Are there ever enough minutes in a day? How often have you looked at a clock wondering how the hours vanished? Morning blends into noon; evening seems to approach in a blink of an eye.
If you really want to make very moment meaningful shadow a dog. They are always ready to play and they do so with extreme exuberance. Given the opportunity to be outside, they take it, savoring every smell, taste, sound and movement. Nothing escapes their attention. Every human they see is initially treated equally. Every day is a new day; they are forgiving. Stay A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List (Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan Publishing Group, LLC, July 18, 2017) is the newest offering by collaborative sisters, Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise. It honors the unbreakable bond between a dog and their human. It honors the beauty of the canine condition.
When Astrid came home from the hospital, Eli was there waiting. He was Astrid's first friend.
Being Astrid's friend lead to other enjoyable jobs for Eli, bodyguard, pillow and his large size offered her a good place to hide. They shared everything; a home, a place to eat and a place to sleep. This human and this dog were more alike than different except for one thing.
Eli and Astrid were growing and aging differently. Astrid was getting taller than Eli. Eli was getting older faster than Astrid. Even at the early age of six Astrid noticed how quickly Eli was moving from puppy to older adult.
After one particularly pleasant day at the playground Astrid decided to make a list of everything she and Eli needed to do before he got too old; a bucket list on the side of their bucket now empty of popcorn. No matter how tricky the activity was Astrid was going to make it happen; like rigging a platform so Eli could ride on the back of her bike.
Astrid discovered the joy of reading aloud to Eli and giving him a bubble bath. Her last thing on the bucket list was a delectable delight to show her gratefulness for his loyalty. Soon there were no more strolls to their favorite places. During cuddle time Astrid asked if there was anything else to add to the list. Eli's reply was exactly why dogs are surely heaven sent.
One of the first words a new puppy learns is stay. It ensures first and foremost his or her safety in a human world. What author Kate Klise has shown us is stay is an integral part of a canine's character. Their loyalty to their "pack" is without question. Not only do our dogs (Eli) stay but they do so out of a love more pure than we can fully understand.
Throughout this story we are shown in the things Astrid and Eli do together how their friendship is formed. We are privy to the growth of a very special kind of affection. By including Eli's thoughts in response to Astrid's comments we see inside both of their hearts. There is also a gentle kind of humor in Eli's replies; their dogginess is genuine. Here is a sample passage.
"Eli," Astrid said, "have you ever been down a slide? You really should before you get too old."
So with Astrid's help, Eli slid down the sun-warmed slide.
That was fun, Eli thought. Who knew?
For those of us who have been honored with the love of a dog, the picture on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case is a dream comes true. Who wouldn't want to be able to share a dinner with their canine companion at a fancy restaurant? The glow of the candle light on the two happy faces says a lot about this story. The word Stay is varnished.
To the left, on the back, Eli is curled in a living room chair leaning over the arm. Astrid is seated next to the chair reading aloud dog books. (I can't begin to tell you the number of times, one of my dogs has been on the furniture with me seated on the floor. This scene is classic.) A mint green covers the opening and closing endpapers.
Rendered in acrylic paint on bristol board the illustrations are filled with warmth. Many of them are placed on a canvas of pale golden yellow; others the wallpaper in the home, a scene in the park, or the backyard at night. M. Sarah Klise brings us into this relationship almost as if we are experiencing it ourselves. There is no doubt; Eli is a member of this family.
The image sizes vary in keeping with the pace of the story; delicate details enhancing the mood and emotion in each one. Careful readers will notice the content of the pictures on the living room wall, the marquee at the movie theater and the growth of the tree next to the driveway of Astrid's and Eli's home. All of the illustrations build toward the final page guaranteeing a sigh of satisfaction from all readers.
One of my many favorite pictures spans two pages. Astrid and Eli are at the playground. On the left a group of children are climbing on a jungle gym. A woman with a dog on a leash who is resting watches them. In the background another woman is walking her dog. To the right Astrid and Eli are swooping down the slide. Eli is in front of Astrid, her arms around his body. His four legs are spread in total contentment. Beneath the slide is the empty popcorn bucket.
Stay A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List written by Kate Klise with illustrations by M. Sarah Klise will make a mark on every reader's heart. It speaks of growing old and how to celebrate the time given to us. No one knows better than a dog how to stay. No one wants them to be here longer than their human friends. You need to have a copy of this title on your professional and personal bookshelves. It would pair perfectly with Elisha Cooper's Homer.
By following the links attached to Kate Klise's and M. Sarah Klise's names you can learn more about them and their work at their websites. At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations. At Publishers Weekly the sisters were interviewed five years ago about their work. Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise were recently part of a Q & A at The Horn Book about this book.