Quote of the Month

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Printed Pal

Twice a year there is an overabundance of warm brown dog hair everywhere.  Morning, noon, night and then again late, walks and bathroom breaks are taken outside regardless of the heat, humidity, rain, wind, sleet, snow and bitter cold.  Diet changes, new medications, weekly vet visits and a much slower pace are now routine.  Every second of this is worth moments like now as my chocolate Labrador of almost fourteen years lies across my feet gently snoring.

There are others though who would not be comfortable having a dog choose them.  As a matter of fact, they prefer a pet rich and rare; unique only to them.  Bob Staake's My Pet Book (Random House Books for Young Readers, July 8, 2014) is about such a boy.

Most pets, you know, are cats and dogs.
Go out and take a look.
But there's a boy in Smartytown
Whose pet is...a little book.  

This boy wants a pet with no care.  Mom makes a suggestion and Dad agrees.  It's off for a walk; a chance to explore in a nearby store.  Ceiling to floor, shelves filled left to right and stacks galore, the choices are many.

As is so often the case, this pet presents itself with an outstanding characteristic meant for the eyes of only one.  Now begins the fun.  With a book there is no eating, drinking, playing or ...poop.  With the leash attached, this companion quietly saunters without a single solitary sound.

Least you think this boy bonding with a book is a tad boring, take another look.  Adventures of all sizes and sorts within his mind unfold, stories are told, as the covers open.  A friendship fast and forever is formed until one fateful day.

Arriving home from school, his buddy is missing.  Yikes!  It seems the maid has been a bit over zealous in her cleaning and organizing.  There's not a minute to waste as they speed toward the city center.  They look.  And they look some more.  Is the boy's pet book not in this store?  An extraordinary maid asks an extraordinary boy a question.  The answer is positively ordinary in the most wonderful way.

When a goldfish swims in a pond, a turtle plods over a log, a cat paces across the floor or a dog sniffs and patrols, there is a rhythm.  Silently or aloud, the rhyming words penned by Bob Staake in this title do that very thing.  This pet may be a book but the movements with the boy mesh magically.  There is a distinct pace to each portion of the narrative encouraging reader participation.

When I opened up the dust jacket I smiled and sighed; the red cover is certainly eye-catching.  Bob Staake's digitally created illustrations with the signature body shapes and facial expressions are whimsically charming.  The boy with his pet book glow in pure happiness.  The book case is plain red except for the darling duo alone on the front.  It's as if they are in their own little world.  The opening and closing endpapers, done in a series of diamond frames, highlight the boy with his pet enjoying sixteen different activities from kite flying, to surfing, juggling and more.

Bright and lively, two page and single page spreads cheerfully engage every reader.  Every time I look through the pages I notice another detail; signs reading Curb Your Frog or Breed Limit 35, all the activities between pets and their people, and the colorful faces with a vast array of expressions.  As odd as a pet book may seem, as the story visually progresses, you find it perfectly normal when the final page is turned.

One of my favorite illustrations is when the boy and his new printed pal are first walking home along the street.  Staake has included a potpourri of other people and pets sure to induce gales of laughter along with the strange looks given to the boy, his parents and the book.  Each element has its own set of sights and sounds.  Delightful!

Can you imagine the looks on your children's faces if you were to walk in a room with a book on a leash?  That's exactly what I would do to begin the reading of My Pet Book written and illustrated by Bob Staake.  It's a joyful ode to the friendship found with a pet or a book or both.

To discover more of the books written by Bob Staake or more about him and his work, follow the link to his website embedded in his name.  In addition to the activity sheet found at Watch. Connect. Read. when John Schumacher, teacher librarian extraordinaire, interviewed Bob Staake about this new title, you can follow these links to one of the publisher websites for a maze and letterhead.  By following this link you can view interior pages from this title.

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