When you have a dog there are several blocks of time in your day delegated to taking walks. The difference in these blocks of time depends on the age of the dog. When they are younger greater distances are covered in a shorter amount of time. As they age twice as many minutes are given to one-sixth of the distance. These slower walks with lots of stops and starts allow for the best kind of observations of your surroundings. The simplest thing which captures your attention can lead to wonderful flights of the imagination.
As far as I'm concerned the value of daydreaming is without question. It's the key to some of my best ideas. It's the reason I've seen wonderful artwork and writing done by students. If You Were a Dog (Farrar Straus Giroux, September 30, 2014) written by Jamie A. Swenson with pictures by Chris Raschka gives our minds permission to pretend.
If you were a dog, would you be speedy-quick,
Readers get to place themselves within the characteristics of seven animals in the course of two questions asked of them. For those who have canine companions or have taken the time to observe them, the other descriptions in the initial inquiry will bring smiles and knowing nods of recognition. The next sentence wonders if you would do what dogs might do.
Cat fur, tongues, delectable meals, and day-to-day work and play follow with their duly-noted behavior toward the aforementioned dogs. We bear witness to the fun and frolic of fresh water or ocean-going fish. Little birds and big birds feeding, flying and watching lift us to new heights.
We can almost feel ourselves growing smaller as we become a butterfly, caterpillar, bee, grasshopper or cricket chirping out a familiar melody. Quickly our hearts beat faster as we spring into action above and below the water as frogs. Then we get to stretch our thoughts back into time as we roam, romp and roar the lands as a mighty dinosaur.
Even if it's only for the moments within the pages of this book, we understand the opportunity handed to us to be more than ourselves. As humans, kids or kids at heart, can we do all those things these animals can do? Or can we do a little bit more?
On her website Jamie A. Swenson tells the story of her inspiration for this book; one of the visitors to her library many years ago planted the seed that would not stop growing. Through her selection of spirited words she not only understands each of the animals presented but she knows her audience. With little stretch of YOUR imagination you can picture the amount of fun she must have had creating the text for this title. Each of the phrases mirrors the definitive characteristics and actions of the animals. Each section closes with the same sentence summoning listeners to participate. Here are a couple more portions of passages.
If you were a bird,
would you be a
Would you spring and zing
and hop all day?
BOING, BOING, RIBBET!
Some frogs do.
Using cooler colors as a backdrop with splashes of warmth Chris Raschka extends a hand through his illustrations on the matching dust jacket and book case, asking readers to open the book. There is an uplifting sincerity which permeates his work here and in all the images in this title. Smaller visuals have been placed on the jacket flaps and above the dedications. The dog on the front imagined by the child covers the title page in shades of warm brown with outlines in the same blue as seen on the jacket. The plain red orange color on the opening and closing endpapers is used frequently within the interior. Everything flows together.
When the first question is set forth, each of the hyphenated descriptors is given its own loosely outlined space on a page expertly designed to direct our eyes from one to the other. The second inquiry and repetitive reply spreads across two pages supplying the closing beat to the text's tempo. The entire color palette inspires readers to dream.
One of my many favorite illustrations (besides the dogs, of course) is of the cricket. I'm not sure I've ever seen Raschka use this color combination in previous titles. It's a close up of a cricket on blades of grass at night. Loose musical notes are near it. Hues of brown, blue, golden yellow and peach create a marvelous atmosphere.
I know this book, If You Were a Dog written by Jamie A. Swenson with pictures by Chris Raschka, will be a story time favorite. I can already hear the howls, hisses, splashes, swooshes, chirps, ribbets, and stomps. You have to wonder what other animals readers and listeners will imitate. This would be a great title to use to invite audience participation, reader's theater or to spark drawing and writing adventures.
To discover more about Jamie A. Swenson please follow the link embedded in her name taking you to her website. Here are links to two interviews of her about this book, Elizabeth Caulfield Felt's Blog and The Storyteller's Inkpot. If you visit the publisher's website eight more images can be viewed. If you haven't watched these Reading Rockets videos about Chris Raschka, here's your chance to do so.