Quote of the Month

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A Pack Of Paw-some Dog Tales

If there was ever the slightest doubt in our minds about the goodness pets bring into our lives, this global pandemic has erased even the merest hint.  Their benefits cannot be measured.  Fortunately for humans, their personalities and habits shape the hours of our days and nights.

For the purpose of this post and to honor my chocolate Labrador retriever, Mulan, all the titles selected have a dog either as the main protagonist or as an important character. Canines as depicted (and in real life) exhibit cleverness, wisdom, and prompt outbursts of laughter.  These beloved creatures are living their best lives.

If there is one joy dogs seek every day, it's at least one long nap taken in one of their favorite places.  Up on Bob (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 11, 2020) written and illustrated by Geisel Honor winner (Ball), Mary Sullivan is a dog's earnest endeavor to accomplish this singular daily event.  It does not go according to his plan.

This is Bob.

Up on
the bed
Bob has work
to do.

Bob's young human has left their bedroom.  The books are stacked on the end table.  Several toys are at rest on the neatly made bed.  Another toy is nestled in a cozy pillow chair on the floor.

Bob gets busy with the task at paw.  It's not easy.  It takes several steps, removals, and rearrangements.  Bob does not mind.  Hard work is this dog's middle name.  Perfection is achieved.

You know the feeling you get sometimes, the feeling you are being watched?  Bob quickly realizes he is not alone.  The ideal is no longer in balance.  Bob is unable to sleep. He pretends he is asleep, hoping to once again be alone.

Suddenly, without warning a certain Someone begins to duplicate Bob's previous preparatory actions.  It seems Bob has a partner desiring his same superiority.  Oh, the lengths those will go who are seeking a soothing snooze.

Her use of language and choice of words is done with explicit intention.  Mary Sullivan uses short, but specific sentences.  Her repetition of words in these sentences and the repetition of the sentences later in the narrative, invite reader participation through the supplied rhythm.  This type of writing also allows for deliberate pacing, building toward tension and release with a satisfying resolution.  These three phrases are a perfect setup for an unplanned twist in Bob's routine.

Everything is perfect.
Now Bob can sleep all day. 

The image on the front, right, of the open dust jacket placed on a crisp white canvas features Bob on the polka-dotted bed sheet with a rascal feline looking ready to pounce.  The heart shown on the letter U is part of the pillowcase.  The color of the dots on the sheet are replicated in the title text letters.  To the left, on the back, on the same sheet, several toys look as if they have been thrown from their original positions.

On the book case the pattern of the pillowcase spans from the left, over the spine and nearly to the right where the sheet starts.  You can see the tiny heart tag on the right in the upper portion.  A tell-tale shadow in a leaping posture is seen on the back.  On the opening and closing endpapers the polka-dotted pattern of the sheets is shown.  The title page is a repeat of the front of the dust jacket with the characters replaced by the pillowcase.

Digitally drawn and colored by Mary Sullivan the illustrations are full-page, double-page pictures or single page images with large borders of white.  Perspective is shifted to slow pacing and build drama.  The eyes of the characters convey every emotion and elevate the humor.  The heart tag on the pillowcase is purposefully placed.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is accompanied by the text Now Bob can sleep all day.  This is one of several images which convey a pronounced contrast between the text and the image.  We are close to Bob, eyes now closed in contentment, as he is curled between the sheets with his head resting on the pillow.  His body curled in supreme peace is shown on the left with the white blanket stretching to the right edge.  What Bob can't see, but readers can is the Someone, ears poking over the edge of the bed.

If you are looking for laughter in a situation readers can readily understand, Up On Bob written and illustrated by Mary Sullivan is a superb choice.  Mary Sullivan has a gift for pacing, word choices and humor.  She knows her characters to the core.  I highly recommend this title for your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Mary Sullivan and her other work, please follow the links attached to her name to access her website and blog.  Mary Sullivan has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Mary Sullivan has an interior image from this book on her Instagram account.

There is an irresistible, irrepressible urge in most dogs to chase.  They love to go after balls of all shapes and sizes.  This has been proven again and again as evidenced by televised sporting events when play has to stop because a dog has entered the game to go after a ball.  Humans with canine companions know this to be true, too.  How many times have we thrown a ball to have our pooch pals race after it, get it, and then head for the proverbial hills?  In This Little Pup (Albert Whitman & Company, April 1, 2020) written and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant, her first book as both author and illustrator, we get to follow a thrown ball and its pursuer as they traverse through numbers and colors.

One blue ball . . .

This blue ball arches and falls and arches and falls past two cows, brown cows.  As they watch the ball zip past them, along with the pup, these cows notice a trio of amphibians. These green leapers join the ball as it soars over pigs, four in number and colored pink.

Each time the ball passes a group of creatures on the farm, their number increases as their colors change.  They also engage in an activity typical to their personalities.  As the ball moves the entire farm ends up in a noisy uproar.

In one brief pause all the animals, including the farmer, his wife, and their child, watch and wait.  The little pup takes a giant jump.  You'll have to read to discover what happens to the one blue ball.

The placement of the words written by Laura J. Bryant provides readers with a call and response effect.  We are introduced to the animals at the end of one sentence.  They are repeated at the beginning of the next sentence followed by their action and the introduction of a new critter.  This is a wonderful reinforcement of the numbers and colors we meet.  It is a welcome request to join in the farmyard fun.  It is stopped at one point for emphasis and a shift in the cadence.  This shift builds a gentle tension until we have a satisfying conclusion.  Here is a phrase, the following sentence and new phrase.

Five white sheep giggled
and six purple butterflies . . .

fluttered away.
Seven orange kittens were on the hunt . . .

The double-page image shown on the matching dust jacket and book case acquaints readers with the pup on the front and his human child on the back.  Both are full of energy and focused on the blue ball.  On the back, to the left, the child moves as quickly as possible toward the pup.  A large blossoming tree spreads from the top left corner and stops just before the spine.  Its trunk on the left is shown on the grass with delicate flowers around it.

On the opening and closing endpapers Laura J. Bryant begins and ends her visual narrative with a blend of rolling hills.  On the first the sun is rising.  The pup with one eye open is looking at the blue ball.  The sun is setting on the second set.  The pup is sound asleep with the blue ball in the grass nearby.  A two-page picture of the pup sitting in the grass beneath a sunny sky with the ball, nearly as large as it is, showcases the title text, the author's name, and publisher.

The first illustration, a two-page image, is wordless.  Careful readers will realize all the creatures we meet in the following pages are shown in this initial scene.  The child has the blue ball.  The pup patiently waits.  Each subsequent two-page picture is highly animated with lifelike representations of the creatures.  Each of the animals exhibit different personalities based upon their body positions.  All of them appear to be content based on their facial expressions and actions.  These full-color illustrations are textured and detailed.

One of my many, many favorite pictures shows the four pink pigs rolling and rolling and rolling in the mud.  They are blissfully happy.  The mud covers most of the bottom half of the two-page image.  Above it is a thin strip of green.  Following its dotted-line arches, the ball is about to bounce off the right side.  The pup, leaping into the air, is coming from the left side.  You can't look at this picture without smiling (or maybe rolling in the mud or chasing the ball).

Certain to be a much-requested title and a storytime favorite, This Little Pup written and illustrated by Laura J. Bryant is a playful romp among farmyard friends.  Familiar animals help readers identify colors and numbers as the pup tries to get the ball his human child threw.  This would be wonderful as a reader's theater.  I can't imagine a personal or professional collection without a copy of this book.

To learn more about Laura J. Bryant and her other work, please follow the link attached to her name to access her website.  At the publisher's website you can view interior images.

Another attribute of our dog friends is their determination.  In short order we humans learn to trust their instincts.  Their sensory perceptions are much higher than ours.  If they won't go where we want to go, we consider and learn to turn around in another direction.

Sometimes, though, they stop in their tracks and won't budge.  They go into full I'm-in-charge mode.  Hound Won't Go (Albert Whitman & Company, April 1, 2020) written by Lisa Rogers with illustrations by Meg Ishihara is a highly humorous event told in lively rhyming words with equally lively images, both full of charm that firmly stays in your heart.

Light flashes.
Hound dashes.

Nosy hound
sniffs ground.

This dog smells something special.  This is no ordinary smell.  This is pure heaven.  Hound decides, right in the middle of the crosswalk, he has to stay for as long as possible right here.

People on bikes move around him. He scratches an itch.  People in their cars can't move.  He is oblivious.  To make it even worse, now Hound gets ready to nap.  Nap?! In the middle of the road?!

Nothing will get this dog in motion.  His human tries every trick possible.  Horns honk, Hound snoozes.  Just when everyone around him is certain he is glued to the pavement, Hounds races into action.  He is not happy with what is happening.

He is running so fast his paws barely touch the ground.  Within what seems to be mere heartbeats, he is home and inside.  His human, thankful not to be in the middle of the street any longer, cares for her companion. The duo cuddle as she changes a single word in the title expressing her deep affection.

A familiar pulse is created by author Lisa Rogers with the last word rhyming in every two lines.  Two to four-word phrases have readers toe-tapping between bouts of laughter.  This beat subtly leads readers to a dynamic change of pace before intentionally bringing us back to a comforting cadence.  Here is another couplet.

Tug the rope?
Hound says nope.

As soon as you look at the matching and open dust jacket and book case, you know this dog has a mind of its own.  It's plopped down with no desire for motion.  The manner in which illustrator Meg Ishihara has our eyes focus on Hound is a wonderful point of view.  The bright colors in the title text and leash and the human's shoes assist in her design.  To the left, on the back, Hound is alone and has shifted his position.  He's itching in front of the car.  Three couplets from the text are placed on white to the left of Hound.

On the opening and closing endpapers Meg Ishihara has placed a series of smaller images of Hound on a pristine white background.  They are in a repeating pattern of two loose rows.  Hound, nose to the ground, is shown on the title page.

Each illustration, full-page or double-page picture, portrays hound and those people around him with realistic facial expressions and body postures.  You get a very real sense of everyone's growing frustration at Hound.  The comedy is in the contrast between their moods and Hound's lack of concern.  As the saying goes---Ignorance is bliss.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is a double-page picture.  It's a close-up of Hound in the middle of the crosswalk.  On a canvas of gray, a yellow line stretches above Hound.  He has rolled on his back, hind legs and tail stretched out.  His front paws are resting on his belly.  Only one eye, open, is visible.  His ear is flopped over the other eye.  His red leash stretches up and off the right side of the page.  This picture is priceless and speaks truth.

If you want to add merriment to any mood, Hound Won't Go written by Lisa Rogers with illustrations by Meg Ishihara is the title you must choose.  The mix of words and artwork is simply enchanting and depicts truths.  You'll definitely want to add this title to your personal and professional collections whether your focus is on dogs or humor.

To learn more about Lisa Rogers and Meg Ishihara and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Lisa Rogers has an account on Twitter.  Meg Ishihara has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations.  It was an honor to host the cover reveal here at Librarian's Quest with an informative and entertaining interview with Lisa Rogers.

For those of you not spending your life with a canine companion, trust me when I say, they have distinct skills necessary to mend any rift.  They have an uncanny ability to alter your life within seconds with a look or an antic.  They know you, the real you, better than you know yourself.

In a recent collaboration author Joanna Cotler and artist Harry Bliss combine their considerable talents to bring us a book about a canine exhibiting the best they have to offer any living being.  Sorry (Really Sorry) (Philomel Books, April 7, 2020) brings us into a day on a farm with Cow starting off on the wrong hoof.   The ripple effect is in full force.

Cow was in a nasty mood.  Usually she
was content to munch grass, rub up
against fences, and play with her farm

Her current mood was based solely on mud.  She detested it in and on her hooves.  For no reason, other than her grumpiness, Cow kicked mud on Duck.  Duck's outlook of the day changed in a flash.

When Frog, noticing Duck's dirty exterior, asked her to go for a swim, she replied with disgusting names.  She refused to sincerely apologize.  Hearing Bird singing Frog continued the meanness.  Bird was shocked at the Frog's disregard of her song and insincerely spoken sorry.

Ill-tempered words and actions continued to spread from animal to animal.  Bird hurt Goat.  Goat hurt Pig.  Pig was desolate.  Dog heard Pig's sobbing.  Inquiring as to what was the matter, Pig was downright unkind.

Dog just sat there. Dog started to point out what Pig had forgotten.  Soon their temporary distance closed.  The ripple started to shrink and reversed until a group gathered at the pond, but as in life, the story was not quite over yet.  There was always a new surprise right around the fence.

There is a pleasing harmony made by the narrative and dialogue written by Joanna Colter.  Her story flows with ease between the two, bringing us closer into the animals' disgruntled attitudes with their conversations.  Readers will effortlessly understand the precise tone of the word sorry spoken without honesty.  This is a real depiction of circumstances we've observed or experienced.

Even though the pattern of the tale from animal to animal remains the same, the words and conversations are altered to reflect their specific relationships. This builds on the intensity of each situation.  It also offers a chance for each incident to rewind with kindness reflected in their gestures.  Here is a passage.

Bird flew up into a tree.
There was Goat, perched on a branch.

"This is my'
branch," said
Bird.  "Get down!"

"But we always
share this tree,"
said Goat.

"Not anymore," said Bird, and
she beat her wings until Goat,
tumbled to the ground.

The artwork by Harry Bliss as first seen on the matching and open dust jacket and book case supplies readers on the front with two pals posed in peace.  Pig and Dog, based upon their expressions, have a deep affection for each other.  To the left, on the back, the canvas is a bird's eye view of the farm.  Placed on this view are four circular portraits of Duck, Pig, Cow and Goat.  Beneath each one is a quote by the character depicting their current moods and thoughts.  For example, Pig says:

"I'm not sorry that I love this book!"

On the opening and closing endpapers detailed etchings of the characters in black are placed on a brown background.  One of the gifts of apology is shown also.  It's a worm sandwich.  On the title page, the animals' faces frame the text.  Frog perched on Goat's head, foot on its chin, is looking up at Bird flying above the words.  Another pastoral scene from above spans across the verso and dedication pages.

Rendered in black India ink and watercolor the illustrations are exquisite in their lines and textured color.  They are a combination of realism and cartoon-like representations.  They are signature Harry Bliss images.  The sizes of the pictures alter to accentuate pacing.  At times for emphasis the character not sorry at all is placed in a circle before the narrative continues.  We are near each of the animals when their moods shift.  This makes the story very personal.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is when Dog simply sits next to Pig as she sobs and snorts.  The text is placed above and below the illustration.  Pig is lying on her belly in the dirt in front of the barn.  In the foreground Dog sits with her back to us.  Her face is turned to the side to focus on her friend.  It is the ultimate dog position and look.

This book, Sorry (Really Sorry) written by Joanna Cotler with pictures by Harry Bliss explains how crankiness, unstopped, can alter more than a single individual's day.  It also presents how an act of kindness can turn all those frowns into smiles.  Kindness is truly contagious.  Saying you're sorry with sincerity is freeing.  Readers and listeners will request this book frequently.  You'll want a copy for both your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about Joanna Cotler and Harry Bliss and their other work, please follow the links attached to their names to access their websites.  Joanna Cotler has an account on Instagram.  Harry Bliss has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  Joanna Cotler and Harry Bliss interview each other about this book and their work at Publishers Weekly.  You'll need to take the time to read it.  It's wonderful. At the publisher's website you can view the title page.

Dogs and digging go paw in paw.  They will dig anywhere and in anything.  They love to make huge holes to bury an array of items or to simply see how far they can go.  Sometimes they will dig because their super sniffers smell something underground.  (My previous dog, Xena, dug at the painted figures on her kiddie pool.  She also hauled huge rocks from underwater in Lake Michigan and buried them in holes she dug in the sand.)

Some dogs, admittedly, like to dig more than others.  It's a personality trait or perhaps a trait of a particular breed.  Roy Digs Dirt (The Blue Sky Press, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc., April 7, 2020) written and illustrated by David Shannon is as the title suggests a play on words about a dog who loves dirt and everything that can be done in dirt.

Roy digs dirt.

He digs dirt before breakfast, after lunch,
and before and after dinner.

Nothing makes this dog merrier than dirt.  He does everything possible, whenever possible in dirt.  This makes Roy happy most of time.

Roy happens to think dirt makes his appearance more stunning.  Roy buries everything he can find in dirt just for the sake of being in dirt.  Sometimes he digs in dirt to find other things buried.  He's like a pirate with paws.

Even though you might find it disgusting, Roy thinks anything found in dirt is to be eaten with relish.  If it's there, it's to be consumed.  Dirt is a total sensory experience for Roy.  There is one thing about dirt Roy does not like.  What could it be?

Dirt when wet makes mud.  Roy loves mud, but not the bath that follows.  Roy does not like being clean. Without dirt, Roy still finds things to dig.  (I'm not sure his humans appreciate this, though.)

In the backyard all the landscaping creates a jungle for Roy and other domestic and wild critters.  This does not make Roy happy at all. It's his jungle and his dirt.  After one nighttime encounter Roy is back in the bath.  Phew! Do you think Roy digs in his sleep?  Each day begins and ends the same for Roy in his dirt-filled version of heaven.

You would think the use of one word, repeatedly would become tedious but not when used by a master wordsmith like David Shannon.  It's the repetition that gives this book its joy.  It's the repetition that ties readers emotionally to Roy.  We not only feel his obsession but we, unbelievably, understand it.  The use of language generates a series of highs and lows, mostly highs, in this dog's day.  In essence, where there's dirt, there is supreme happiness.  David Shannon does not disappoint with his final line either, pure perfection in its double meaning.  Here is a passage.

When it rains, Roy digs mud.  Mud
might be even better than dirt.
Mud is like dirt gravy.

One look at the grinning, tongue-hanging-from-his-mouth dog, Roy, on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case and readers will hardly be able to keep from laughing out loud.  It seems that Roy has dug a huge hole and has momentarily decided to peek over the top at us.  His perky ears and gleeful demeanor rarely change, except for baths.  To the left, on the back, the title is cleverly spelled in a series of tunnels revealed in a cutaway.  A mouse or mice have dug the letters.  On top of the dirt, on the left side, Roy is looking down the hole, nose and paw extended.  He is getting ready for a digging marathon.

Across the white opening and closing endpapers is a zig-zap of muddy paw prints.  These paw prints continue over the text on the title page until with a page turn, we are presented with the verso and first page featuring a huge pile of dirt on the left with Roy digging like a champion on the right.  His dog bowl, labeled with his name is nearby.

The illustrations are a spirited perspective, front and center, of a dog's fascination with dirt.  Every movement and expression on his face reveals how much he digs dirt.  We are treated to single page close-up viewpoints, or double-page images littered with "treasure" or conveying a fear of bathtubs.  Some two-page visuals display several different actions to contribute to pacing or to elevate the narrative.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations spans two pages.  We are looking down on Roy about to take a bath.  The tub, with the facets at the top of the page, fills the left, crosses the gutter, and fills the right side.  We can see a few partial items on the left and right sides.  Roy is stretched as far as he can, lifting himself over the water.  His front paws are braced on the left and his back paws are braced on the right.  Who knew this dog could reach so far?  In the lower right portion of the right side a rubber ducky floats.

No matter how many times you read this book, Roy Digs Dirt written and illustrated by David Shannon, you'll find yourself either grinning or giggling or laughing aloud.  Children will love this book every single time you read it.  If they happen to disappear, look in the dirt.  They, like Roy, will be rolling around in it.  Make sure to have a copy in your personal and professional collections.

To learn more about David Shannon and his other wonderful work, please follow the link attached to his name to access his website.  David Shannon has an account on Instagram.  Please take a few moments to watch this video recorded and posted by book shop, Politics and Prose.

One of the biggest worries of most humans is losing their canine companions.  Sometimes dogs get distracted by their super sensory powers and forget to stay with their people.  Sometimes people lose their focus, forgetting about their best friends.  When this happens, once either the dog or human realizes their other half is missing, it's hard not to panic.  Where'd My Jo Go? (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2020) written by Jill Esbaum with illustrations by Scott Brundage is based on a true story about a trucker who leaves a rest stop without their canine partner.  This tale will have you turning the pages faster than you thought possible.

Always together,
wherever they go.

Jo and Big Al,
Big Al and Jo.

Jo has stopped for a rest.  She asks Big Al to hop back inside the truck, telling the dog she will be right back.  Big Al is not quite ready to ride, there are too many things to do outside.

Jo comes back to the truck, starts it up and heads out from the rest stop, not noticing that Big Al is missing.  Big Al is happily engaged in a variety of situations, doing what dogs do.  Big Al's final romp in a flower bed has him running back to the parking lot.  Where is Jo?

Big Al can't believe Jo is gone.  Big Al decides to wait for Jo.  Waiting and remembering all their shared moments, keeps Big Al firmly planted in the parking lot.  As the afternoon drags on, Big Al gets worried.  At the next stop Jo is flabbergasted to find Big Al missing.  Soon it is night.  The busy parking lot is now empty.  It's cold.  It's lonely.

Suddenly a car, lights shining, pulls into the lot.  A boy sees Big Al all alone.  Big Al cannot resist the friendliness of the boy.  Where is Jo?  Wait!  There's another light shining in the lot, heart hammering Big Al hopes.  Is it Jo?

With the right amount of rhyming and timing Jill Esbaum draws readers firmly into the narrative.  We, unlike Big Al or Jo, sense the terrifying turn of events.  It's this knowledge that propels us forward.  For a moment we find the same happiness as Big Al being all dog, but then the fright he feels hits us front and center.  When Jo can't find Big Al, our sense of doom doubles.  The technique of showing the passing of time as afternoon turns into evening builds the suspense.  Here is a passage.

It's gone!
The truck's gone!
Holy cow!

Where'd my Jo go, anyhow?
Could I find her?  Should I---
SIT. STAY. Wait for Jo. 

Our eyes are immediately drawn to the dog on the front of the matching dust jacket and book case.  Sitting alone in the parking lot of the rest area, trucks stopped, Big Al sits and stays and waits.  Head raised; he is hopeful for the return of Jo.  His body, ears, eyes and nose, his entire demeanor is excellent.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of white is one of Big Al's memories of Jo chasing him.  He is running away with an article of her clothing as she tries to pack.  It's red.  Big Al is also shown standing on his back legs, front paws resting on the ISBN.

The opening and closing endpapers are a pristine white.  Rendered in full color by Scott Brundage the images are laden with emotion.  On the title page is a small picture of Big Al sitting on Jo's lap as she sits behind the wheel in her truck.  Scott Brundage switches his perspectives and illustration sizes to heighten the impact of the text.

Double-page pictures, single-page pictures crossing the gutter leading to a series of smaller insets on a full page or single-page visuals contribute to the flow of the story.  The personality of Big Al is revealed in his movements, his expressions and how he interacts with people and this place, this rest area. The eyes of Big Al clearly are a window to this dog's soul.  We are fully engaged in every mood and moment through the pictorial presentations.

One of my many, many favorite pictures is on a single page.  It's a close-up of Big Al.  He is looking outward, perplexed at Jo's missing truck.  Ears upright, head slightly tilted and worry creasing his brow, Big Al ponders this predicament.  His face is framed in white space.  The white space is framed with watercolor-like brush strokes.  His red collar hangs straight on his neck, his name tag resting on his chest.

Through their combined talents, Where'd My Jo Go? written by Jill Esbaum with pictures by Scott Brundage breathes life into a story inspired by fact.  Every page turn builds toward the resolution.  We understand this dog and the connection between him and his human through his thoughts and actions.  Readers and listeners will find this story heartwarming and satisfying.  On a page titled The Rest of the Story, author Jill Esbaum tells readers how this story was born.  I highly recommend this title for both your professional and personal collections.

To learn more about Jill Esbaum and Scott Brundage, please access their websites by following the links attached to their names.  Jill Esbaum has accounts on Facebook and Twitter.  Scott Brundage has accounts on Instagram and Twitter. This title is showcased at PictureBookBuilders and at author Kathy Temean's site.  At the publisher's website, you can view interior pages.

One of the great mysteries of dogs and relationships is how they will react in the presence of other dogs or other pets.  At first glance it seems as if they will be best friends or bitter enemies, but this can change.  It is as if they are better at compromise than humans.  They have mastered the art of give and take . . . usually.

In a highly humorous look at this understanding of relationships, Cat Dog Dog: The story of a blended family (Schwartz & Wade Books, April 28, 2020) written by Nelly Buchet with art by Andrea Zuill uses a minimum of words with expressive artwork to take readers on a journey of discovery.  Every moment, every incident, is brimming with perceptions.  These perceptions are those of the characters and our points of view at what is being told to us.


In the beginning all we know is a single small white dog lives alone in bliss with her human man.  She has a bounty of toys, and a canopied bed.  Her dad adores her.

In another home, a woman lives with her larger playful dog and a proud cat.  Sometimes the cat tolerates the dog and other times, it does not.  The cat rules the household.

Very quickly the dog sees that its dad has packed all their belongings in boxes and loaded them into a truck.  They are taking a trip.  Soon they arrive at the home of the mom and her dog and her cat.  The two humans hug in blissful happiness.  The trio of pets are not entirely sure about this situation, although the larger dog is ready to romp.

There is unpacking, a tiny disaster, walks, dinner time and shocking adjustments at bedtime.  Then there is a much larger shared disaster by Dog, Dog, and Cat.  It is not a comfortable time for any of them.  Months and holidays pass and one winter evening in front of a crackling fire Dog, Dog, and Cat are sleeping, happily unaware of a striking new development.  Readers are given a hint.  With the final page turn, readers will howl with laughter.

This narrative is told using only three words repeatedly, dog, dog, and cat.  It's the order in which they are placed by debut children's book author Nelly Buchet that will completely captivate readers.  Occasionally for dramatic impact and added interest a single sound effect or the name of another animal will be introduced.  Each time one or more of the carefully placed words are read, readers will feel tension and humor growing.  It's sheer genius.

It's a challenge to look at the front of the matching dust jacket and book case and not burst out laughing.  The positioning of the three animals above the three words, their facial expressions and the wagging of the larger dog's tail, tell a tale.  It's as if the trio are about ready to spring from the image.  To the left, on the back, on a canvas of muted golden yellow, we see the woman and man and the three animals standing in the open doorway of their home.  It's a point filled with expectations and anticipation.

On the opening and closing endpapers, the same shade of green seen on the jacket and case is used as a canvas.  A thin black line, like a path, stretches from left to right.  Racing across the page is the small white dog on the opening endpapers.  On the closing endpapers the same dog is chasing the racing cat.  The larger dog prances in the lead, holding a blue stuffed toy bear in its mouth.

With a narrative built on only three words, the artwork of Andrea Zuill shines like an intricate, textured, distinctive beacon displaying insight, interpretation, comedy and story brilliantly.  Every page turn has readers pausing to notice each exquisite detail.  There is meaning in each placement as well as foreshadowing.  Rendered using ink, compiled digitally, and colored in Photoshop each illustration, large or small, alone or paired with others is a layer, a deliberate portion of a wonderful whole.

One of my many, many favorite illustrations is on a single page.  It is surrounded by a large loosely framed white space.  The words, in order, are Cat Dog Dog.  It's nighttime.  The cat is curled in comfort inside the white dog's canopied bed.  The white dog is seated on the floor at the foot of the bed looking at its dad.  The dad is wide-awake, sandwiched between the woman and her large dog.  That dog is lying on its back, front legs curled, and back legs spread open, with its head at the foot of the bed.  Its rear is pointed toward the man.  The mom is calming reading a book.

If you are looking for the height of hilarity and the power of words and illustrations carefully paired, this book is an excellent choice.  Cat Dog Dog: the story of a blended family written by Nelly Buchet with art by Andrea Zuill is outstanding in every aspect.  It will be a much requested read aloud.  It needs to be shared often.  It should find a place on every personal and professional bookshelf.

To learn more about Nelly Buchet and Andrea Zuill and their other work, please visit their websites by following the links embedded in their names.  Nelly Buchet has an account on Instagram.  Andrea Zuill has accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view other images.  Here is a link to Nelly Buchet's YouTube channel where she has placed a series of quick book teaser trailers.  Nelly Buchet and Andrea Zuill are interviewed about this title and their work at author Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations.

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