I am so grateful to all the friends who share the story behind their books here at Friend Friday. But some book creators I am extra grateful for because of the good they do in the world beyond their books. Maria Gianferrari, dog rescuer extraordinaire, is someone who falls in that category! Join me in celebrating Maria’s newest book, Operation Rescue Dog, illustrated by Luisa Uribe (Little Bee Books).

Maria and Becca

Thanks for inviting me to talk about my favorite thing, Kirby—dog rescue!

I’m an animal lover, so it’s no surprise that all of my books feature some kind of animal protagonist. In fact, all of my fiction picture books star dog main characters, one of my favorite animals. I love to explore the human-canine bond in my books, and most often they’re inspired by my daughter, Anya, and our rescue dog, Becca. I call this the “best friends” photo, taken when Anya was six and Becca was one (they’re 17 and 13 now!) [

Anya and Becca

My latest picture book, Operation Rescue Dog (Little Bee Books), illustrated by Luisa Uribe, stars a girl named Alma and her rescue dog, Lulu, who journey to meet each other. It’s loosely based on Becca’s own rescue story. 

Operation Rescue Dog by Maria Gianferrari Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

In many ways, nearly all of my books, both fiction and nonfiction, explore the theme of home: what does it mean to find one’s home, to be at home? Lulu, the dog in this story, travels on a rescue transport truck, just like Becca did, and finds her “furever” home with Alma.

The story unfolds in dual points of view, from both Alma’s and Lulu’s perspectives—I tried to infuse the story with smells, and what those smells mean emotionally: fear, joy, love, home—dogs to me are home, perhaps despite the not so pleasant wet dog aroma.

This is one of my favorite illustrations from the book jacket which demonstrates the idea of home: can a dog feel like a hug? It most certainly can! I love the warmth and tenderness of Luisa’s illustrations. A dog makes a house, a home.

Dog Hug Illustration

Operation Rescue Dog celebrates both rescue dogs AND their rescuers. The folks involved in dog/animal rescue are some of the kindest, most generous and open-hearted people whom I’ve ever met, especially those who open their homes and hearts to foster dogs until they find their homes, or fospice dogs, so they live their last days being loved. I’ve been able to partner with a variety of local rescue organizations to showcase adoptable dogs, to raise awareness about rescue dogs and the mantra “adopt don’t shop.” With the generosity of my friends, I’ve been able to raise funds and collected needed supplies to my local rescue organizations and give back in a very small way.

Here’s a photo from a fundraiser I did for a small foster-based rescue, New Love Rescue, and their dog, Chewy.

New Love Rescue

Another way that I celebrate the dog rescue community and raise awareness is with an adoption event kit developed by the creative Kirsten Cappy of Curious City and some fellow librarians. The kit can be downloaded from my website and includes a some festive pennants and a poster as well as a folding rescue truck and a “walk your invisible dog” crafts, some temporary tattoos and a help sheet to explain the ways kids can help rescue pets, even when they’re unable to adopt one of their own.[

A friend of mine gave me a t-shirt with this message: “Be the person your dog thinks you are.” If we all can do that, the world will be a much better place!

Maria Gianferrari loves dogs, especially her rescue dog, Becca. She loves them so much that all of her fiction picture books published thus far contain a dog main character! As an animal lover, Maria has been rescuing creatures unofficially all her life. Her most recent rescue was a five-lined skink stranded in her cellar. She lives in Leesburg, Virginia with Becca, her scientist husband and artist daughter.