Book Review

The Dog that Nino Didn’t Have by Edward Van de Vendel has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

Violent Content

Crude or Profane Language

Drug and Alcohol Content

Other Negative Elements


Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Nino’s dog is imaginary. It goes everywhere with Nino, from his great-grandma’s house to the lake. When Nino misses his father who works overseas, the dog comforts him. The dog even gets Nino into trouble sometimes; one illustration depicts the two of them digging while Nino’s mother is not looking.

After Nino is given a real dog, the real dog cannot do everything his imagined one could do. For example, Nino’s real dog doesn’t climb trees like a squirrel, and his real dog doesn’t know who Nino’s dad is. Nonetheless, everyone can see Nino’s real dog, and the real dog has more tangible qualities than the imaginary one, such as being physically present, soft to the touch and sweet-natured. Nino enjoys his new dog and continues to imagine having other types of make-believe pets.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems


Authority Roles

Nino’s father works overseas, and it’s implied that he does not see him often. His father’s clothing looks like he may be an airline pilot, but the book implies that his father is always far away. Images of home life only include Nino’s mom or visiting his great-grandmother. Nino misses his father. His father does talk to him on the telephone. Nino’s mother has a brief appearance when Nino digs in a place that he probably should not. She also is near a car that is packed for a trip. She fails to notice Nino’s behavior. In all the other images, Nino is alone, except for his dog and his imaginary animals. Near the end of the story, Nino and his real dog are afraid of his great-grandmother.





Discussion Topics

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Additional Comments/Notes

Imagination: Nino continues to imagine dogs and other animals even after he is given a real dog. Parents may want to discuss that it is healthy for kids to use their imagination, but not when they ignore what is real.

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Readability Age Range

4 to 8


Edward Van de Vendel






Record Label



Eerdmans Books for Young Readers


On Video

Year Published



The Original Art Silver Medal, 2015; Booklist Editors' Choice: Books for Youth, 2015; Publishers Weekly Best Picture Book, 2015