Kid Lit Blog Hop: Ears Up, Ears Down by Ralph da Costa Nunez and Illustrated by Madeline Gerstein Simon

Ears Up Ears Down

Ears Up, Ears Down by Ralph da Costa Nunez with Margaret Menghini and illustrated by Madeline Gerstein Simon. Ages 5 – 8 (Appropriate for all ages.)  White Tiger Press.  2012.  37 pages. Fiction. ISBN-13:  978-0982553329 $4.95

About this Picture Book:  This book is about a dog named Ears Up who works at a junkyard.  He loves his life here and all is going well until the junkyard is foreclosed.  Ears Up, after 10 years of being a junkyard dog, is now homeless and jobless.  He hits the road and to his surprise meets other adults and children who have had similar things happen to them.  He discovers that they live in cars and campsites. He then comes upon a camp where there are even more people who are homeless.  This makes him very sad and the children rename him Ears Down because his ears hang down.  He doesn’t understand why so many people are homeless.  The next morning at the camp he smells food.  He sees a big blue van and people standing in a line and learns that this is the breakfast van here to help feed the adults and children without homes.  He meets Ms. Grace, who works at the van, and asks the dog if he would like a job.  She brings him to work for her and his new name is Ears Up, Ears Down.  The dog asks that his new name be Ears Up because he’s happy about his new job and house, but also Ears Down because he will not forget all the people he met who are still looking for homes.  So until every dog and person has a home, his ears will be up and down.

The Short:  We really like this picture book!  My two-year-old son loves books with dogs in them and this one is no exception. We’ve had this book for two days and have read it six times now.  My son loves to say, “Ears Up!  Ears Down!”   After reading it the first time, he immediately asked for us to read it again.  The same thing happened again when we read it this morning.  It’s an excellent picture book, we recommend it!  

The Long:  After reading this book yesterday I heard my son say, “Ears Up!  Ears Down!” while playing by himself.   It was the first book we read this morning and to my surprise, when we were interrupted and came back to reading he wanted to finish this book.  (Usually, when this happens, he’s already moved on to another book, but not this time.)  I received this book to review from the Institute for Children, Poverty & Homelessness, but waited for my son to approach me and ask me to read it to him.  (I do that with most books.  I choose the books that come in the house, but he chooses which books we read.) This book is a little longer and the topic is a bit more serious than we normally read, but it didn’t seem to phase him in the least.  He’s now picked up the book and asked me to read it to him at three different times.

This book is a collaboration among White Tiger Press, the Institute for Children, Poverty, and Homelessness, and Homes for the Homeless.  It’s a great book to start talking with children about what being homeless means and what I really appreciate about this book is that it shows how being homeless can be a transient rather than permanent state of being.  Often times the homeless are portrayed as this faceless mass of people who will always be homeless and that it is an insurmountable problem that is just too big and too difficult and depressing to think about — much less discuss with a child.  This book effectively talks about being homeless in a matter-of-fact and approachable way for children.  While the book addresses a difficult topic, it is not a difficult book to read.  The illustrations are beautiful.  I’m most taken with the way Madeline Gerstein Simon illustrated the characters’ eyes.  It welcomes the reader to make eye contact with each character and see them as an individual.

This is a perfect picture book for talking with children of all ages about homelessness.

Please visit their website to see other picture books they’ve written and to learn more about their organization:

FTC Disclosures: I received a review copy from the author.  No other compensation was received.  The opinions expressed here are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” If you click on the link and purchase the book, I will receive an affiliate commission.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


It’s Wednesday!  I’m participating in the Kid Lit Blog Hop over at MotherDaughterBookReviews.  Go check out all the bloggers talking about great children’s books!

Don’t forget to check out Kid Lit Blog Hop over at Mother Daughter Book Reviews.


  1. What a wonderful book. I will be sure to check it out for my little 16 month old, as we are approaching the time she is now starting to point to the books she wants to read. I am now following our blog, so I will look forward to your recommendations. Cheers Julie


    • Thank you! I loved it when my son started picking out his own books. We did baby sign language with him and he would do the signs for more and book together. It was so exciting.

      Congratulations to you on the book you recently published: Escape From The Forbidden Planet. It looks like a great book!


  2. It sounds like a beautiful book to read with children – to help them understand about homelessness, in a compassionate way. I am looking forward to getting this book and sharing it with my child. Thank you for your review and recommendation.
    Jules Bronte
    (Author of the Trouble Solving Trio Series for middle grade readers.)


  3. Wow, you’re right. That is a serious subject. It sounds like an excellent book to introduce to children how bad situations can happen and how kind strangers can make them better. Thank you so much for sharing this in the Kid Lit Blog Hop!


  4. I love your interpretation of the book in relation to the complexity of homelessness as a social issue. We live in an area where there is a mix of affluence from University professors to homeless people. We’ve had so many opportunities to discuss homelessness and so many opportunities to interact with homeless people as well. This book would be a great tool for discussion around this issue and for helping them develop compassion toward homeless people they may encounter. Thank you for linking this post in to the Kid Lit Blog Hop.

    I enjoyed reading your bio. I see that you are an academic turned stay-at-home Mom as well! Me too!! Which department did you chair? Do you see yourself going back? Ok, enough questions for now! lol Have a great week! 🙂


    • Thank you for hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop! I used to live in San Francisco and there’s an impressive mix of affluence there, too.

      I used to be in charge of a department in the graduate school of the university that oversaw all of the other departments. I wrote an exam that all of the students had to pass in order to graduate as well as teaching courses that reviewed all of the material that students had been given. It was interesting, but seriously stressful. Nothing fun about telling students that they weren’t going to graduate until they passed my class or passed my exam. If I do go back to teaching, I’m not going to be a department chair. Maybe I’ll teach something like medical terminology or anatomy — useful but not as stressful as trying to review the student’s entire year. For now I’m basking in spending time with my son, picture books, and trying to learn how to be a better blogger. 🙂

      Thank you for hosting, reading, and commenting!


  5. That would be such a difficult job. One person making such a huge decision – that’s a lot of pressure. Ultimately it is the student themselves who are responsible for their destiny and their own efforts determine the outcome, but still … tough, tough job. Glad you are enjoying your time with your son – it passes all too quickly. Great to get to know you a bit better. 😀


  6. madeline

    Thank you so very much for your wonderful review of Ears Up, Ears Down! I absolutely love working with Homes for the Homeless. The work that they do is incredible and I am so glad that my illustration can be a conduit and a tool for children to understand what homelessness looks like. I’m so glad that your son connected with the book! Thank you, again.


    • Thank you for reading! Wow — the title and the picture from your blog has me very interested in your book. I think it is time for me to get a Kindle or at least something with a Kindle app. Your book looks absolutely beautiful! I’m intrigued.


  7. I love the way you do your reviews…the short and the long…very helpful. 🙂 I also want to thank you for the heads-up about the Kit Lit Blog Hop…I will have to check out their website…I’m thinking they are part of the new Google+ Kid Lit community. 🙂


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