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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Homer, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper. Greenwillow Books, Harper. 2012. $18.99 ages 4 and up

"Homer sits on the porch.
What does he want to do today?
Chase and race around the yard?
No, thanks.
Explore the field?
Thank you, but no.
Walk to the beach and
play in the sand?"

How do you take a familiar story and make it brand new? I can't answer that question. Elisha Cooper can, and does in this new book about Homer, a content and reflective old dog who watches the world from his place on the porch.

In an interview with Julia Donaldson at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, he made mention of a dog he had when he was a child:

"Homer was my dog when I was a boy. We grew up together, and then he became a great old dog."

As we meet and watch Homer throughout his day, we take note that life for his family is busy and resourceful, and he is content with that. The other dogs love to romp and race, the younger girl is off to explore the fields while the older one wants to enjoy the pleasures of the beach, the mom is bent on a swim while the dad does the marketing. Homer watches as his people make their way in the world, doing what they want to do. He is just fine where he is.

At the end of the day, everyone has returned home. Homer remains at his station, watching the action and welcoming them back. When asked if he needs anything, his answer is simple: "No, I have everything I want."

Then we watch as he stretches himself up and out of his place on the porch, makes his way inside, eats supper, and settles into his favorite chair. His family is settling in for the night. The dogs are all back, Mom is tucking the kids in, Dad is drying dishes and all is right in Homer's world.

Julia Donaldson makes a most astute observation of Elisha Cooper's incredible artwork:

"In his picture books, Cooper finds the extraordinary in the ordinary, beauty in simplicity and big worlds in the little details."

That is a perfect description of the way I feel every time I open one of Elisha's books. I have been a fan since I first pored over every tiny detail and read every word over and over again in Ballpark (1998). Each of his books has a special place on my bookshelves. I have great admiration for his work and am always eager to see what is new. I felt as if I were on that porch with Homer, revelling in the wide expanse of sky and sand, enjoying the simply wondrous things in life and content to just be there. It's just how I feel every morning in the summer when I go out to the back porch, have my tea and read. Life is good!

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