Quote of the Month

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

Friday, May 30, 2014

Footwear Fascination

There must be some kind of scientific explanation.  I may have even read it when I was consuming puppy and dog training books like chocolate when Xena first chose me.  The truth is dogs, especially puppies, like to chew.  They seem to have a preference for shoes.

To make it even more interesting (or frustrating depending on whether you are the chewer or owner of the chewed), they select the most expensive and favorite pair for their munching. Author Megan McDonald and illustrator Katherine Tillotson are back together again introducing readers to the one and only Shoe Dog (A Richard Jackson Book, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division).  This newly acquired canine companion is possessed with the need to nibble and gnaw.

Ooh, look at the puppy!
Who's a good boy?
You're so cute.  Yes, you are!

He perked up an ear at the kitchee-coo words.

The sound of that voice was like music to this homeless dog's heart.  How he longed to leave the shelter for the comfort of a real home.  How he longed to have a place to roam.  How he longed to feel the touch of a human hand giving tummy rubs and a human nose giving those special kisses.

Unfortunately he had absolutely no interest in the normal doggy treats and toys presented to him.  No, this little dog craved shoes.  Within the first twenty-four hours fifteen various items of footwear were reduced to pieces.

 His human was not happy.  His first night was spent not on but at the foot of the Big Bed.  The coveted signs of affection were not delivered.

He was simply delighted when a new box was brought home the next day and the day after that.  He could not resist the sound of the tissue paper, the lure of those new shoes.  No dog gate was going to contain him.  No set of stairs or Big Bed kept him from his goal.  There was also no sleeping on the Big Bed.  Night number three was on the cold floor downstairs.  Maybe Shoe Dog needed to readjust his behavior.

What's this?  It's his human with a big, big bag filled with three...yes three...new boxes.  Over the gate, up the stairs, under the Big Bed, on the Comfy Chair and into the Forest of Dresses he went.  Persistent explorer, shoe-sniffer extraordinaire that he was, this pup made a purr-fect discovery.

There are those books when silently read will fill the reader with the intended warmth.  There are those books with words when read aloud will sing off the pages.  There are those books which do both beautifully.  This is one of those books.

Megan McDonald has penned a romping, rollicking narrative without the use of rhyme.  Her precise pacing and repetition of words and phrases is masterful.  Knowing what Shoe Dog will do; how he will act will have you thinking she might be part dog or at the very least share her life with one.  Her descriptions of the woman's bed, furniture, second floor and parts in the home add to the overall attachment readers will have for Shoe Dog (and his woman).  Here is a sample passage.

The next day,
She came home with
a New Box.
Not a big box.
Not a little box.
A just-right box
with Noisy Paper inside.

Cuteness abounds with the same vigor as Shoe Dog in pursuit of his pleasing pastime from beginning to end and on all the pages in-between thanks to the crayon and charcoal digitally-combined illustrations of Katherine Tillotson.  I don't know about you but I want to hug the pup pictured on the matching dust jacket and book case.  Tillotson's free-flowing lines (on the back), arcing as he bounces from the box with the new shoe in his mouth, are guaranteed to bring on the grins.  Two shades of green in a scroll pattern cover the opening and closing endpapers.  They are identical to the quilt on the Big Bed.

Not a moment is wasted; Tillotson begins the story on the single title page showing a shoe store across the street from the animal shelter.  It continues with a large picture crossing the gutter from right to left including the verso as the woman walks into the shelter.  Ample use of white space gives her visuals the look of carefully designed collage.  Her line work showing Shoe Dog's body and motion is impeccable.

Choice of medium provides a strong sense of texture.  You want to touch the pages.  This with the altered perspectives encourages reader participation.  To tell you the truth, I like so many of these illustrations I simply can't pick a favorite this time.

Shoe Dog written by Megan McDonald with pictures by Katherine Tillotson is one of the best dog books of 2014; totally wooferlicious!  Every nuance of dogginess is perfectly portrayed with words and illustrations.  Without a doubt hand this book to dog lovers of all ages or to anyone who longs for a story that is better than best.

Be sure to follow the links embedded in Megan McDonald's and Katherine Tillotson's names above to access their websites.  This link to the publisher's site will give you a peek at several pages from the book.

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