Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, June 4, 2012

It's So Tempting...

Desiring to do something but knowing it may not be in one's best interest is a tricky situation to say the least.  As humans we have endless rationalizations; one time won't hurt, no one will ever notice, next time twice as much, twice as hard.  I can only imagine for dogs it might be more clear cut.

Over hundreds of years various forms of communication have evolved between dogs and their humans; in some relationships much better than in others.  We humans would dearly like to believe our understanding of our best friends is perhaps more astute than it truly is.  A canine quandary is presented again and again in Oh No, George! (Candlewick Press, March 13, 2012) written and illustrated by Chris Haughton when Harry, George's human, leaves the house.

When asked if he will be good, George replies,

"I'll be very good."
I hope I'll be good.  George thinks.

Left alone to his own devices, George wanders into the kitchen.  What does George see on the counter?  He sees a cake, a cake loaded with frosting and edible toppings, and George loves cake.  But he did say he would be good. 

What will George do?

Temptation can be a mighty strong emotion overriding the best of intentions.  When George leaves the kitchen with his sweet tooth satisfied, who should he see but Cat.  There's not much else George likes better than to play with Cat. 

Inside a house does not make the best playground for our furry friends.  No, indeed it does not.  Having exercised for the day George discovers a newly planted floral arrangement at just his height.  What dog doesn't like to dig?

George's happy greeting to Harry at his arrival home is dampened by Harry's shocking discovery of the mess George has made.  Wanting to make amends George brings him his favorite toy.  Harry, kind human he is, suggests a walk. 

As the two walk, each of the previous enticements, cake, Cat and flower garden, are presented.  George's strong and determined will to do right prevails.  But wait a minute.  George lifts his head in the air, nose moving. 


Chris Haughton's narrative is clear, concise and exactly as one would expect between a dog and his human...and a dog and his conscience.  The repetitive refrains, as each decision presents itself to George, are conducive to reading aloud and for beginning readers.  The placement of text on the page, ending in a question, invites readers to explore what they think George will do or perhaps what each of them would do when faced with a dilemma.

Nothing could be warmer than the color choices of Haughton for his illustrations, red, orange, purple and magenta with hues of green and blue as a secondary palette.  I don't know about anyone else but looking at the front cover makes me burst out laughing.  If you want your heart to melt, take a peek at the back cover with George being hugged by Harry and Cat.

Front and back endpapers done in shades of purple silhouette before and after scenes of areas in the house.  Using pencil and digital media Haughton's wide-eyed characters display precisely what they are thinking.  Interestingly enough Harry is in complete contrast with bright olive green skin and shaded blue clothing as are the other humans. 

Using white space to accentuate discussions and decisions followed by the orange background, double-page spreads elevates the humor of George's choices.  Long-nosed and floppy-eared George is the epitome of lovable dogginess.  His size, pictured as twice that of Harry, draws attention to his every move and thought.

Written and illustrated by Chris Haughton Oh No, George is one of my favorite dog books of the year; having been added to my personal shelves.  Told with clarity and laugh-out-loud humor there is nothing to not love about this title.  Choices, choices and more choices are rarely presented with so much warmth and visual flair.  Visit Haughton's blog linked above for more about his writing process in creating this book.

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