Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Blue Ribbon Bedlam

Within the last thirty days my wonderful four-footed furry friend and I have traveled from Michigan to Montana and back and then out to Montana to our new home.  During these trips one thing has been abundantly clear; people with dogs enjoy the ride with more leisure.  Rest areas and places of interest are evidence of frequent pauses and longer periods of rest.  Our canine companions' needs are telling us to slow down, stop and smell the scent of a gazillion dogs.

Another observation and lesson humans sometimes fail to learn is the spontaneity of dog behavior.   We may think we know how they will act in any given situation but they can and will continue to surprise us.  Maybe this is why each of us embraces the unique personalities of our beloved pals.

Those lovable characters introduced to readers in How to Behave at a Tea Party, Julia, Charles, Rexie, the frog and the brothers McKagan, have returned in How to Behave at a Dog Show (Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, September 15, 2015).  Author Madelyn Rosenberg and illustrator Heather Ross collaborate to highlight the lighter side of sharing a life with a dog.  To be the best depends on those giving meaning to the word.

First, you fill out the form:

Julia is happily completing all portions of the Happy Tails Kennel Club, Sixteenth Annual Best of Breed Dog Show official entry with the exception of the breed blank.  Locating the dog for beautification is a must.  As she and Charles ready the bath, Rexie quickly slips away with the stealth of a ninja.  Making sure the soap is actually soap is equally important.

As a dog handler classic attire is essential.  Once the dog is located yet again, digging, playing fetch and making friends with a skunk are to be avoided at all costs.  A speedy arrival is now at the top of the agenda.  Grooming before presentation is better without the skills of a pesky brother and his rascal neighborhood friends.

Ignoring the remarks and the plugged noses of the judges, interpretations of commands, the love-at-first-sight antics of contestants, and a runaway shoe thief are easier said than done.  YIKES! Rexie is on the move.  Charles, the McKagan brothers, the frog, a bicycle, a skateboard and a seesaw are not a good combination.  Did I forget to mention the dog show is sponsored by Sloppy Kisses Dog Food?  To showcase their product a pyramid of cans is holding the golden cup for first prize.  This will probably not end as planned.

True to her stalwart spirit Julia rallies the group, Rexie, Charlie, the frog and the McKagan brothers, as they head for home.  She, of course, has a plan.  It's a spectacular, unprecedented happening accentuating talents with attention given to every last detail...even if it lasts until the stars fill the sky.

Using her gift of infusing humor in a narrative, Madelyn Rosenberg gives us laughter with each page turn.  Masterfully mixing what should be with what actually is we are willing participants in every merry moment.  Her lively characters and the hilarious situations in which they find themselves are utterly believable.  She is most definitely in tune with children, brothers and sisters and of course, dogs.  Here is a sample passage.

That's not soap, Charles!

Sigh.  You must hope the judge thinks
Rexie is a Bluetick Coonhound.

Rendered digitally the fun found in the illustrations by Heather Ross begins with the dust jacket.  Bright colors mirror the animated characters and their antics.  You know, without a doubt, prim and proper Julia is in for a challenge thanks to Charles, Rexie and the frog.  Their looks mirror pure mischief.

On the back, to the left, an interior visual gives a hint as to judges' true feelings about Julia and her dog.  The title page foreshadows the ending as the verso begins the interpretation of the narrative.  From the beginning Julia and Rexie already have entirely disparate ideas about a dog show.

A series of vignettes, single page images and double-page pictures proclaim with clarity the contrast between Julia's point of view and what readers see happening.  Fine lines replete with details depict the sheer laugh-out-loud scenes; Julia and Charles wearing goggles to bathe Rexie, a trail of blue leading to the escaped Rexie, the tiny eyes peering from the darkened tree hollow, and the flies buzzing around Rexie.  The facial expressions on all the characters, primary and secondary, are marvelous.  Careful readers will eagerly look for the frog's role in this rollicking romp.

One of my favorite illustrations of many is a single page image at the start of the story.  Julia and Charles are ready to wash Rexie but he has run away... again...out the window.  The screen is torn into a dog shaped hole and the curtains are hanging in disarray from a broken rod.  The goggle-wearing duo is standing next to the tub with water spilled all over the floor.  The frog is peering out over the side of the tub.

If laughter is what you are after, How to Behave at a Dog Show written by Madelyn Rosenberg with illustrations by Heather Ross is the title for you.  Readers learn as do Julia and company, there are all kinds of best.  Sometimes what others might not consider best is what makes an individual extraordinary and lovable.  Going with the flow, enjoying what you have, is the true key to happiness.  I certainly hope Rosenberg and Ross have another adventure starring these characters in the works.

To learn more about Madelyn Rosenberg and Heather Ross please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites. Madelyn Rosenberg has developed an activity for Hosting Your Own Pet Show for Teachers and Librarians.  She has also started a Tumblr for posting pet pictures and stating their best something.  32Zoo interviewed Madelyn Rosenberg about this title and her other new book.  Enjoy the book trailer.  (Can you find Xena?)


  1. Thanks so much for this lovely, thoughtful post! I always love your word play. And I think it's safe to say that everyone loves your four-legged companion!!

    1. You are welcome Madelyn. I have fallen in love with these characters and their escapades. I think it's all the love that is keeping my sweet Xena going. She is one amazing dog.