Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Minds Of Their Own

Most humans living with a dog or even those who are strictly observers of canine behavior can attest to the fact dogs will be dogs.  We believe due to their loyalty, training and age we can predict how they will respond in a given situation and we will usually be correct.  With that being said, there will be times when their instinctive nature rules the moment.  We will be frustrated and embarrassed but also thankful.  It is with deep gratitude we recognize their sense of protection for members of their pack.  Truthfully at the end of the day, dogs really are our best friends.

There is a recent title depicting this contrast between how we want dogs to act and how they realistically react.  Walk Your Dog (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, June 5, 2018) written by debut author Elizabeth Stevens Omlor with pictures by Neesha Hudson is certain to have readers nodding in agreement between bouts of laughter. It's through their nature with these instances of unpredictability we connect with them for life.

Twelve three-word sentences with an array of verbs take readers on a lively adventure with a girl and her pooch pal.  Rarely will there be a morning when you wake up before your dog, their nose nuzzling you.  It's time to begin the day.

Greet your dog.

As you wander into the bathroom and make yourself presentable, your furry friend needs equal attention.  Breakfast might not go as planned.  Food tends to be continuously on their minds even after they've gulped down every morsel in their doggy dish.  While they may tolerate dress-up, they prefer as little as possible for attire.  A collar is enough.

As you start your stroll a cat lounging on a low tree branch changes everything.  It's a race and a chase.  Now covered in mud from head to toe after capturing your dog, it's an appropriate situation for a lesson.  Maybe you both learned something new about each other.  This means it's time for a treat.

Homeward bound after all the excitement a sudsy dip in the kiddie pool leaves you both squeaky clean.  Now it's important to surround you and your dog with calm.  As the shadows get longer and dusk moves the sunset aside there is only one thing left to do.  Dogs do this best . . . unconditionally.

These concise sentences beginning with verbs were carefully written by Elizabeth Stevens Omlor.  Depending on the reader, they are a reflection of a day, a guide to caring for your canine companion or a collection of funnier than funny scenarios or all three. They are tied together with intention and the twists and turns life gives us.  They create a cadence with an emotional core.  And they are an invitation to fashion your own stories.

There will be days when, as a human living with a dog, you wonder who is walking who as you speed down a particular path.  The opened dust jacket, especially on the front, conveys this exact situation.  Notice the glee on the dog's face.  Notice the surprised expression on the little girl.  You just know there's laughter inside this book.  To the left, on the back, a darker shade of sky blue provides a background for one of the comedic interior images.

On the book case the back illustration is identical but the front continues the action seen on the dust jacket. The dog has pulled the leash out of the girl's hand.  It's running right off the right side.

Readers will be flipping back and forth between the opening and closing endpapers to notice the subtle differences.  The images are done in two tones on both but the colors are not the same.  They reflect before and after scenes.  Illustrator Neesha Hudson uses every bit of space to tell her visual story beginning on the verso and title pages.  We see a rumpled, empty dog bed on the left and on the right a happy-go-lucky dog eager to wake the sleeping little girl.

Rendered in watercolor and colored pencil the pictures are a study in delight.  From the first two-page illustration we are well aware of the shared affection between the child and her dog.  Whether the pictures span two pages, a single page or are grouped on a single page, they flow together seamlessly.

Neesha Hudson includes a variety of elements in each visual to indicate how marvelously real this relationship is.  The facial expressions on the little girl and the dog mirror their moods; laughter, tenderness, hunger, disgust, more laughter, more disgust (this time on the part of the dog) and eagerness.  You'll love that wagging tail.

One of my many favorite illustrations is for the sentence:

Treat your dog.

Spreading across two pages is a particular portion of the park.  On the left an ice cream vendor stands beneath his red-and-white tented cart.  A squirrel is clinging to a nearby tree.  On the right a park bench provides seating for the girl and her dog, both covered in mud.  She is holding two ice cream cones, one for her and one for the dog which he is enthusiastically licking.  Melted ice cream puddles on the ground.  The cat is sipping it.  Bluebirds peck for food in front of them.  In this illustration (in all of them) Neesha gives darker colors to those elements in which she wants us to focus.

Most, if not all, humans selected by dogs to share their lives will agree with everything presented in Walk Your Dog written by Elizabeth Stevens Omlor with pictures by Neesha Hudson.  With their collaboration these women have given us a silver lining in every aspect of this duo's day.  This is a must have for dog lover's and for anyone who enjoys laughing.  Mulan gives this four paws up.

To learn more about Elizabeth Stevens Omlor and Neesha Hudson and their work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  By following this link you can read an origins blog post written by Elizabeth.  Neesha has extra interior art from this book on her site.  Both Elizabeth and Neesha have Instagram accounts.  Neesha has multiple boards on Pinterest.  They have Twitter accounts here and here.  You can get a sneak peek at a portion of the opening endpapers at the publisher's website.

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