Vivian Vande Velde Main Page
Smart Dog
Ages: 9 - 12
Publisher: Harcourt
Book Description:

Fifth grader Amy finds her life growing complicated when she meets and tries to hide an intelligent, talking dog who has escaped from a university lab.


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Where do you GET those ideas?
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"The enduring fantasy of a talking pet is rendered with an abundance of charm and wit." -- Publishers Weekly


  • (Tennessee) Volunteer State Book Award (2002)
  • 2012 Kiddo Award recommended book--Fantasy & Other Worlds (ages 8 and up)

Where do you GET those ideas?

When I was growing up, my family had a dog.  She was smart, though not as smart as Sherlock.  Because my parents spoke French, they taught her to respond to commands in French; since my brother and I didn't speak French, we taught her in English.  Therefore, our dog was bilingual--she could understand two languages.  Since she could understand so well, I always thought it would be great if she could answer back.   And I thought it would be best of all if she would only talk to me (not my brother), and that would be our secret.  So that idea of a dog smart enough to talk, and that this would have to be a secret, has been rattling around in my head for a very long time...

At the moment, the only pet we have is a rabbit named Dudley.  Dudley is pretty smart, but mostly about things like finding ways to hide under the furniture and about how to get into things he shouldn't--like into the kitchen garbage. 


Sherlock gave a bark, which Amy supposed meant "OK," or "I understand," or maybe even "I don't like it," but why didn't he just say so? And why was he looking beyond her instead of at her?

Reluctantly, fearing the worst, Amy turned around.

And saw Sean Gorman standing there. With his eyes wide. And his mouth hanging open. Which pretty much killed any hope Amy might have had that he hadn't heard Sherlock speaking.

Sean turned to Sherlock. "How do you do that?" he demanded. "How do you know how to talk?"

Amy fought the urge to say, "He's that new breed of Mexican Speaking Spaniel." Sean wasn't going to believe anything except the truth. She had to hope he was kind-hearted as well as smart. She said, "He's a science experiment. And the scientists are out to get him--to cut open his brain to see how it works. If you tell anybody, you could get him killed."

Sherlock approached slowly and let Sean pet him.

"I won't tell anybody," Sean assured them both.

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This is a picture of me and my brother Allan and our dog, Ringle. Who's the smartest looking one here?


This is Dudley. Notice that Dudley is sitting in a garbage can.  This will give you a hint about how smart Dudley is.


Here's fellow writer Cynthia DeFelice and her dog Josie, reading Smart Dog.  Cynthia thinks Josie is very smart, but Cynthia had to read all the big words for Josie.


The illustration on the hardcover edition is by Brad Weinman.  Another cover by Brad Weinman - Tales From The Brothers Grimm And The Sisters Weird.

Check out Brad Weinman's website here.


This is the cover from the original paperback edition, published by Dell Yearling (Random House).


This is the cover from the Scholastic Book Club edition.


The French edition of Smart Dog.  What the title actually says is:  "A Too-Talkative Dog."


Volunteer State Book Award for Smart Dog, chosen by the readers of Tennessee - 2001/2002