grader Sophia Das holds up Dav Pilkey’€™s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder at Beaver Meadow School on Monday, June 10, 2024.

Third grader Sophia Das holds up Dav Pilkey’€™s latest book, Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder at Beaver Meadow School on Monday, June 10, 2024. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Students from the 2nd to 5th grade hold up Dav Pilkey’s latest book, “Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder” as they get their photo taken at Beaver Meadow School on Monday.

Students from the 2nd to 5th grade hold up Dav Pilkey’s latest book, “Dog Man: the Scarlet Shedder” as they get their photo taken at Beaver Meadow School on Monday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

By SOPHIE LEVENSON

Monitor staff

Published: 06-10-2024 4:50 PM

Modified: 06-11-2024 2:14 PM


Drumroll, please.

A pattering of tiny hands erupted, and a celebrity waltzed onto the blue gymnasium floor. The kids at Beaver Meadow elementary school cheered, pumped their fists in the air and waved at Dog Man.

Monday afternoon, Gibson’s Bookstore gave away copies of Dav Pilkey’s newest graphic novel, “Dog Man: The Scarlet Shedder” to 219 students in grades two through five at Beaver Meadow. Scholastic Publishing Company, with Pilkey himself, selected Michael Herrmann’s local bookshop to distribute copies to children in the Concord and Merrimack Valley school districts.

“This is the kind of thing we got into the business to do: Put books in people’s hands, however we can do it,” Herrmann said. “Especially kids.”

Gibson’s delivered nearly 1,800 copies of “Dog Man” to children in the two districts, giving them to Title I schools for free and providing a discount for the few schools that do not fully qualify as Title I. Each year, Scholastic selects five independent bookstores in the country for a Pilkey book distribution.

Helpful for Herrmann’s mission: Kids who love to read. When Gibson’s bookseller Cait McKay asked who in the room liked to read, almost every little hand went up. Beaver Meadow digital learning strategist and librarian Melisa Scott has the numbers to back them up. Over the course of the school year, the kids at Beaver Meadow checked out 8,311 books, 500 more than they did last year.

Many of those books were penned and illustrated by Pilkey. Before revealing the secret celebrity guest to the students — Principal Michele Vance called them to the gym for a “reading celebration” — Scott gave a presentation on the kids’ reading habits. Five of their top-10 most-read books were part of the Dog Man universe, with “Dog Man: Grime and Punishment” topping the chart. This is not an anomaly. Pilkey, who won Publishers Weekly Person of the Year in 2019, has dominated the children’s book scene for years. “The Scarlet Shedder” currently sits at No. 5 on the “Top 10 Overall” bestseller list from Publishers Weekly.

Vlad Milanovic and Ashton Bauchesne, both in the third grade, have read every book in the “Dog Man” series. Vlad’s favorite is the first one and Ashton’s is the sixth — Pilkey’s “Brawl of the Wild.”

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Both boys say they will “probably” read a lot this summer. If they need new books, Gibson’s has a plan. McKay invited the young readers to be part of the bookstore’s Student Reviewers Club, which loans advanced readers’ copies of books to kids for free. After reading a book, club members fill out a short review, which Gibson’s uses to gauge numbers when ordering stock.

“Kids … have the best opinion of what they can read,” McKay said.

Beaver Meadow bookends its school years with reading celebrations. At the beginning of each new year, the faculty selects a book to represent a theme. This time around, it was Joanna Gaines’ “The World Needs Who You Were Made to Be,” a picture book that celebrates diversity and collaboration. Every classroom in the building received a copy of the book so that the students could take turns bringing it home and reading it with their families.

“The children have made an immense amount of growth with their reading skills … tying into a love for reading,” Vance said. “We also have a staff that loves to read. You could walk into any classroom on any given day and kiddos are listening to stories.”

That’s largely due to a teaching philosophy about enabling children to find books that compel them to read. For many, graphic novels are the way to go.

“Some kids that aren’t super into reading naturally find that graphic novels are their entry,” said assistant principal Brittany Mahany.

Sophia Das, also a third-grader, says she splits her reading time between traditional books and graphic novels. “I like fiction,” she said. Sophia also plans to read a lot this summer — when she goes on vacation in August, she wants to read on the plane.

Sophia and her classmates have a palpable love for stories. Their high-pitched cheers for the free book from Gibson’s knocked their excitement over the bookstore employee in the Dog Man costume out of the gym.

“It was as loud as a concert in there,” Vance said, “because they received a book.”

Before trudging back to class, the kids rushed to sign an enormous “Thank you” banner for Pilkey. But when Scott asked them to pose for a photo, she had to fight “The Scarlet Shedder” for their attention.