Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Positive Power Of A Pal

With storms like Juno and Linus dropping record amounts of snow in the Midwest, East and Northeast this winter and temperatures dipping daily into the negative numbers without the wind chill, words like cozy, cuddle and snuggle are being freely exchanged in conversations.  Personally I can think of no better companion for comfort in these cold winter months than a furry friend.  Thankful for being chosen by my chocolate Labrador Xena especially with her body temperature of over one hundred degrees and her rhythmic breathing when curled up next to me gives me the courage to say, "Bring it on winter.  We are good to go here in northern Michigan."

The value of dogs in our society as companions, for search and rescue, as modes of delivery and transportation and for use in therapy continues to grow.  We learn far more from them than they do from us.  Regardless, as we seek the perfect pal, over and over again they single us out as their forever friend.  In 2013 a family sought a puppy for their home.  One decided their son was the human for him.  Naptime for Theo & Beau (Feiwel and Friends, an imprint of Macmillan, February 3, 2015) written and illustrated by Jessica Shyba will spread a warmth throughout your body and soul from the top of your head to the tips of your toes.

Beau is sleepy.
Theo is sleepy.

When Beau, the little boy, and Theo, the little pup, start to get dozy, it's clear their internal clocks are saying it's naptime.  No more playing, romping or running.  It's time to sleep and sleep deeply.

Will their dreams be filled with fun?  I'll bet there is lots of laughing and barking.  Which position is the most satisfying?  As long as they are together it does not matter whether they are on their backs or bellies.

Skin to skin they breath out and in.  Their bodies aligned bind them.  One becomes the pillow for the other.

Total trust allows for this kind of companionable slumber; boy and pup moving in sync as they shift in sleep.  Nose to nose, hand to fur, and paw to body, nothing can separate these two.  This calm and quiet, between a boy and a dog, is measured in love.

Simple phrases, no more than four words each, define the experience shared by Theo and Beau.  Jessica Shyba frames her ideas so the youngest of readers can match the text with the illustrations.  A comparison, a naming of opposites, creates a peaceful pulse, like two heartbeats, page by page.  She brings the narrative full circle beginning with the introduction of Beau and Theo and concluding with words of love not spoken but seen.  Here are two short phrases.

Sleeping right-side up.
Or upside down.

In an article written for Huffington Post, How Theo And Beau's Naptime Love Story Changed Our Lives, Jessica Shyba explains how the first photograph of Theo and Beau was sent to her husband in a text message and then posted to Instagram.  This image and others quickly went viral. The picture seen on the cover, the close-up of Theo and Beau, is reversed on the back of the dust jacket showing them on their side and stomach respectively, farther away from the reader. (I am working from an F & G sent to me by friend, school librarian extraordinaire John Schumacher and blogger at Watch. Connect. Read.)  The opening and closing endpapers are a series of snapshots of Beau and Theo sleeping, framed in various colors overlapping one another.  The title page illustration extends across the gutter to the left.  The boy and his pup are sleeping on their backs as close together as they can get.

All of the photographs span across both pages, most of them zooming in on the faces of the dozing duo.  I know from experience how many pictures of sleeping people or dogs need to be taken to capture what Jessica Shyba presents to her readers.  She skillfully conveys the bliss of rest between two treasured friends.  The play of light and shadow, the variety of positions between the boy and the dog and the expressions on their faces are beautiful. Several times the looks are nearly identical.  I wonder if they were sharing a dream.

Picking a favorite image from this title is next to impossible for me.  The picture for the words

Cheek to cheek

is so sweet you feel as though you could melt from the sheer cuteness.  Beau is lying on his back, arms stretched out to his sides.  Theo's head is resting on Beau's cheek with his little puppy body stretched out perpendicular.  His one ear is flopped out on top of Beau's T-shirt.  Shyba chose to bring us close to the two.

I can already hear the sighs, ohs and ahs as this title is read to guys and gals no matter their age.  Naptime with Theo & Beau written and illustrated by Jessica Shyba is one of those books taking readers to an everyday pleasure in life which often gets overlooked but is meaningful.  It's hard to top the true grace of a sleeping child with their puppy friend.  I would plan on multiple copies of this little gem.  You could pair this title with SnoozeFEST by Samantha Berger with illustrations by Kristyna Litten,  Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown, or All The Awake Animals Are Almost Asleep by Crescent Dragonwagon with illustrations by David McPhail.

To learn more about Jessica Shyba please follow the link to her website, Momma's Gone City, attached to her name.  This link takes you to her Tumblr site to view additional images.  This link is to the publisher's website.  Eight portions of eight illustrations are shared. Enjoy the book trailer.

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