Saturday, November 12, 2011

Loyal Hounds: Two Picture Book Reviews

Recently, I've read two books to my children that made me struggle not to cry. Admitably, I do tend to tear up easily when it comes to vulnerable animals and children, but these two picture books are so beautifully illustrated and well-written, that I think they could test even the strongest souls.

I highly recommend both of these publications for any child or adult who loves dogs. And don't be surprised that after you read both of these books, you may feel the need to hug and spoil your own noble dog. Thank you to both of these artists for inspiring us to be courageous, loving, and kind. And to recognize it in the animals with whom we share our lives 

by Meghan McCarthy 

There have been other books and even movies made about this heroic dog, who in 1925, was part of the dog sled team who brought a life-saving serum to the people of Nome during a terrible blizzard. 

While he enjoyed fame and attention at the beginning of his journey, McCarthy also explores the sadder parts of his notable life, but nonetheless, ends the book on a life-affirming note that show how people, when we work together, can bring about good. And that dogs come about it naturally. 

What drew me to this book, besides the fact it's about a dog, is the quality of the illustrations. The bold colors and the simple illustrations remind me of the Martha Speaks books by Susan Meddaugh (not the ones made for TV). She puts a lot of thought into making sure that Balto's appearance is true to life and that the story reflects reality, facts, she reveals at the end, that were not so clear cut despite his fame. 

The engaging illustrations and story makes this book appropriate for both young and older children, especially since it works as a springboard for more conversations about American, and Alaskan, History. 

by Emma Chichester Clark

I knew the moment I saw this cover that I would love this book. Any dog that frolics with bunnies has to be lovable--and Piper lives up to his cover picture. 

Piper's story begins at the cusp of adventure: the moment he must leave his mother. As he is being taken away by his new, ghastly owner, his mother reassures him with this advice: "Always obey your master. Always look both ways before you cross the street. And always help anyone in danger."

Alas, this advice does not apply to Piper's new life. His new owner is bad to the bone, and Piper comes to make a life-changing choice. Despite the obstacles he must face, Piper's story end's on a triumphant note and his story comes to emphasize the triumph of goodness over evil. 

The very first page, when Piper has to leave his mother, I was instantly sympathetic to Piper, and Emma Chichester Clark's storytelling and art continues to pull at my heartstrings throughout the rest of the book. Piper wears his emotions on his sleeve: we see his fear, courage, and love in every expression. His body, thin and angular, reveals his vulnerability and his need to please and love. He certainly makes readers fall in love with him.