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Children's Fiction Dogs

Sun Dog

by (author) Deborah Kerbel

illustrated by Suzanne Del Rizzo

Pajama Press Inc.
Initial publish date
May 2018
Dogs, Polar Regions, Country Life
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    May 2018
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 4 to 7
  • Grade: k to 2


From Suzanne Del Rizzo, award-winning illustrator of My Beautiful Birds, and author Deborah Kerbel comes a unique story about a brave sled dog puppy's adventures under the Arctic Circle's midnight sun.

Juno and her boy live in a red house at the top of the world. One day Juno will be big and strong enough to help pull a sled across the tundra, but for now she is just a small puppy with a big-dog heart.

Small puppies have to go to bed when their boys do, but Juno can’t sleep with the midnight sun shining out across the town. She slips outside to play. Returning to see a hungry polar bear sniffing around the open door, Juno has no time to be afraid. It’s time to summon the big dog inside her and save her beloved boy.

With Deborah Kerbel’s warm, expressive text, Sun Dog is a love letter to life in the Arctic Circle from the perspective of a sled dog pup. Suzanne Del Rizzo’s dimensional art in polymer clay and acrylic wash offers both an intimate romp with a young puppy and a sweeping celebration of the vast and beautiful tundra.


About the authors

DEBORAH KERBEL a écrit des livres pour les jeunes adultes, les préadolescents et les lecteurs débutants. Ses romans ont été présélectionnés pour les Prix littéraires du Gouverneur général, le prix du livre de l’année pour les jeunes adultes de l’Association canadienne des bibliothèques et le Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award. Elle vit à Toronto avec son mari, ses deux adolescents et Freddie, leur chien adopté.


DEBORAH KERBEL was born in London, England, and now lives in Thornhill, Ontario with her husband, son and daughter, and a rescue dog named Freddie. Deborah has written a number of picture books, and is the author of four young adult and two middle-grade novels, including My Deal with the Universe. Her books have been shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award, the Canadian Library Association’s YA Book Award, and many readers’ choice awards. Visit her online at

Deborah Kerbel's profile page

Suzanne Del Rizzo has always loved getting her hands messy. She traded her job in scientific research for a career in children’s illustration with her first picture book, Skink on the Brink, which won the SCBWI Crystal Kite Award and was a finalist for the Rainforest of Reading Award. Suzanne’s dimensional illustrations use Plasticine, polymer clay, and other mixed media to bring rich texture and imagination to her books. In 2015, looking for resources to explain the Syrian Civil War to her own children, Suzanne came across an article of a boy who took solace in a connection with wild birds at the Za’atari refugee camp. Struck by the universality of a child’s relationship to animals, she began writing My Beautiful Birds. Her distinctive illustrations also grace Sun Dog, a winner of the IODE Jean Throop Book Award, and Before You Were Born, an acclaimed and touching celebration of new life. Suzanne lives in Oakville, Ontario.

Suzanne Del Rizzo's profile page


  • Winner, IODE Jean Throop Book Award
  • Short-listed, Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award
  • Short-listed, SYRCA Shining Willow Award
  • Commended, School Library Journal blogger Betsy Bird's "2018 Calde-notts" selection
  • Commended, Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens selection
  • Commended, Resource Links "The Year's Best"

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Sun Dog

2019 IODE Jean Throop Book Award Winner

2019 Forest of Reading Blue Spruce Award finalist

2019 SYRCA Shining Willow Award finalist

2018 Resource Links "The Year's Best" selection

2018 Canadian Children's Book Centre Best Books for Kids & Teens Fall selection

2018 School Library Journal blogger Betsy Bird's "2018 Calde-notts" selection

"The captivating text and illustrations invite repeated reading. An inspiring tale of determination, courage, and devotion."—School Library Journal

"Kerbel weaves facts about the Arctic Circle within a tender story of the devotion between a boy and his dog. Del Rizzo's vibrant, colorful polymer clay and acrylics capture the beauty of their home....Juno may be a puppy in the Arctic Circle, but children everywhere will relate to her."—Kirkus Reviews

"[V]ery exciting and full of local colour. The amazing illustrations are done with polymer clay and acrylic paint. They are beautifully rendered in wonderful colours and textures. They reflect the puppy nature and local scenery with great affection. This book could possibly be an award winner!"—Resource Links

"Kerbel's poetic detail places the reader in a calm town on top of the world...Del Rizzo's textured illustrations in polymer clay pair incredibly well with the acrylic wash of the sky, creating a dreamy image of the midnight sun. Each illustration adds a new dimension to the story, encouraging readers to find hidden meaning in the illustration's detail....This interesting and unique story could lead to scientific conversations with younger children about life in the Arctic, diverse tundra animals, and the sun cycles in a fun and engaging way...Kerbel also includes information on the endpapers about the majestic midnight sun and the atmospheric optical phenomenon called sun dog, both being her inspiration for Sun Dog. Highly Recommended."—CM Magazine

“[A] nice introduction to the arctic. The eye-catching illustrations are rendered in polymer clay and acrylic, bringing the arctic to vivid life....Pair it with Over in the Arctic by Marianne Berkes and Kumak's Fish by Michael Bania for a fun arctic themed story time."—Youth Services Book Review

"Suzanne Del Rizzo's dimensional art in polymer clay and acrylic wash offers both an intimate romp with a young puppy and a sweeping celebration of the vast and beautiful tundra, making Sun Dog an immediate and enduringly popular addition to family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library picture book collections."—Midwest Book Review

"Author Deborah Kerbel leads readers on an engaging journey to the Arctic, where she effectively intersperses facts about the flora, fauna and the sun cycle with a sensitive story about a puppy who courageously establishes her rightful place in her community. Suzanne Del Rizzo's vibrant polymer clay and acrylic illustrations, depicting arresting panoramas from a variety of perspectives, add enriching and tactile dimensions to the text."—Canadian Children's Book News

"Unique...The artwork is particularly striking featuring dimensional illustrations in polymer clay and acrylic wash."—Village Living Magazine

"The joy of being outside and the beauty of the Arctic landscape are beautifully conveyed...a charming story has been synthesized from message and art into the brilliant and heart-warming combination that is Sun Dog."—CanLit for LittleCanadians

"All the illustrations were made with clay and paint....The art was my favorite part....People who like animals will like this book."—Nishaant, Age 10, Kids' Book Buzz

"This is a lovely story of the connection between Juno and her boy, but also of the high Arctic days, and the animals who call that part of the world their home. The illustrator of this book uses polymer clay as one element of the illustrations and I loved the effect. She brings alive Juno's playfulness (I particularly liked the picture with the sock) and the beautiful environment Juno and her boy live in. The flowers look so real, I wanted to smell them! A great book, especially for youngsters with their own special dog."—Canadian Bookworm

"Kerbel's writing is so fluid and measured; while so much activity happens over the course of the picture book, Kerbel's writing is focused, utterly inviting, and perfectly action-packed (yet not frightening for younger readers) when the climactic action occurs. Del Rizzo's clay and acrylic art is so meticulously detailed and dynamic (from larger scenery to the smallest particulars)- I am in awe....The combination of Kerbel's storytelling and Del Rizzo's art make for terrific reading, and I hope we get to see further collaborations from the duo....[A] gorgeous picture book!"—Fab Book Reviews

"[A] beautifully illustrated, impeccably written tale...Sun Dog...will speak to all little children, who are just desperate to be bigger and older. One of the most common things I hear in my day job as a preschool teacher and mom is 'I wish I was a grownup!' Juno is every child who is clamouring to have more responsibility and autonomy....Children will love and be inspired by the [polymer clay] illustrations [which] are so vibrant and full of incredible details and mixes of colours to capture the beautiful sky in the far north."—Storytime with Stephanie

“This story by [Deborah Kerbel] is a beautiful depiction of life on the tundra through the eyes of a little pup. And [Suzanne Del Rizzo]’s art - created out of polymer clay and plasticine, is so intricate with different textures, that I find myself noticing different layers each time I look at it.”—canadianpicturebooks

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