Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Commanding Performance

It's no secret that communicating with canines can be challenging until several things start to happen.  Humans need to understand how dogs sense the world.  Dogs need to convey their comprehension of their observations.  We can watch their body language, listen to the volume and kind of bark and their response to our verbal language.  It's a balance forging a lasting bond.

Two years ago almost to a day readers met Bella, Ben and Bella's dog in This book just ate my dog! written and illustrated by Richard Byrne.  The book in question has a very distinct behavior problem not entirely solved by the final page.  A companion title, We're in the wrong book!, followed a year later.  Bella and Ben are enjoying jumping from one page to the next, when Bella's dog bumps them into another book.  The duo can't seem to find their way back to the correct title until an unusual encounter in a very, scary book.   This book is out of control! (Henry Holt and Company, October 4, 2016) is the final title in the trilogy.  Bella's dog is responding to commands out of his usual sensory expertise.

Bella was at home when 
someone on the other page
knocked at the door.
It was Ben.
He had a new toy to show Bella.

Ben's new toy fire truck was operated by remote control.  After Bella stepped outside closing the door, Ben pressed the UP button.  The ladder on the truck was supposed to go up.  It did not.  Nothing happened at all. Or did it?

On the opposite page inside the house, Bella's dog was rudely awakened when he and his dog dish were lifted into the air.  Ben decided to try another button, SPIN.  The results of this choice had Bella's dog looking like he was being tumbled in a dryer at an extreme speed.  To Ben and Bella it appeared the remote was still not working.

It wasn't until a fourth button was pushed the duo made the connection.  The remote was operating Bella's dog not the toy truck. You could say that Bella's dog was giving voice to the current predicament.  

Of the ten buttons on the remote Ben decided to try a fifth button as Bella's dog was stuck...on the ceiling.  YIKES!  That most definitely was not the answer to the current crisis.  Bella made an appeal.  Ben made an appeal.  Each attempt made the dilemma go from crazy to absolutely wacky.  It seemed the characters were doomed.  When out of the mess a voice of reason made a request.  If you want normalcy, it all depended on who held the remote.

Simple, straightforward sentences may seem to be stating the obvious but they are appropriately charged with possibilities.  This is how Richard Byrne builds anticipation.  It also allows for the contrast in the likely results and the actual outcomes to begin.  What you expect is not what you get!

The mix of narrative, dialogue and the visual of the remote control with the ten labeled buttons move the action along at a rapid pace.  Readers can't wait to see what will happen next. When they are invited to participate hilarity heightens.  

One of the first things readers are sure to notice on the opened dust jacket is that Bella on the left, the back, and Ben on the front are standing upside down at the top of the illustration.  The rather surprised expressions on their faces are a prelude to the events within the book.  On the back the text reads:

This book 
is having an
It's UP to you to
calm things DOWN.

The book case is a duplicate of the jacket without any text.  A bright spring green and white are used on the opening and closing endpapers.  The illustration is designed to replicate a board game which will be easily recognized.  Each of the squares is numbered with Ben's home at one end and Bella's home at the other end. There is a noticeable difference in the two endpapers.  

Byrne begins to tell the story with his first illustration spanning the verso and title pages. Ben is walking down Bella's Street carrying the box with his new toy fire truck. Each image in the book spans page edge to page edge.  They are designed so the door to Bella's home falls in the gutter.  In this way the reader is looking inside her home and outside her home at the same time.

Splashes of red, the dog's collar and water dish, the top of Bella's hat and her shoes, the fire truck and remote control and the text, pop in contrast to Bella's dog inside her home and the street scene with Bella and Ben.  Careful readers will be rewarded by noticing tiny details; the leaking fire hydrant, the glass bottles outside Bella's home with a note tucked in one, and Bella's dog opening one eye after the door is slammed.  This is preparation for the comedy to come.

One of my favorite illustrations is when Bella and Ben discover her dog is talking after Ben pushes the VOICE button.  The dog, hanging from the ceiling, is opening the door with a free paw uttering the title text along with a cry of help.  In this particular picture Byrne has the speech bubble in red with white lettering.  The looks on Bella's and Ben's faces are of total disbelief.  The remote control, it should be noted, is the same size as the truck.  

This book is out of control! written and illustrated by Richard Byrne is as humorous as the two previous titles.  It surely will produce numerous laugh-out-loud moments as readers try to help the characters.  Not only does it invite participation during the reading of the book but it opens the door to other activities, creative drama and "what-if" writing related to the pushing of buttons on a remote control. 

To learn more about Richard Byrne and his other work please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  You can view four interior illustrations at the publisher's website.  


  1. This looks like a cute one! Just put it on my request list :)

    1. I read all three books to a class of third grade students yesterday and they howled with laughter.