Tag Archives: Atheneum

go hug a dog: if dogs run free – illustrated by Scott Campbell

if dogsI have discovered that spending your day with many three, four, and five-year-olds results in an intense desire to read Books for Grown Ups. So my pleasure reading has consisted pretty much entirely of adult books since the beginning of September for the first time in years. I don’t know how long this is going to last, but I’m enjoying my time in Grown Up Reading Land. This will explain why – for the moment at least – you’ll be seeing a steady stream of picture book reviews here at Shelf Elf.

if dogs run free is illustrator Scott Campbell’s quirky interpretation of Bob Dylan’s song. Here’s the beginning:

If dogs run free, then why not we
Across the swooping plain?
My ears hear a symphony
Of two mules, trains,
and rain.
The best is always yet to come,
That’s what they explain to me.

It’s hard to really sum up what Dylan’s song is about; certainly a younger audience will probably experience some “huh?” moments with these lyrics, and have some trouble teasing a take home message out of the words. Probably something along the lines of, enjoy life (the best is always yet to come), be yourself (just do your thing), and love each other ([true love] can cure the soul, it can make it whole). Or maybe even, “Dogs are awesome.”

The thing is, Campbell’s illustrations are so full of energy and joy and kooky-ness that it hardly matters if Dylan’s text doesn’t come off as made for picture book interpretation. It’s the pictures that convey the spirit of the song more than anything. A little girl and her brother and their trusty pooch race all over the place together, meeting dogs wherever they go and having a blast no matter where they are and what they’re doing. The important thing when reading this book is not to over-think things, and I know that most kids are pretty good at this. I imagine they will get a kick out of the crazy canine action on every page. It’s the sort of picture book that has so much detail in the illustrations that every time you read you are going to notice something new.

A whimsical ode to childhood and dogs, if dogs run free will leave readers grinning and glad to be alive.

(Warning: sure to inspire feelings of “I want a puppy” in small people. Parents, don’t say I didn’t tell ya).

if dogs run free is published by Atheneum.

Day 11, book 11: Olivia and the Fairy Princesses

Today in the library, one of my favourite colleagues experienced Olivia for the first time. He’s a few years from retirement but obviously that’s no reason not to pick up a picture book and start reading during grade 6 book exchange. He found Olivia goes to Venice and a few minutes later, he was laughing out loud. Earlier in the day, I’d read the original Olivia to a group of five-year-olds. Same reaction. That’s one of the things I love most about Ian Falconer’s beloved character. She appeals to kids and grown ups alike. While some of the jokes in the newest Olivia offering are likely to go over kids’ heads, I’d say that there’s still plenty to entertain everyone in Olivia and the Fairy Princesses.

Don’t let that pretty pink cover fool you, Olivia is not buying into the princess craze. She does not want to be like everybody else. While the other pigs wear fluffy skirts and sparkles and crowns, Olivia makes a statement in matador pants, a sailor shirt, and black flats. She doesn’t understand why it always has to be all about pink princesses. Can’t people get a little creative? Olivia is trying very hard to cultivate a “stark, modern style,” but it seems that it isn’t entirely working for her. Don’t fret, she figures it out, with trademark piggy panache.

As expected, there’s plenty of drama in Falconer’s illustrations. They’re wonderfully stylish and droll. While I never thought I’d utter the words “corporate malfeasance” and “identity crisis” during kindergarten storytime, I’m sure I can make it work, because as always, there’s a little something for everyone whenever Olivia gets up to her usual tricks. Clever, charming, and crowd-pleasing, Olivia always stands out.

Olivia and the Fairy Princesses is published by Atheneum.