Quote of the Month

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

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Dog's Heart

I was in my mid-twenties when a pair of black Labradors, sisters, Soot and Cinder, chose me. My first dogs ever. When I lost them, I lost a part of my heart. More than twenty years later, Xena my chocolate Labrador, thankfully selected me.

A dog's heart is huge; filled to the brim with unconditional love.  As humans we can only strive toward the love they have perfected so well.  They ask for little but give much.

When opening the front and back covers of Elisha Cooper's new book, Homer (Greenwillow Books, May 29, 2012), eyes moving from left to right across the two-page spread, we see the body of a yellow lab, soulfully gazing forward, a half smile playing about his mouth.  Above the curve of his back we read, Have you ever loved a dog? One day in the life of Homer has a great deal to tell readers.

Homer sits on the porch.
What does he want to do today?

A new morning has begun in the home along the ocean's shore.  Homer, paws at edge of the steps, greets the day and waits.  The house's door and doggie door both open as a trio of pooches, a Basset Hound, an Old English Sheepdog and a Scottish Terrier, burst forth eager to run  and romp.  Will Homer join them? 

No, thanks.

Each family member stops to ask Homer to join in their activities; searching in the field, strolling to the beach to play in the sand, swimming in the ups and downs of the water or taking a trip to the local market.  Homer says no to all, completely happy right where he is.  Watching them is all he needs.

Returning dogs, youngest daughter, older daughter, mother and father pause to share their adventures with Homer; dropped red balls, flowers in his fur, an ocean shell, a whispered conversation and a bag filled with groceries.  He gratefully accepts all their news as they return to spend the late afternoon gathered around him on the porch.  As the sky changes with the setting sun Homer stretches to go inside.

Readers follow Homer as he slowly moves through the familiar routine of his day's end.  Lamps shine in the living room as mother tucks in the two girls, father finishes up in the kitchen, and three tired dogs in various poses sleep on the floor. And Homer, he heads to his favorite blue chair where he curls and settles saying the three closing words.

If dogs could talk, without a doubt, they would say as Elisha Cooper has written it here.  Simply, eloquently the ease of summer, the joy in the day's offerings and Homer's place in this family's life are worded carefully.  Spanning along the pages' bottoms we readers drink in those thoughts like life's truths they are.

Steel blue endpapers like the colors of the ocean envelope the body of this title.  Followed by a double-page spread showing a bird's eye view of the home with the rising sun behind, field, beach and ocean stretching to the horizon, the title and verso information are shown.  I love Cooper's two word dedication:

For porches.

Full-color illustrations rendered in watercolors and pencil delight the senses; readers can feel the sea breeze, hear the gentle wash of the waves and the conversations, human and canine, carried to Homer as he watches knowing if they touch his fur it will be warm and smell of the sun.  Hues echoing the season and setting detail the day exquisitely.  Most of the single page pictures are framed in white but the panoramic display of Homer watching his family members blends to the edges of two pages in stunning, peaceful beauty.

In looking over my considerable stack of dog books, Homer written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper is my very favorite title...ever.  What Elisha Cooper has captured and created in words and pictures is a moving tribute to dogs, their wisdom and the love they can give especially in the caring family well portrayed in this title.  Having read this book so many times I've lost count, I never fail to shed a tear or two and sigh as I view the last two pages and read the final sentence; pure contentment.

Julie Danielson of Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast highlights Elisha Cooper's Homer on her blog and at Kirkus.  In her blog post she references two articles Cooper wrote at Greenwillow about Homer.  Be sure to read those two.  If you want to read more writing by Elisha Cooper head over to The Morning NewsI have also been following Elisha Cooper on Facebook where he has so generously shared his process in creating Homer.

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