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Friday, December 14, 2012

The Reader, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Lauren Castillo. Amazon Children's Publishing. 2012. $14.00 ages 3 and up

"The dog skips off, a bouncing dot, chasing his tail...a bunny...a blue jay...his tail. Then off he goes to the top of the hill to wait. He is good at waiting. The reader comes slowly, pulling his sled across the world. It is hard work, but he is good at working hard. The wind blows. Snow blows. The hill is very, very tall."

Readers will love the many details that Amy Hest makes evident in her telling of this lovely winter story of great friendship. As the reader and his dog pal set out through the snowy landscape, he is carrying 'a sturdy suitcase that is brown'. We know it must be important as he places it on his 'long red sled with a long, loopy rope'. I can just hear them repeating those lovely details when they read it themselves.

As they trudge along, we assume they have a destination in mind. The boy plows on in a straight line while his beloved pal darts in circles and zigzags, always leading with great anticipation. The dog makes it to the appointed spot far ahead and there patiently waits while the boy hauls the sled and suitcase up the incline:

"And then he is there, at the top of the world."

They have great fun in the snow and take great delight in being with each other. Soon, cold creeps in and it's time for 'warm drinks and crunchy toast for two.'  It's a perfect diversion before they get to the real purpose for their trip!

"And now," says the reader to the dog. "It's time."

Once settled upon the sled, boy and dog together share a poignant and charming moment in time:

"And the only sound in the world is
the sound of the reader reading
to the very last page...
the very last word."

There is such invitation in the softness of the ink and watercolor artwork created by Lauren Castillo. She encircles them in the shared love of great friendship, at the beginning and again as their story ends. In between, she creates a soft snow-filled setting meant to entice and invite conversation and memories of similar shared exploits.

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