Cat Warren: What the Dog Knows

Cover: What the Dog Knows

Cover: What the Dog Knows


Young Readers Edition
Cat Warren (NASW member), Author
Patricia J. Wynne, Illustrator
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, October 8, 2019
Hardcover: $17.99; e-book: $10.99
ISBN-10: 1534428143; ISBN-13: 978-1534428140

Warren writes:

The challenge: to rewrite an adult book that features complex science, difficult history, and human death to make it appeal to 8 to 12 year olds.

The answer: keep the complexity, treat death in a straightforward manner—and make sure the adventure of training a smart, funny scent-detection dog shines through.

Cat Warren

Cat Warren

The original 2013 version of What the Dog Knows used my learning to train and deploy my German shepherd as a cadaver dog to explain why humans still depend on the dog’s nose for some tasks. It became a New York Times bestseller and was longlisted for a PEN/E.O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award.

When my agent, Gillian MacKenzie, suggested a young readers’ adaptation of the original book, I was intrigued. I realized that most children were fascinated, not frightened or disgusted by the subject. I had given talks and demonstrations at K-12 schools, museums, science fairs, and to scout troops.

We approached Simon & Schuster Children’s Division with a two-page proposal and had a generous advance offer in less than a week.

For the young readers’ version, I removed entire chapters and story lines that deviated from the central story of training a rebellious German shepherd as a scent-detection dog. I rewrote, moved material around, and added new material to make the timeline straightforward. I had invaluable help from several young readers who took highlighter pens to the adult book. They marked what they liked, where they were scared—and when they were bored or confused.

I didn’t stint on emotionally difficult material or the complex science behind the sniff. Artist Patricia J. Wynne provided more than two dozen beautiful illustrations to highlight and clarify crucial scientific concepts. I used more than 100 photos to make the text more appealing.

Slavery, war, homicide and accidental death, drug addiction—even the ethical questions of using and misusing dogs who want to please us—remain major themes in the young readers’ edition. What I also hope remains front and center in this version of What the Dog Knows is a sense of curiosity and a healthy dose of humor.

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