Book brings pug’s Canadian adventure to life

By: Eric Czarnik, Kristyne E. Demske | C&G Newspapers | Published December 8, 2015

 Danica Smith, a fourth-grader at Violet Elementary, wears a shirt sporting a photo of Elvis the pug. Smith illustrated a book about her uncle’s dog, Elvis.

Danica Smith, a fourth-grader at Violet Elementary, wears a shirt sporting a photo of Elvis the pug. Smith illustrated a book about her uncle’s dog, Elvis.

Photo provided by Daniel David Elles


STERLING HEIGHTS/ST. CLAIR SHORES — A Sterling Heights author hopes to add a new wrinkle to getting young people interested in reading with his book about a pug dog’s international adventures.

Author Daniel David Elles released a children’s book this fall called “The Adventures of Elvis the Pug: Lost in Canada.”

In the book, a pug puppy named Elvis lives in St. Clair, Michigan, but becomes lost when a storm causes the shed he is hiding in to fall into a river and float to Canada. When Elvis discovers that he has landed in Sarnia, he begins a journey home, meeting animal friends and learning about life and nature along the way.

“He learns about squirrels and hibernations and geese and everything about animals,” Elles said. “And he learns about math and science and trees and the environment.”

Elles, 52, of Sterling Heights, said the story idea developed after he acquired a pug puppy. He said he designed the book for readers such as his godson, who voraciously read more than 50 books in third grade.

Elles said many kids today don’t read and write enough, and they tend not to listen to demands from authority figures. So he figured that learning through the eyes of a dog would be more fun.

“A cartoon or a dog is not an authoritative figure,” he explained. “You’re actually learning what the little puppy was learning along the way.”

According to Elles, the book’s writing and editing took about two months overall. He said he started writing the book while recovering from a shoulder operation. After showing an early draft of around 1,600 words to several people, he was encouraged to continue.

The book also contains illustrations by Elles’ niece, Danica Smith. Smith, a St. Clair Shores 9-year-old, said she started drawing animals, dragons and dinosaurs when she was just 6 years old.

“I started doing freehand at my house and with charcoal and, also, I mostly use regular pencil,” said Smith, a fourth-grader at Violet Elementary.

Smith said she had read about Elvis the dog’s adventures in Canada many times.

“When he came into my nana’s house, he (asked) if I could help illustrate the book, and I’m like, are you kidding? I just agreed and I said yes,” Smith said.

She had to do some research before drawing the characters in the book — which include barn animals, a pelican, an owl and a squirrel — because she hadn’t drawn those animals before. She looked up images of animals to use as guides.

“It took me about 10 days, because sometimes I would draw two a day and sometimes one or four,” she said.

Smith said she loves to play with the actual Elvis, Elles’ 1-year-old pug, which came in handy when she had to draw him walking, sleeping and jumping up for different parts of the book.

“He loves me really a lot,” she said. “My uncle Danny, once he comes to my house, he’ll bring Elvis all the time, and then he’ll jump on me and start licking me and everything.”

Smith is also featured as a character in the book, along with her cousin Dominic Fiordilino, who lives in Pittsburgh, something she thought was “really cool.” The two are fictional twins living along the St. Clair River in St. Clair, Michigan.

Smith’s teacher at Violet Elementary, Kathy Deckert, is reading the book to her class, so Smith’s friends get to hear her uncle’s story and see the pictures she has drawn.

“I loved illustrating the book. I thought it was really cool that I was going to be published,” Smith said. “I thought that I would put, like, shading in most of the pictures so I could add ... texture.”

She hopes there will be more books about Elvis that she can help illustrate.

“It’s good that next year we might make it, because when I turn 10, I might be better at drawing and do more details,” she said. “I would love to draw some more books.”

Elles already has plans for a new Elvis story.

“The next book is going to be about bullying,” he said. “Elvis is going to get in there and show kids it’s not good to be a bully.”

Learn more about “The Adventures of Elvis the Pug: Lost in Canada,” by Daniel David Elles, with illustrations by Danica Smith, by visiting

Call Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at (586) 498-1058. Call Staff Writer Kristyne E. Demske at (586) 498-1041.