Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Paws For A Friend

Even on your worst day ever or your best day ever, their appearance makes everything at least a little bit better.  Their acute senses can assess any situation.  It does not matter if they are by your side or the companion of another.  Their presence is a gift.  How we choose to accept this gift can alter our lives more than we can imagine.

Dogs tend to approach humans and other dogs in distinctly different ways, usually.  They do bring, as we do, past experiences to the encounter.  The initial results are often unpredictable.  More times than not the final effect is you will have a friend for life.  A collaboration between author Kate DiCamillo and cartoonist Harry Bliss titled Good Rosie! (Candlewick Press, September 4, 2018) is a heartwarming mix of storytelling, art and all the generosity of spirit found in our canine companions.

Rosie lives with George.
Rosie is a good dog.

The morning routine of George and Rosie sharing breakfast time always ends with Rosie staring at her empty shiny bowl and seeing a dog looking back at her.  This particular dog never answers her greeting.  There is nothing lonelier than an unanswered hello. 

Their walks after breakfast are about squirrel chasing (Rosie) and cloud watching (George and Rosie).  One day they see the same thing in the clouds, a dog.  This one does not reply to Rosie's cheerful barks, either.  George, astute human he is, knows exactly where to go.

At the dog park Rosie is overwhelmed by all the dogs.  It's pretty lonely when you know no one.  A big dog named Maurice wants to play.  Rosie wants to go home.  Who needs to be around a huge, drooling dog that shakes his toy rabbit with a speed like lightning.  Before Rosie can convince George to leave, a tiny little dog, Fifi, comes bouncing into view. 

Maurice's idea of playing with Fifi is to treat her like his toy bunny.  YIKES!  Rosie springs into action. Looking on the bright side of her most recent predicament, Fifi's positivity is attractive to Rosie.  A contrite Maurice tries to explain his actions and all three dogs agree on a definition and reach a decision.  Who knows what adventures await Rosie, Fif (three rhinestones are now missing) and Maurice and the blue bunny at the dog park?

There is always a hint (or sometimes more) of the extraordinary in the stories told by Kate DiCamillo.  Her word choices and sentence structure leave room for emotional interpretation.  By dividing the narrative into nine short chapters she welcomes younger readers into this tale of Rosie.

Each of these nine chapters begins with an important thought and closes with another for readers to ponder.  Many of the sentences are bursting with truth.  When George speaks to Rosie it is separate from the text and Rosie's thoughts, her woofs and growls, and the conversations with Maurice and Fif (i).  Here are some of the passages from one of the chapters.

Look at the clouds, Rosie.
Aren't they magnificent? That
one looks like Abraham Lincoln.

George thinks that most clouds look like presidents.
Rosie thinks that most clouds look like squirrels.

One day, George see something different in the clouds.
Look, Rosie!
That one looks like a dog.

The cloud does look like a dog!
Rosie wags her tail.
"Hello, hello!" she shouts.


It's a given when readers look at the front of the dust jacket and see Rosie looking right at them, there will be a sigh of affection.  What's not to love about that face?  Rosie's red collar with the tiny gold tag engraved with her name are the perfectly perfect finishing touches.  Each of the four scenes around Rosie are portions of images from four separate chapters.  A teeny, tiny picture of Rosie is on the spine beneath the title.

To the left, on the back, a larger picture is framed in the same cream color.  It's an important turning point in the story.  The text reads:

A good dog
good friends.

The red from the title text and Rosie's collar covers the book case.  The portrait of Rosie is again featured on the front; smaller and the title words are separated above and below her.  The four small visuals on the front of the dust jacket have been placed on the back of the book case framed and separated in red.  The opening and closing endpapers are a muted, soft rosy red like a wash of watercolor.  On the title page, Rosie appears below the text, resting.

Harry Bliss designs his art for Kate's story as if it is a comic.  The pages host a single image, two illustrations to a page, four pictures to a page or three visuals to a page all rendered in watercolor.  They are outlined in a fine black line and separated by white space.  The sizes and positions of the illustrations elevate the pacing.

Some of the images are without words as when Maurice approaches Rosie at the dog park.  Slight changes in each panel signify the size of Maurice even before he comes into view.  The qualities of each of the three dogs are depicted with marvelous realism.  You want to reach out and cuddle with them.  Yes, even with Maurice.  Their facial expressions are priceless.  One other element which caught my attention is the presence of a monarch butterfly in two of the illustrations.  Is it a reference to happiness and the chasing of a butterfly?

One of my many (Okay, all of them.) favorite illustrations is the first one.  For those initial two sentences Harry Bliss brings us into George's bedroom at daybreak.  George is soundly sleeping.  Several books relative to dogs are open and on the bed.  A tennis ball rests near Rosie, also sleeping and stretched alongside of George.  One of George's hands is on Rosie's body. And the other hand is placed on his chest.  A set of stairs is next to the bed for Rosie to use.

For early readers, for lovers of dogs, for a theme on the power of friendship and for anyone needing and wanting a story with art to hold in their heart, Good Rosie! written by Kate DiCamillo with pictures by Harry Bliss is a superb selection.  Rosie, George, Fif and Maurice are the kind of characters who live beyond their story.  They become a part of our stories.  Who wouldn't want this in their personal and professional collections? 

To learn more about Kate DiCamillo and Harry Bliss and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their respective websites.  Kate has another site, Stories Connect Us, here.  At the publisher's website you can view an interior image.  (You are going to love it.)  The cover is revealed with an interview with Kate and Harry at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Shelf Awareness features Good Rosie!, Kate and Harry.  Publishers Weekly showcases this title with Kate and Harry.

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