I hitched up my pony
to my little red sleigh.
My dog wagged his tail.
"I want to play!"
"You bet," I said. "Just me and you
in a one-dog sleigh."
Traveling through the woods, the duo is enjoying their ride. Within minutes sailing through the air like a trapeze artist, Squirrel decides he wants to play too, landing in the sleigh. They are barely underway again when a flap of wings and a series of hoots grab their attention.
Even though the girl recommends Owl join them on a different ride, he does not take no for an answer. The occupants now number four. It's getting decidedly crowded.
Lynx wakes up. Deer hears the bells. Bear looks down. Three more want to join the lively trek. With the deepening snow and the heavier load, Horse can barely move. In fact, the sleigh comes to a complete stop.
In the blink of an eye, up jumps Mouse. Tears springing to her eyes, the girl knows this ride is doomed. Never fear...the small one takes charge as all others push and pull.
At the top of the peak, the group knows without a doubt, their sleigh has become a sled as a crazy downward plunge begins. What's that? A bump, you say? Oh, no!
More than one person lately has remarked how snow seems to energize their canine friends, so it stands to reason Mary Casanova, a longtime resident of northern Minnesota, would place her characters on a wintry ride. As she did in the companion title, rhyming phrases and delightful wordplay, introduce other forest residents into the narrative. Dog's initial request of
"I want to play!"
is repeated by each one before they end up in or on the sleigh. Descriptive active antics and onomatopoeia abound. Here is a single example.
But with a SMACK, CRACK, KA-WHACK!
Bear balanced on the back.
For a first sleigh ride, I hope to be part of a group as happy as the threesome on the matching jacket and cover of this title; you can almost hear the delighted sighs of the girl along with the yipping pants of the dog as the runners slide through the snow. The only clue to the events to come appears on the back. Dog is looking curiously at a speaking mouse. Ard Hoyt begins the story on the title page with the girl and pup looking inside the barn doorway at the sleigh and horse. A two page illustration stretches from right to left joining the first page with the verso featuring the best friends about to set off on another adventure.
While Mary Casanova gives the book its enticing beat, Hoyt brings exhilaration and joy to the tale. A full range of colors highlights the events, cooler background shades of white, blue, gray and green, swirl around the characters giving you a feeling of a brisk winter's day and movement. Each picture whether on one page or two, shifting in perspective from a bird's eye view or zooming in for a cozy close-up, is full of humor. It bursts off every page especially in the facial expressions of those already in the sleigh wondering how another will possibly be able to fit.
I think my favorite illustration is toward the end of the story. Across two pages, Ard Hoyt has pictured the red sleigh going full tilt down the hill, filled with all the animals...yes, even the pony. All are looking rather wild-eyed as they speed down the hill except for the girl, horse (he has on blinders) and the mouse who are smiling with glee. The squirrel is hanging on for dear life to the dog. Grasping the horse's mane like reins, the mouse is having the time of his life.
Some titles are meant to be shared by reading them aloud to one or many. One-Dog Sleigh written by Mary Casanova with pictures by Ard Hoyt is one of those books. It's brimming with merriment. Will the girl and her furry friend have another escapade? I certainly hope so.
For more information about the author and illustrator please take time to visit their websites. Links for these are embedded in each of their names. Here is a link where author Mary Casanova speaks about the collaborative relationship she has with illustrator Ard Hoyt. To view more pages from the book follow this link to the publisher's website.
I think it would be fun to pair this with Lita Judge's Red Sled or Jan Brett's The Mitten.