Help Me, Mr. Mutt! Teacher Tips

 1.  Newspaper ads

  • Study classified ads and internet ads
  • Have students write their own ad for a service they could provide

2.  Looking for detail

  • Notice the shadow and the paws--who circled the ad?
  • Notice small ad with dog wearing watch--he's a WATCH DOG!
  • Notice dog tag ad--a little more Janet humor

3.  Dog Breeds

  • Study the various dogs depicted in the book
  • Identify the particular breeds and/or the mutts
  • Have students bring in pictures of their own dogs (or dogs they know or want)
  • Pick out Janet's two dogs--Violet (leash) and Houdini (red bandana)

4.  Making connections

  • What do Janet's dogs have to say to Mr. Mutt?
  • In what other stories have Janet's pets appeared?

5.  Graphs/ Diagrams

  •  Have students find the various graphs and diagrams in Mr. Mutt's letters and use as a springboard to discuss, interpret, and create their own.

6. Voice

  • Each dog letter to Mr. Mutt is written in a different voice, as each dog has a different personality that usually relates to the problem. 
  • Have students discuss what that voice might sound like (i.e. Golden Retriever--hyper, panting; Cattle Dog--Texas accent; Basset Hound--snooty, proper British accent)
  • Then let students read each letter in that voice!


7.  More "looking for detail"

  • Have students find (in the book) the things listed on the back cover--(HINT: the real dog hair is Houdini's)
  • Have students find the various dog and cat shadows throughout the book (notice Mutt's shadow on letter and the Queen's shadow on the carpet)

8.  Creative Letter Writing

  • Have students become their own "dog with a problem" and write a letter to Mr. Mutt--following the same format as the letters in the book.  Finish with a catty remark.  Then have them write Mr. Mutt's response with a graph or diagram.  Finish off with a cat letter

9. More Creative Letter Writing

  • Pair 2 grade levels (2nd and 5th graders?).  Have a 2nd grader write to the 5th grade "authority" about a problem (more recess time, too much homework, food in cafeteria). Have 5th grader respond with good advice and statistics--real or made up!

10.  Details in the numbers!

  • Write down all of the street numbers beginning with Mutt's  100, 81, 64, 49, 36 . . . .they form the sequence of perfect squares
  • Write down all of the zip codes--they're palindromes!
  • Write down the dates on the letters--here are some of our family birthdays--can you find them?  Janet (January 17) ; Susan (March 3) ; Susan's kids--Courtney (May 19), Jason (July 19), and Christie (June 7);  Janet's kids--Lindsey (February 23) and Blake (November 1);  Our mother Frances (June 14)
mutt-tip=Mutt letter.jpg

11 .  Exploring the art

  • View a PowerPoint show that demonstrates the process Janet used to create a page of Mr. Mutt.  Janet drew most of the images, scanned them in (along with digital images of a can of dog food, paperclips, piece of carpet, a desktop), and then used Photo Shop to compose the page.   She printed it out on a huge printer using a piece of watercolor paper, then painted back into it.