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Analysis of Can I Keep Him? and Pinkerton, Behave!

Kellogg, Steven.  Can I Keep Him?  Dial Books for Young Readers.  New York

ISBN:  0803709889


This story is about Arnold who is an animal lover and comes home with all these different animals that he has found and wants to keep them as a pet.  He asks his mom if he can keep him.  Arnold’s mom is a practical woman with common sense and calmly lets Arnold know the drawbacks of each animal.  Cats can cause an allergic reaction, bears have a disagreeable odor, tigers have a terrible appetite and sometimes they eat people.  On the other hand Arnold is as logical as his mother and even more persistent.  Then at the end he finds a friend and wants to keep him too.  His mother tells him no but that he can be his friend.  After they return from outside the friend has a bird, there are know words but the reader knows what the friend is asking mom.


Steven Kellogg is very familiar with the question, Can I keep him?”  He and his wife have heard this request from their own six children.  They have a mammoth Harlequin Great Dane and many cats.


The colors used in this book are very simple and light colored.  Steven Kellogg used four different colors, for example green, yellow, blue and black.  Some of the pictures have no color and are in black and white.


This book is funny not only because of the story line but because the pictures themselves tell a hilarious story.  It’s not only the pictures in the book that one has to pay attention to but when reading this story the signs and pictures in the background need your attention.  One can tell that Steven Kellogg has a sense of humor when one reads the signs and pictures in the background.  The mother says that they can not keep the cat because of the grandmother’s allergies.  Then when grandma comes to visit, there is a sign in the yard that says DANGER, cat fuzz.  At the zoo there is a sign over the bird with a big beak that says flea picker.  In the picture with the tiger, one can only see half of mom’s body because the other half is in the mouth of the tiger.  Then the sign on the wall shows a picture of the tiger that says my sweet pet, which is ironic because the tiger is fierce.

Alan Holyoak states, “Thus the book's title, "Can I Keep Him?" His mother's responses are typical, but the translation of her responses in her son’s head (shown in pictures also done by Kellogg) is hilarious!  A definite hit with children and adults alike!  Definitely 5 stars.

CAN I KEEP HIM? is one of Steven Kellogg’s early books that won The Dutch Zilveren Griffel (Silver Paintbrush Award), 1974.


Kellogg, Steven. 1979. PINKERTON, BEHAVE!  New York:  Dial Books for Young Readers.  ISBN:  0803765738


Pinkerton, Behave! is one in a five series of Pinkerton stories.  It is about a Great Dane named Pinkerton who doesn’t listen to his owner.  The mother tries to teach Pinkerton how to come but instead he jumps out the window.  She also tries to teach him to fetch, but he runs to get the paper, instead of returning to his owner, Pinkerton bites into the newspaper and shakes it until he tears the paper to bits and pieces.  Then when they try to teach him to attack in case a burglar was to enter the house, he just licks the dummy, which is used as a burglar.


Mom gives up and decides to take Pinkerton to obedience school.  The only problem is that they can’t break Pinkerton from his bad habits and instead of learning new commands, he is a bad influence on the rest of the dogs in the class and they begin to take on Pinkerton’s bad habits.  This is not a good thing because then Pinkerton is thrown out of obedience school. 


The pictures are wonderful at showing how mom feels after being thrown out of obedience school.  There is a picture of mom thrown on the couch with the papers falling from her hand showing the F’s Pinkerton has received at school.  One can tell that mother is so frustrated and at her wits end at what to do with Pinkerton.  But then everything turns around when a burglar actually enters the house.  Mom tells Pinkerton there is a burglar but all he does is lick the burglar.  As the daughter enters the room and sees Pinkerton licking the burglar she quickly thinks to tell Pinkerton to fetch.  Of course he listens and bites into the burglar and shakes him this way and that way.  Then the daughter tells him to come and Pinkerton runs out of the window with the burglar.  All though Pinkerton’s behavior is unconventional, he proves that it doesn’t really matter in the end.  Pinkerton saves the day with his bad habits.


It just goes to show you that one doesn’t always have to do things the same way to be successful at what one does.


The process art consists of black line-drawings, black halftones, and full-color washes.  The black line is prepared and photographed separately for greater sharpness and contrast.  The full-color washes and the black halftones are prepared with ink, crayons and paints on the reverse side of the black line-drawing.  They are then camera-separated and reproduced as red, blue, yellow and black halftones.


Horn Book states, “fans will enjoy the reissue of the book about the lovable Great Dane who creates chaos wherever he goes.”


Publisher Weekly called the “action-filled, colorful pictures, as funny as the story.”


This book was the American Book finalist  in 1980 and given the Little Archer Award, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Department of Library Services, and Georgia Children’s Picture Storybook Award, both in 1982.


Comparing the two books:


In the book Can I keep Him? The pictures on the left hand side of the page and at the bottom of the page are all drawn in black line-drawings.  The drawings look more like they were sketched, detailed with black and white strokes and although there is not much color, the colors are pastel and simple only using green, yellow and blue.  In comparison to Pinkerton, Behave! the most obvious difference between the two is the vast array of colors used in Pinkerton, Behave! as opposed to Can I keep Him?


The similarities that one sees in the two books are the characters.  The mothers in the two books have the same features.  The characters are all light skinned with blonde hair.  The writer defiantly writes about what he knows in these two books.  In both books there are personal references to Steven Kellogg’s life.  The Great Dane in Pinkerton, Behave! is a real character.  This is the type of dog that Steven Kellogg has at his home in Norwalk, CT.  You can see a picture of the real Pinkerton on the inside jacket cover of the book Pinkerton, Behave!  The main idea in Can I Keep Him? is that the little boy wants a pet and Steven and his wife Helen are all too familiar with all the pets at there home, including a Great Dane, many cats and Secondhand Rose.  Both books tell hilariously funny stories thru the use of wonderful illustrations.  The light hearted colors give a sense of laughter and joy.


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