People with puppy pals have first-hand experience in knowing the emotional ups and downs of their friends. Those people without this understanding might not be sure what to do in the presence of a dog; they're not sure how they feel or how the dog is feeling about them. On the other paw...hand... canines are particularly astute at reading people's emotions and responding accordingly to them.
When readers are first introduced to Henry's new puppy in Charley's First Night (Candlewick Press, 2012), it is impossible not to fall in love with Charley and Henry. As the boy's affection for his friend continues to grow, he can hardly wait to share his joy with others he loves. Author Amy Hest and illustrator Helen Oxenbury continue the story of the two in When Charley Met Grampa (Candlewick Press).
We got a dog. His name is Charley.
So begins the correspondence between Henry and his grandfather. Henry describes Charley and wants his grandfather to bring a big suitcase so he can stay for more than a short visit. Grampa replies with his arrival day at the train station and closes with his uncertainty about the dog.
On a snowy Sunday the duo leave the house to meet Grampa pulling a sled for his suitcase. Charley is happily leaping through the snow, tail up. Henry is pretty sure Charley knows the way to the depot.
To pass the time while waiting on the bench outside for Grampa, Henry talks to Charley about his grandfather's unique personality. Charley seems to wilt a little when Henry mentions Grampa does not know how to make friends with a dog. After what seems like forever the train's whistle is heard in the distance.
Before Henry and Charley know it, there's Grampa waving his hand as promised wearing his green cap. Introductions are made. The silence stretches. Charley smiles but Grampa does not.
Even though the snow is falling faster with a fierce wind blowing, Charley knows the way home. Whoosh! Oh no! There goes Grampa's cap. There goes Charley.
Charley and the cap have disappeared into the swirling whiteness. Frantic Henry and Grampa shout Charley's name over and over. Will the puppy's persistence prevail?
To begin by using the exchange of the two letters between Henry and Grampa, Amy Hest introduces readers to the loving relationship between the two as well as the visit to come. Blending Henry's narrative with his and Grampa's conversations with Charley makes us intimate observers in this day of their lives. Henry's interpretation of Charley's intentions lets us know how strong the bond is between this boy and his dog. Of note, as Charley's vanishes into the snow, Hest is especially skillful at increasing the tension we feel by quickly shifting her sentence structure. Here is a single example from the book.
Charley barked at the train for a while,
and when it was gone, he held his
head tall, which is code for Follow me,
gentlemen! I know the way home!
Helen Oxenbury treats readers to a double page spread across the jacket and cover, presenting the three characters, Charley, Henry and Grampa on their snowy walk from the train station with the village tucked in the background on the left. A different color, soft steel blue instead of a dusty brown, the opening and closing endpapers feature the same small, endearing caricatures of Charley in various poses as did the first book. All of the illustrations, including the title page and verso, are framed either in a warm light tan or a pale blue-gray with a narrower brown and white line on the inside next to the illustrations. The first four pages in the beginning and at the end are done in the tan.
Oxenbury has masterfully conveyed, using watercolor and pencil, all of Charley's puppy playfulness, Henry's love for both he and his grandfather and the wisdom that comes with age. Her details of the landscape, village and Henry's home, the clothing each is wearing (how it blows in the wind), and all the facial expressions are simply lovely. As she did in the first book, each text page, opposite the full-page pictures, includes a small picture of Charley. Although I adore all the illustrations in this book, the one of Henry and Charley sitting on the bench outside the train depot waiting for Grampa, snowflakes falling, is probably my favorite.
Whether you share this story one on one or with an entire group, when the final sentence is read and the final illustration is shown, I know there will be a collective silence before you are asked to read it again. When Charley Met Grampa written by Amy Hest with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury is as beautiful as the first title. This books has staying power, a timeless quality. I certainly hope the adventures of these two continue within the pages of many more books.
To learn more about author Amy Hest visit her website by following the link embedded in her name. Enjoy the video below where Helen Oxenbury speaks about her work.
Interestingly enough a study was released recently by Gregory Berns, professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University and author of How Dogs Love Us: A Neuroscientist and His Adopted Dog Decode the Canine Brain, demonstrating dog's emotional capacity along with their sensitivity to our emotions. (Here is a link to a great video included in a post today titled Do Animals Have Feelings Like Humans?)