Quote of the Month

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

Thursday, May 2, 2019

An Excellent Excursion And The Art Of Empathy

There are characters in stories who make a mark on your heart permanently.  Frequently when seeing or hearing other individuals in real life, the first thing you think is of one of these fictional beings. You do so because the attributes of the characters are superbly mirrored in these individuals.

If one of these heartprint personalities plays a part in multiple stories, you have the privilege of watching them become the very best they can be.  If one of these characters happens to be a dog, you have the opportunity of learning to be the best you can be.  On February 9, 2016 readers met an exuberant, ambitious and dedicated professional in Fenway and Hattie (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House).  In each subsequent year this Jack Russell terrier and his human girl returned in Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang, Fenway and Hattie Up To New Tricks and on May 7, 2019 the fourth entry in this series written by Victoria J. Coe, Fenway and Hattie In the Wild, is set to be released.

Before we're even out the door, I know
something has changed.  

This is no normal walk for Fenway and his human, Hattie.  Her father, Fetch Man, is coming with them.  They travel to a part of the neighborhood new to Fenway.  A house owned by a man with a delectable smell, glazed doughnut, welcomes them.  They soon leave carrying objects stinking of pine trees, burnt marshmallows and wild animals with musky odors.  The next day when Food Lady, Fetch Man and Hattie pack the car to the brim and travel a long, long distance, Fenway is sure this is an enormous change.  He's right.

Fenway and his family, and to his surprise Hattie's next-door neighbor and best friend, Angel, her parents, Tool Man and Muffin Lady and their two dogs, Patches and Goldie, have arrived at the same place.  It's a campground complete with wild woods.  Immediately Fenway is alert to all possible dangers which might befall his beloved Hattie and her family.

Our beloved canine quickly learns that the dynamics between the short humans and the canines accompanying them supply their own kind of challenge.  As the newcomers to this annual before-school-starts-three-day outing, Fenway and Hattie have to navigate becoming members of already established groups.  For Hattie, although the beginning is a tad rocky, she seems to be accepted.  Fenway, on the other paw, is not so fortunate.  It seems the dog, Coco, canine companion to Marcus, is as much of a trouble-maker and bully as he is.

Each group activity, meals, field day races, hiking, canoeing and daily play at the dog park presents opportunities and obstacles in Fenway's attempts to first protect and comfort his human and second to be joined in his quest for fun and food.  Added to this is the presence of a nasty intruder who enjoys stealing from the campsites.  Fenway's every attempt to solve this mystery is met with human and canine hurdles he finds hard to jump.

Tension mounts as Fenway's heart seems to steer his intentions in the wrong direction.  Hattie knows what she needs to do, but will she do it?  A hair-raising conclusion in the dark of night confirms what readers have come to know about this courageous canine and his human.

As I was reading large portions of this book for the third time, I stand in awe of the writing of author Victoria J. Coe.  Her initial and continuing vision of telling these stories from Fenway's point of view not only raises the entertainment level for readers but allows us to learn along with the characters.  We have seen Hattie grow in her relationships with her peers; she is learning to stand by her beliefs and extend compassion to others.  Fenway's enthusiasm for life in general and his desire to be on the job protecting his human pushes us to be more canine.  We need to notice the details life gives us.  We need to experience our world in a more sensory capacity.

Being aware of what Fenway is thinking (and dreaming) broadens our perspectives.  The conversations between the dogs, Patches and Goldie, and the newly introduced campsite comrades, Lucky, the Chocolate Labrador and Coco, the Pomeranian, paint perfect pictures of their personalities.  These insights allow us to make comparisons with humans. The names assigned humans by Fenway, the human dialogue, and the descriptions of time and place all contribute to a story full of energy; the same kind of energy which fills Fenway's soul.  Here are a few of my many marked passages.

Things are changing so fast these days, my guard is totally up.  Fetch Man and Food Lady keep saying a word I used to hear when we lived in the city---"skool."  I can't remember what it means.  Every time they say this, Hattie's breathing speeds up and she smells worried.  It's almost as if another change is coming and we're both afraid to find out what it is.

There's hardly any light, except for small bright spots on the ground.  It's noisy, too, with chirps and trills and buzzes I've never heard before.  And scents of wood and leaves and pests like squirrels and chipmunks.  Plus strange animals that smell even worse than bunnies.  My paw just misses stepping on a tail that slithers away through the brush.  At least I think it was a tail? 

Right when I'm beginning to wonder if the cat stole their tongues, the Boston cocks her head.  "You're not that dog Fenway, are you?"
I stand a little taller, my tail high and waving.  "I sure am!" I say.  "Have you girls heard of me?"
The Boston looks at the Border Collie, who's already slinking away.  "Um, sort of," she mutters.  Next thing I know, she's skulking off too.
My tail sinking, I turn to the ladies.  "Nobody likes me.  Do I smell flowery or something?"
Before they can respond, I notice Coco and her gang sauntering past, and suddenly, everything is crystal clear.

This fourth title, Fenway and Hattie In the Wild written by Victoria J. Coe with spot interior illustrations by Kristine A. Lombardi, is totally woof-tastic!  It's got all the ingredients for a delicious treat; action, intrigue, building relationships of all kinds and the wonderful, beating heart of a fearless, positive and hilarious dog.  The best part is it can be consumed repeatedly.  I highly recommend this title, this entire series, for your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Victoria J. Coe and her other work, please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  Victoria has many extras at her site for all types of readers.  Here is the page devoted to this title.  Victoria has accounts on Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can read an excerpt.

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