Quote of the Month

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Out Of The Mouths Of Dogs

You've read it here before, but it can never be said enough.  Some of life's greatest lessons are taught by our canine companions.  There is not a moment during a day when they don't know exactly what to do.  Year after year, according to their age, they savor what should be savored and ignore that which should be ignored.  For this reason, they experience joy, contentment and peace in equal measure. 

If a dog is sharing your home multiple treks are a daily event.  If you want to see a dog smile, say walk or outside.  Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks (Greenwillow Books, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, March 5, 2019) written by Jacky Davis with illustrations by Giselle Potter gives us a pooch's point of view during four outings.  Their personalities quickly emerge, reinforcing the notion of opposites do attract.

Walk One
Olive and Pekoe
Take a Walk in the Woods

Pekoe is a bouncy puppy who loves to run.  

Long-legged and loaded with energy Pekoe wishes his friend Olive would move a bit faster.  Olive is an elder dog with short legs.  She wishes Pekoe would walk with less exuberance.  As a puppy, Pekoe puts just about everything in his mouth.  Olive is completely satisfied to wait on the sidelines.  At the end of the walk they agree on one thing.  Can you guess what it is?

One day the duo is caught out-of-doors when a thunderstorm rumbles into their neighborhood.  Pekoe gives a bark and Olive wonders why she ever left home.  Pekoe hides from this unwelcome weather.  Olive is getting sadder and sadder.  With a shake Pekoe gets rid of a lot of water and says goodbye to Olive.  He knows what she wants.  She can already feel herself snuggling into

her cozy pillow.

Watching a mix of chipmunks and dogs can entertain you as long as the stripped, furry nuisances decide to stay.  Olive could care less about chipmunks.  Pekoe is thrilled beyond belief to see one.  Olive sits.  Pekoe goes nuts.  When the critter vanishes each dog has a thought?  They are as different as the two pals.

Going to the dog park is confusing for Pekoe but Olive takes it in stride until she realizes Pekoe needs help.  As an experienced user of this area, she knows to support her friend during a confrontation.  Pekoe, although at the opposite end of life as Olive, welcomes her advice.  This is friendship in its truest form.

When thinking about the writing presented by author Jacky Davis, three things come immediately to mind. The first element is the voice used to present the story.  This narrator speaks in short, descriptive, and conversational sentences.  Readers will notice, secondly, the author has a clear understanding of the behavior of dogs and the shifts in their personalities as they age.  Finally, whether they are reading this silently to themselves or listening to it read aloud, they will feel the pull of the cadence created by the alternating voices which leads to a pleasing conclusion at the end of each of the four chapters.  Here is a passage.

Walk Three
Olive and Pekoe
Meet a Chipmunk

Olive is not impressed to see
a chipmunk darting through the leaves.

Pekoe can't believe how great it is
that the world has chipmunks in it!

Rendered in watercolor, ink and color pencils illustrator Giselle Potter gives us our first hint of her color palette and the singular characteristics of Olive and Pekoe on the dust jacket.  With the focus on their walks, we are taken into a natural setting.  By the attention they show each other, we understand the bond these two unlikely canines share. The image on the front extends to the spine. 

To the left, on the back, on the rich creamy background a large oval illustration rests.  Within this frame Pekoe and Olive are sitting and looking at each other, nearly nose to nose.  On the book case, on the same rich creamy canvas, a single photograph is framed in wood on the front and the back.  It's a forest scene.  The real-life, big Pekoe puppy is sniffing in the grass off the trail.   Walking down the path and a bit behind is the real-life Olive.  Her face is wonderfully aged with gray fur.

On the opening and closing endpapers is a dark steel blue, previously used on the jacket.  Opposite the title page, a single-page picture shows Pekoe sitting and looking at Olive, who is also sitting.  It is a different setting from the previous visual which lets readers know, this position is a familiar one.  Pekoe is shown on the verso page.  Olive makes an appearance on the contents page.

Throughout the title single-page pictures, small insets, and text framed in sticks, storm clouds, oak branches with acorns, and leashes accentuate the text.  Each image based upon the facial looks and body actions supports and enhances the pacing.  There is never a doubt as to the mood of the moment for either of the dogs.

One of my many favorite illustrations is during the chipmunk caper.  Oak tree trunks, five in total, supply a background and a border on the left.  Oak leaves tinted in autumn colors dangle from branches and fall on the ground.  Behind Pekoe who is jumping against a tree, scampers the chipmunk.  In the foreground Olive sits looking at us.  If she could talk, she would be saying, "Look at that crazy guy!"

The pure fun of Olive & Pekoe: In Four Short Walks written by Jacky Davis with illustrations by Giselle Potter is being able to participate in the lively animated time these two dogs share.  This book invites us to be observers of dogs and other animals around us.  Could readers imagine other walks these two dogs would take?  I highly recommend this book for your professional and personal collections. 

If you desire to learn more about Jacky Davis and Giselle Potter and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.   Jacky Davis has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Giselle Potter has an account on Instagram.  At the publisher's website you can view several interior pages at the beginning of the book.  John Schumacher, Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries, hosted the book trailer premiere for this title along with interviews with Jacky and Giselle on his site, Watch. Connect. Read.

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