CANINE CRUISERS | Young author asks: What kind of car would your doggie drive?

Author and illustrator Henry Vandersluis, a sixth-grader at Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School, answers the eternal question: “What kind of car would your dog drive?” in his first published work: “Dogs and Their Rides; What Would Your Dog Drive? - Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review
Author and illustrator Henry Vandersluis, a sixth-grader at Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School, answers the eternal question: “What kind of car would your dog drive?” in his first published work: “Dogs and Their Rides; What Would Your Dog Drive?
— image credit: Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review

Would your dalmatian drive a Durango?

Would a fox terrier prefer a Ferrari?

When it comes to the subjects of dogs and what kind of vehicles they might prefer, science is tragically lacking in answers. Fortunately, one young island author recently sat down and gave it some thought, so we need wonder no more.

Author and illustrator Henry Vandersluis, a sixth-grader at Sonoji Sakai Intermediate School, has always loved dogs and cars and decided to put the two together in his first published effort, “Dogs and Their Rides; What Would Your Dog Drive?”

The 33-page book, featuring all original drawings by Vandersluis, explores many different breeds of dogs and what kind of cars they might enjoy driving and is available for purchase now at several island locations. All proceeds will go to benefit the Pets for Patriots organization.

“I was just brainstorming about things and I thought, ‘What kinds of cars would dogs drive?’” Vandersluis said. “That’s just because I love cars, and I also like dogs, and I just thought it was a fun idea.”

While it may surprise some that an artist so young could initiate and complete such a project, the author’s mother fully expected her son’s first book to be finished.

“He gets on a roll with something like that and can spend hours at it,” said Cindy Vandersluis.

“The project originated a couple of years ago,” she recalled. “One day we were driving around and Henry came up with the idea of dogs and cars, and I thought it would make a great book. Then, when he got started on it, he was very excited about it.”

According to his mother, Henry has long been interested in books.

“Henry does like to read and we read a lot to him from the time he was very little,” she said. “I remember reading the Richard Scarry books and others with very detailed illustrations over and over; he liked funny stories and stories about animals.”

These days, the sixth-grader has moved up to novels and also enjoys many non-fiction books, especially about airplanes, trains and automobiles.

“Dogs and Their Rides,” was inspired by several real-life dogs, according to Henry.

“I was inspired by three dogs I’ve had,” Vandersluis said. “Chester, a mix we got as a puppy from the Humane Society, and two shelties, Rudy and the dog I have now, Pearl. The book is dedicated to Rudy.”

For the illustrations, the young artist was fortunate to have a vast personal archive to pull from for the project.

“I used drawings that I already had, which was nice because I had so many drawings to choose from,” Vandersluis said.

“I’ve always liked to draw different things, including cars, and I originally did these drawings a few years ago. I decided what breeds of dogs I wanted in the book and then I matched cars and trucks to different dogs.”

Along with the illustrations, the book uses several photos of the different dog breeds. The photos of dogs included in the books were used courtesy of  a website based in the United Kingdom, according to Cindy Vandersluis.

“They were happy to let us use them when they heard about the reason for the book,” she added.

“Dogs and Their Rides” is now available at Bainbridge Island Barkery, in the Winslow Mall, and at Eagle Harbor Book Company in downtown Winslow. The cost is $15, with all proceeds benefiting the Pets for Patriots program. Contributions are tax-deductible.

Pets for Patriots is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help members of the military community save a life by adopting homeless adult dogs and cats. The organization coordinates adoptions by veterans and current military personnel of adult shelter pets, large dogs and special needs animals, from any partnering shelters.

To ease the financial cost of pet ownership, Pets for Patriots also partners with veterinarians to deliver a minimum 10-percent discount for the adopted pet’s care for life.

Local shelters and veterinarians who are currently partnered with the group include Kitsap Humane Society, Seattle Humane Society, the Kitsap Veterinary Hospital in Port Orchard and the Ridgetop Animal Hospital in Silverdale. Visit to learn more.

“The fact that they help two really worthy groups, veterans and other military members and animals in shelters, was very compelling,” said Cindy Vandersluis.

“These animals’ lives are being saved and at the same time, many of these men and women who adopt the dogs and cats will say that these animals saved them because they were suffering from depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder or loneliness,” she said.

Henry said he is undecided as to whether or not he will write another book.

When asked what he might like to be when he grows up, his answer perfectly displays the multi-faceted interests of this talented young man.

“I’m not sure yet,” he said. “Lots of different things are interesting to me, one idea is a car designer. I like to draw, I like airplanes. There are lots of different careers that are interesting.”


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