A Home for Dakota

Grade Level: 
K, 1, 2
animal cruelty
Animal Welfare
Civil Society
Philanthropic Literature
by Jan Zita Grover A literature guide for parents, teachers, and group leaders to accompany the reading of this picture book. The guide below provides before, during, and after-reading discussion questions. Choose from activities and discussion questions to build children's understanding of generosity, community, and service to others.

Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Told from the point of view of a dog named Dakota, this story takes the reader from a cold and dark puppy mill to a loving foster home, and then through the rocky adoption process. Dakota has had a tough beginning, and she doesn’t look very pretty on the outside. But we can tell right away that she is a sweet dog who has a lot to offer. Thanks to Dakota’s loving foster parent, Dakota finds just the right home. Readers empathize with rescue dogs and learn about the important role of a foster parent for dogs.

Before Reading

ASK: Does Dakota look like a dog you would like to adopt? What do you like about her from this picture?

SHOW: Look at the title page inside the book. What do you notice about Dakota in this picture? How is she different from the cover? Does she still look like a dog you’d like to adopt?

CONNECT: A puppy mill is a system of breeding many dogs without a lot of care. The dogs in a puppy mill are often kept in separate cages without attention, exercise, or protection from diseases and worms. They grow long toenails and get sick from the other dogs’ urine and feces that falls from the cages above them. Dakota doesn’t have any fur because of the poor conditions at the puppy mill.

During Reading

ASK: Do you think it would be hard for Emma to be nice to Dakota when she probably didn’t smell good or look good? Could you bring Dakota in your home before she got her bath?

SHOW: Look at the picture of Emma hugging Dakota after her bath. How did Dakota say thank you to Emma? How did Emma say thank you to Dakota?

CONNECT: Why do you think it was painful for Dakota to walk? Have you ever felt sore when you got up after being sick in bed for several days? Dakota’s muscles aren’t used to walking yet.

After Reading

ASK: Why do you think Sweetie decided that Dakota was the right dog for her?

SHOW: Look at the picture of Dakota in her blue jacket ready to go home with Sweetie. Can you tell how Dakota is feeling? Can you guess how Sweetie is feeling?

CONNECT: Read Emma’s words of encouragement to Dakota, “Just try it … I’ll be waiting for you if it doesn’t work out.” Have you ever needed words of encouragement? Have you ever given someone else words of encouragement?


  1. Contact a local shelter to ask if they have any needs that you can help with, such as donating toys and food or volunteering or raising money.

  2. Write a story from an animal’s point of view. If you have a pet, write about one day as if you are your pet observing YOU.

  3. Discuss some of the facts on the final page of the book to find out how you can help dogs like Dakota. This page is meant for adults to read. Some content is too disturbing for young children.

  4. Discuss that Sweetie probably has some form of cancer. She lost her hair during a treatment called chemotherapy. Some people may look at Sweetie’s bald head and wonder how to talk to her. Sweetie knows that her hair will grow back. She is the same girl she was before she lost her hair.

  5. Children who lose their hair during chemotherapy will grow their hair back. In the meantime, they may like to wear fun hats and scarves. You can make and donate hats for children with cancer. Read about knitting caps at the Chemo Caps website or sewing comfort caps or pillows at the Husqvarna Viking website.

  6. Read about Locks of Love or other programs that make wigs for children with permanent hair loss. You can donate your long hair to someone whose hair will not grow back. Go to the Locks of Love website to read more.

  7. Play games and get exercise with your pets or your friends every day. Exercise is important for everyone.

  8. You may offer to walk a neighbor’s or a family member’s dog once a day, if appropriate