Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

How Do They Know?

Any belief I may have harbored about comprehending any dog's, my dog's, keen sense of smell, hearing, sight and the innate ability to determine the needs of humans no longer exists.  Personal experience has taught me their skills at living life best far exceed mine now or in the future.  When you stop to consider their life span at its best is one-fifth (or one-sixth if we're lucky) of ours, their accomplishments are incredible.

How is it they are in a heartbeat able to discern friend or foe?  How is it they can sense a person's mood without a single conversational exchange? Kathi Appelt, Newbery Honor-winning author of The Underneath and illustrator Marc Rosenthal, I Must Have Bobo!, I'll Save You Bobo! and Bobo the Sailor Man!, combine their significant talents in a newly released title, Mogie: The Heart of the House (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division).  Prepare to be filled with pure joyful love.

Right smack in the heart of the Big City
is a very special house.

This house is home to many families offering them comfort in style and furnishings, a library filled with books, a very large kitchen, an inside tree house and a gigantic fireplace.  All the families, who call this place theirs, come with their children; children from every corner of the world.  Once a boy named Gage came there.  This boy who people said

"He's got mojo!

is too sick to do the things he loves, to do the things that make him who he is.

Like most homes, this very special house has rules.  One guideline, to be noted above all others and of importance to this story, is

No puppies!

With that being said, let's go to another remarkable house.  In this comfy residence there are not one but ten puppies. Some are meant to be service dogs.  Others are to be trained for Search-and-Rescue.  Four are destined to be paraded in shows.  One...and you know who I mean...Mogie is all play and no work.

This pup has a mind of his own.  You know what he does?  He walks into the

very special house right smack in the heart of the Big City.

Everything and everyone in that home means nothing to him but Gage.  It is like the two are tied together with unbreakable string.

Mogie tries all his doggie tricks to lift Gage's spirits but he realizes what Gage really needs.  The two can be seen sitting side by side looking outside the window.  For Gage's eyes only Mogie's antics one day stir memories of a healthy boy with mojo.  

You won't believe who gets better.  You won't believe who gets to stay at the very special house with the No puppies! rule.  You won't believe who still looks outside the window but is now tied with unbreakable string to sweet Antonia whose cha-cha-cha is missing.  I'm here to tell you to believe because all this is the truth.  You can bet your sweet paws on it.

The next best thing to being there is having Kathi Appelt tell the tale. Her word combinations are like hot chocolate with marshmallows, a cozy blanket on a cold night and snuggling with your favorite stuffed animal; soothing, smooth and comforting.  Expertly weaving a spell with her storyteller's gift she creates a sense of place and purpose in her characters.  Using language like a composer she fashions rhythmic melodies sometimes repeating a cadence to further bind readers to her story.  Here is a single excerpt.

Give Gage a tune and he'd make up silly rhymes for it.
Give Gage a windy day and he'd fly a kite. Give Gage a beach
and he'd build a sand castle that scraped the sky.

Upon opening the matching dust jacket and book case readers are greeted with Marc Rosenthal's uplifting, charming picture of Mogie in front of the very special house with sick children on either side of him.  The cooler colors in the background blend beautifully with the bright red of the title, Mogie's collar and the fuzzy warmth of Mogie's coat.  On the back readers are treated to a real life portrait of Mogie, spirited pooch living at the Ronald McDonald House Houston.  Opening and closing endpapers in shades of blue feature a pattern of miniature Mogie in various poses.

Rendered in pencil, charcoal and digitally the illustrations wrap around the text, enhance the narrative with single and double page pictures, and depict a range of emotions.  The selection of colors lends itself to a natural feel for each portrayal.  You want to reach out and touch them; they are full of life.

One of my favorite visuals is of Mogie dreaming, lying on his back, four paws in the air. (This is a sure sign of contentment.)  He sees himself running alongside a healthy Gage.  This particular page follows Gage lying in bed remembering himself as a boy who liked to throw balls, do back flips and build skyscraper sand castles.

If you want a heartwarming title based upon a true story, look no further than Mogie: The Heart of the House written by Kathi Appelt with illustrations by Marc Rosenthal.  Destined to be a favorite, Mogie and his role at the Ronald McDonald House Houston will be a story requested over and over as a read aloud anytime, anywhere. The last line of the book says it all.

Who wouldn't love a dog like that?

An author's note at the back explains how Kathi Appelt met Mogie and the book evolved.  Don't forget to follow the links to the author's and illustrator's websites by following those embedded in their names.  Here is a link to an article about Kathi Appelt and Mogie in the LaunchPad.  This link to the publisher's website contains four short video interviews with Kathi Appelt.

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