Quote of the Month

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

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Appetite For Anything And Everything

Most people who have been chosen by canine companions can attest to quickly learning to keep their pals close at all times.  Otherwise you and your friend might be taking a tomato juice bath after a close encounter with a skunk or making an emergency visit to the vet to remove porcupine quills looking like acupuncture gone wrong.  It's important to observe leash laws at all times to protect our dogs from vehicles, other dogs and a multitude of other potential problems their noses might lead them into within seconds.

I am here to warn all humans who love their furry friends to beware of a heretofore unheard of hazard.  This book just ate my dog! (Henry Holt and Company, September 30, 2014) written and illustrated by Richard Byrne reveals the consequences of getting too close to a badly behaved book.  You will need to keep a wary eye on those stacks and shelves in book shops, libraries and even in your own home.

Bella was taking her dog for a stroll across the page when...

Wait a minute!  You have got to be kidding me!  Bella's dog has all but disappeared into the gutter of this book.  Yes, I am talking about the very book I am holding in my hands right this minute.

Now all that's left is a very taunt leash Bella is struggling to hold.  Balloon-holding Ben comes meandering down the page.  Bella shouts out the horrible news.  One curious boy has vanished.  This can't be good.

To Bella's delight in the nick of time the dog rescue truck roars into view...and then it disappears too.  It happens again and again.  No one, nothing, is safe near this book.  Stella decides to take matters into her own hands.  Now what? I am holding a book void of characters and objects that has just burst forth with the most revolting noise.

Incredulous to say the least, I am further surprised when an envelope pops out of the center.  It's a written request from Bella asking me to perform a specific task over and over and over and over and once more.  I would like to report everything is currently perfectly perfect, but I can't.

I'll wager there's not a single school librarian who has not received a book returned after it's been partially consumed by a family dog.  Using a minimal amount of text, Richard Byrne completely switches this scenario with hilarious results. His use of words creates an appropriate atmosphere;

very odd

There is a back and forth rhythm put into place.  Initially it cautiously invites readers to participate.  A single sentence or portions of a sentence (with the exception of the note) are the only text on a page supplying flawless pacing.  It leads them to the wholly unexpected burst-out-laughing ending.

Removing the dust jacket and lifting the flaps, readers are treated to an illustration spanning left to right across the back and front.  A very surprised Bella is leading her dog.  On the back we read:

Nice reader
to show this
naughty book
who's boss.
Please help! 

The flap on the left shows a smaller version of Bella.  On the right we see the rear section, tail and two legs, of her dog.  Beneath the jacket, the book case in the corresponding vivid turquoise blue has a single sentence printed repeatedly,

I promise not to be a naughty book

Opening and closing endpapers feature outlines, white on pale blue, of the emergency vehicles.  They are identical with a glaring exception which I will not reveal.  The verso and title page picture begins the story with the sleeping dog being called for a walk.

Straight wide brush strokes in gray and tan are a backdrop for the full color portrayals of the characters and trucks.  Red is used for the text, leash, and as a major color or accent on the other elements.  The smallest lines for eyes, noses and mouths serve to feature contentment, shock, fear, good cheer, bewilderment, joy, anger, surprise and relief.  Careful readers will notice all the tiny details.

One of my favorite illustrations is the first one when the narrative begins.  Bella and her dog walking along the page are carefree and enjoying this activity together.  The dog's tail is wagging in pure pleasure.  This picture serves to introduce readers to the two main characters and sets the stage for the surprising contrasts ahead.

You can't read this title, This book just ate my dog!, written and illustrated by Richard Byrne without smiling the entire time, page after page.  I know with certainty when the last double-page illustration comes into view readers and listeners alike are going to roar with laughter.  The dog knows.  You know.  But Bella is blissfully unaware.  I recommend getting multiple copies.  Plan on a chorus of read it again when the cover is closed.

To visit Richard Byrne's official website please follow the link embedded in his name.  If you are like me, after reading this title I know I need to read more of his work.  Here is a link to a single page activity provided by the publisher.

Macmillan Children's Publishing Group has graciously agreed to give away a copy of this book to one lucky winner.  Please complete the form below.  Good luck!

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