Quote of the Month

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Confident Canine

It's like learning a new dance when a dog and their human meet.  The steps have yet to be choreographed. Each is vying for leader of the pack status.  For the safety and well-being of the canine it's best for the human to remain top dog but they need to be wise enough to understand the signals their friend is giving at all times. A dog's senses are far superior to ours.

Some dogs remain vigilant in their pursuit to be independent of any human requests.  I'm My Own Dog (Candlewick Press) written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein is about such a dog.  In fact it would be safe to say; this dog sees the human-canine relationship in a whole new light.

I'm my own dog.
Nobody owns me.
I own myself.

This dog works until he is bone-tired because he can.  At the end of the day no one brings him slippers for his weary feet.  He does it himself.  Waking or asleep this pup is in complete control.

He would never obey any common canine commands.  That would be downright undignified.  He tosses and catches like a professional baseball player.  There is nothing he can't or won't do to remain resolute in his beliefs.

One day though, there is an itch he cannot scratch.  It is driving him so crazy, he does the unthinkable.  He lets a man scratch that intolerable itch.

Would you believe it?  The man follows him home.  What's this dog going to do?  Given the circumstances, he has no choice.  Let the lessons begin.

With those first three sentences David Ezra Stein, in no uncertain terms, makes it clear this dog is definitely different. He slowly hooks his readers with examples of typical doggy activities with a twist.  This technique makes the second half of the story, the reversal, even funnier.  The final line of the narrative spoken in confidential tones, in all sincerity, couldn't be better.

Take a good look at the dog on the matching dust jacket and book case.  Doesn't he radiate self-assurance?  Look at his stance.  Look at the expression on his face.  On the back we read,

Nobody owns me.
I own myself.

Above this a smaller circular image of the dog gleefully running with a stick in his mouth is framed by a red background with light golden brush strokes.  On the opening and closing endpapers the pattern from the rug within the book is displayed in two shades of the same color.

Hues of green, blue and yellow provide a glowing background or frame for elements in many of the pictures.  In others white space is used to place focus on the dog and his activities.  David Ezra Stein created these visuals by using

pen as well as a kids' marker hacked to dispense India ink 

for the line work.

This was

photocopied onto watercolor paper.  The painting was done in liquid watercolor, with a hint of crayon on the dog's muzzle.

The illustrations, like the dog, have attitude, warmth and humor.  Stein uses various sizes, double page spreads, single pages edge to edge, single page or smaller pictures set on a white background, to dictate the speed in which we read.  One of my favorite illustrations spans two pages.  It brings us close to the dog and the man when they first meet.  A happy dog is receiving relief as the man scratches his back.  It signals a shift in the tale.

If you've ever wondered what a dog or your dog might be thinking, this book is for you.  I'm My Own Dog written and illustrated by David Ezra Stein is a comic look at one confident canine that walks, runs, digs and fetches the talk.  I imagine this will spark conversations about other pooch pal and person behaviors.  This will be a wonderful addition to those story times on dogs, pets or humor.  I can hear that dog talking now.

Please take the time to visit David Ezra Stein's website by following the link embedded in his name. He has a separate page for videos about all his books.  Follow this link to a short author's note about the inspiration for this title.  This book is one of four featured by the publisher in a story-hour kit.

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