The mere mention of this word to a dog not responding to a request of "come" outdoors or whispered two rooms away will have them appearing as if by magic. In a companion title to her Ball, 2014 Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor Award winner, author illustrator Mary Sullivan give us Treat (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, March 1, 2016). It's a huge helping of hilarity served with a single word.
The canine in question is slumbering when a faint odor comes drifting through a doorway. In a flash the dog is flying through the house to the source. A small, seated toddler is munching on Cheerios-like snacks spread on a pint-sized table also occupied by her toy shark.
Paw imploringly raised, with the little girl continuing to eat as she repeats the word treat, the poor pooch resorts to an array of tricks, ever hopeful. When the last morsel is consumed, a dejected soul vows to be more like the child's toy, on the prowl for food. To the creature's dismay the second girl gobbles up a hot dog without so much as a tidbit being shared.
Tail wagging, chin resting on another table, the dog appeals to the brother. He, in turn, proudly displays his latest drawing efforts but there is no treat. A napping grandmother, teeth in a glass jar, though initially looking good is most definitely not part of any food group. Grandpa is no help whatsoever. When a milk bottle in the Baby's crib is looking like an opportunity for the taking, a single spoken word grabs the dog's attention. UGH! Fooled again!
An exhausted pup slumps back to bed quickly falling asleep. Dreams spin in a kaleidoscope of snacks, cupcakes, hot dogs and bizarre scenarios with a superhero emerging. As they twist toward the more frightful kind of visions, a single word is heard. TREAT!
Savvy observer of dog behavior Mary Sullivan has crafted a carefully paced story with the repeated use of treat. Her punctuation places attention at all the essential moments in this dog's pursuit of gourmet goodness and his/her emotional state of mind. (Not to mention a growing appetite needing to be satisfied...) With the word being spoken by the children and characters in the dog's dreams, the tension in the story is increased. The humor escalates building toward the conclusion and one supremely happy pup.
Whether you have been fortunate to share your life with a dog or not, you have to admit the front of the dust jacket wholly depicts the quivering anticipation any dog feels at the prospect of a treat; the eyes, the arms, the tail and the carefully placed biscuit tell a tale. To the left, on the back, of the opened dust jacket Mary Sullivan has placed four possible dream images, the dog as a chef, a prisoner, a cowboy and a surprised home owner. The dog riding a large hot dog as if it's a horse is sure to induce laughter.
Beneath the jacket the book case is a collage of comedy; rendered in pale brown on cream with spots of green. The dog and various other characters are delirious with their desire for treats. This book case is listed in the new The Undies book award initiated by teacher librarian Travis Jonker (100 Scope Notes) and teacher librarian Carter Higgins (Design of the Picture Book). The opening and closing endpapers are a pattern of white and brown holey treats with biscuits on the lighter green background.
Rendered in pencil, scanned and digitally colored the illustrations are laid out in a series of frames similar to a graphic novel. The speech/thought balloons are altered in size and shape to fit the current emotional stage of the story. The font size and style works in tandem within the balloons. For most of the pictures a limited color palette is supplied . On the dream pages a larger array of shades are found; bolder and spanning one and two pages. The looks on the dog's face and the body postures are priceless.
One of my favorite illustrations is the first one in the book. Tucked in a corner is an adorable dog bed; a wagon shape with flowered wheels and a green and white polka-dotted plush pillow on top. Our canine character is comfortably resting; he/she with their back to us, ears alert. In a dream cloud an ice cream cone is pictured. From the right, from another room, an odor glides into the room on a current of air.
Written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan Treat is a gleeful glimpse into the mind of a dog longing for a tasty tidbit. Impeccable layout and design contribute to the marvelous ebb and flow of the story. This is a real standout read aloud.
To learn more about Mary Sullivan and her other books, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website. Mary Sullivan was interviewed about this book on Storybook Spotlight, SSP73. Between the announcement of the Geisel Honor Award and this title Mary Sullivan was a guest on Kidlit 411.