Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Jaws Of Fate

People will never stop debating the subject of destiny.  There are those who fervently believe it is predetermined; everything happens according to a plan.  For many it is thought to be controlled by each individual.  Each choice made serves to direct us down a particular path.  If obstacles block the way, additional decisions may or may not alter the original course.

As a whole the domesticated canine clan seems to be fairly certain about the course of each day regardless of their human companions.  They know what they enjoy.  They know what they need.  And they know how to get what they need and enjoy.  Percy Dog Of Destiny (Boyd Mills Press, March 28, 2017) written by Alison McGhee with illustrations by Jennifer K. Mann is a tale of one determined dog who adores his ball.

Dog park?
What ho!

At the sight of his leash, Percy knows fun with friends is in his near future.  Before he can even consider leaving he has to find his ball.  After checking all his favorite, familiar spots in the house, he locates it sitting in his personalized bowl.  Percy is ready!

Along the way to the dog park Percy meets Molly, a poodle, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie, a dachshund, and Fluffy, a Great Dane.  Each one of them is carrying their prized possessions.  Four happy pooch pals race through the gate and along the fence.  Wait...where's Fluffy?  Oh, there he is.

They sniff and greet each other except for Fluffy.  The big guy would rather take a whiff of a nearby flower.  They enjoy other tail-wagging doggy diversions with Fluffy favoring a more individual approach to each one.

In the midst of their fun a squirrel taunts Percy, challenging him.  This squirrel wants his ball.  There is no way that squirrel is getting Percy's beloved ball.  When Percy summons his crew, the rotten rodent makes a move.  Woof! Woof!  What a fetch-tastic surprise!

When a dog love a ball, nothing else will do.  Wherever they go, the ball goes with them.  In this narrative author Alison McGhee displays her understanding of this canine characteristic perfectly.  Told in first pooch point of view, short sentences provide readers with the inside scoop on Percy's thoughts and actions.  Alison masterfully manipulates the plot toward the unexpected conclusion with a cadence created by Fluffy's signature deviations from the norm.  Percy's "pet-names" for his ball are guaranteed to bring on the giggles and grins.  Here are two sample passages.

Where's my special ball?
There you are,
my little porkie pie.

Time to pee on the tree.
Oh, Fluffy.

Percy is one perky pooch as clearly shown on the matching front of the dust jacket and book case.  That ball is going with him forever and always.  Look at the spine which extends to the left in the same width.  Those paw prints are moving forward with purpose.  To the left, on the back, the three friends, Molly, Oatmeal Raisin Cookie and Fluffy, are walking away from us as Percy stands over the ISBN with his tail happily wagging.  The combination of the pale yellow with the red reaches out and grabs your attention.  The opening and closing endpapers are covered in the same rich, radiant red.

Beneath the text on the title page, Percy is looking forward at readers with his ball firmly held in his mouth.  Jennifer K. Mann uses white space as an element in her design and layout.  It frames the other elements on each page.  She might have a single major image on one or two pages or display several on a page as when Percy is looking for his ball in the beginning.  She has him checking inside a shoe, a dresser drawer, a toilet and a waste basket.

The perspective is always at a dog's level.  When Percy's human sets off to the dog park with him, all we see are legs and the leash coming from above Percy.  The pictures rendered in pencil and digital paint have a casual but realistic feel to them.  The lines are loose and flowing.  If the expressions on Percy and his friends don't have you laughing out loud, the squirrel is sure to do the trick.

One of my favorite illustrations is when the four friends are running through the gate into the dog park.  The sheer bliss they are feeling is evident is their stretched body postures.  Even though each one is holding their favorite toy, you can see them smiling.  This image spans two pages.  The outline of the fence is spare with flowers along the outside and flowers inside the park within enclosures.  We can see the trunks of several trees and birds and butterflies flying.  The squirrel makes a first appearance; a foreshadowing of his dastardly intentions.

This book, Percy Dog Of Destiny, written by Alison McGhee with illustrations by Jennifer K. Mann is fabulous!  With every reading it gets funnier and funnier.  The pacing supplied by the blend of text and images, as any dog lover can tell you, is superb.  Readers will be asking you to read this again and again.  For a delightful read aloud session I would pair this with award winning titles, A Ball For Daisy by Chris Raschka and Ball by Mary Sullivan.

To discover more about Alison McGhee and Jennifer K. Mann please visit their websites by following the links attached to their names.  You can view interior images at Jennifer's site.  I know you will enjoy reading the post at author, reviewer and blogger Julie Danielson's Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast when she chats with Jennifer. There is a lot of artwork to enjoy.

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