Quote of the Month

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

Friday, October 12, 2012

Canine Capers

Experience has taught me a thing or two about dogs which are "set in stone".  Squirrels drive them wild and their instinct, memory if you will, for a routine is uncanny.  My first two, sisters and black Labradors, Soot and Cinder, would begin twirling and barking at the softest whisper of the word squirrel.  Thankfully, the squirrels were always faster.

Even though it's been more than three years since a neighborhood dog died, every single time we pass Shadow's home, Xena waits at the end of the driveway for him to appear so we can walk together as we used to do.  Without fail it's the same number of treats before starting and continuing a task.  Truthfully, I have not really needed to set an alarm clock for more than twelve years.  I have my own furry, four-pawed model.

Marla Frazee, twice the winner of the Caldecott Honor medal (2009 for her book, A Couple of Boys Have the Best Week Ever-Harcourt and 2010 for a title written by Liz Garton Scanlon, All The World-Beach Lane Books) has a new book, Boot & Shoe (Beach Lane Books) released less than two weeks ago.  Rest assured these two fit the pooch portrait to a tee.  They give new meaning to following in one's paw prints.

Boot and Shoe were born into the same litter, and now they live in the same house.

The siblings are nearly inseparable in all their daily endeavors except one prefers the back porch and the other the front porch.  Happy with the view, happy with the resting spot, both are the picture of contentment.  Life would have continued like this for them all the days of their lives except for the appearance of one bushy-tailed, nut loving interloper.

A squirrel moseying up to the house has trouble with a capital "T" on its mind.  Racing from one porch to the other, it tantalizes those two pups to no end, repeatedly, until...what's a dog gonna do?  Of course, they chase that fleet-footed bundle of fur until it saunters away as casually as it arrived.  But boy, those two pals are pooped out.

When Boot and Shoe finally gather their wits they find themselves on the opposite porch.  What ensues is a classic comedy of errors.  Neither can find the other in their respective spots.

Both wait for the other through the afternoon, dinner, and a cold evening but no Shoe for Boot, no Boot for Shoe.  Luck is not in their favor no matter what they try.  Night seems to last forever when you're without your other half.

When the sun comes up both are saddened to still be alone but an early morning ritual beckons both.  There's no joy like a dog's joy.  Ahhhhh...together again.

Using repetitive words and phrases Marla Frazee establishes an inviting rhythm, a conversational tone, to her narrative.  You can't help but get attached to the brothers from the very beginning; following them as they do what dogs do, watching as they are teased by a crafty, crazed squirrel, sympathizing when they're separated and sharing in their discovery of one another again. It's like you've got the inside scoop on the latest happenings at this particular house touched with the precise amount of humor (and a tad bit of sadness).

Taking a cue from the colors and patterns used in the dogs names on the jacket and cover, Frazee has her front and back endpapers pictured on one side as a large golden and red checked pattern and a plain sea green on the other.  Careful readers will notice she carries this same scheme in the chairs upon the porches where Boot and Shoe sit each day.

Using black pencil and gouache most of her illustrations are small studies carefully held in the hands of white space further adding to the charm of this story.  Five of the visuals cover two pages to enhance emotional impact.  Attention to detail had me laughing out loud and sighing in understanding; the chase scene with the squirrel, Boot and Shoe looking in every little corner for the other, sitting in the cold rain waiting and sharing the same blue pillow when sleeping, not to mention seeing the squirrel sitting on the roof's edge, watching the two as they go inside.

I've lost count how many times I've read Boot & Shoe written and illustrated by Marla Frazee.  When an author/illustrator captures the essence of two perfectly paired pooches plus one scampy squirrel hilarity is bound to be present...and it is.  It's easy to love this duo identical in every way except for their paws.  Expect multiple requests for read alouds.

If you follow the link embedded in the title above you can see several more illustrations from the book at the publisher's website.


  1. I love the cover of this one. Glad to know what's inside is just as good!

  2. It's loads of fun. Marla Frazee has a knack for getting to the heart of her characters and giving readers a good sense of place. Thanks for stopping by today.