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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Black Dog, written and illustrated by Levi Pinfold. templar books, Candlewick Press. Random House, 2012 $19.00 ages 4 and up


"All right, then," she said.
"If you're going to eat me,
you'll have to catch me first."
And with that, she scurried into
the lowering trees. As she ran,
she made up a song:
"You can't follow where I go,
unless you shrink, or don't you know?"
 The black dog followed..."

Black Dog seems menacing; of that, there is no doubt! That first double page spread shows him all black and shaggy towering over a tiny, vulnerable girl with wide-eyed concern. Small (the youngest child in the Hope family) shows no such concern while facing an unfamiliar giant. Rather, she taunts him with a song and a chase.

The rest of the family is not nearly so complacent when they discover Black Dog outside their window one snowy morning. Dad is the first to notice and calls the police. They advise staying inside. Mom drops her mug, spills her tea and tells her husband. He suggests turning out the lights so the dog can't see them. Older sister Adeline drops her toothbrush, yells for her parents and closes the curtains. Maurice drops his teddy bear, makes his announcement and takess age  advice to hide under the covers. Small is unafraid, and meets the menace head on.

Small leads Black Dog on a merry chase, all the while watching him get smaller and smaller until he can actually enter the Hope house through the cat flap. A laundry basket appropriately placed to stem panic, allows the family their questions and a chance to realize that, though smaller than the rest, Small knew just what to do.

"The rest of the Hope family was extremely pleased to see that the black dog was neither as huge nor as scary as they had feared."

 The story has such power for little ones who might have fears of the unknown. It is a reminder that they need not be afraid. It is someone who is close to their own size who shows them.

The detail in the artwork, which is done in tempera on paper, is remarkable. Tiny sepia boxes give evidence of events happening beyond the action of the main colored spread that faces them. Once Small moves outside, she is confronted by an imposing and colossal creature who dwarfs her...his nostrils are much bigger than she is.  The double page spreads of the chase let us be part of the continuing saga of child vs. dog. Then, the artist reverts to sepia spots and facing page images of the family in their home, coming to terms with Small's bravery.

This is a lovely book for cozy sharing!

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