My temptation whenever I review a children’s book that involves a dog in some way is to begin with a caveat that I am not a dog person. I’ve drawn from that well one too many times, though. At this point I think my I-am-not-a-dog-person credentials are well and truly established. However, it wasn’t until I read the utterly charming Lucy Rescued that I realized something. I am not a dog person but I am a new mom and it would appear that the buttons that are pushed by babies in distress can also be pushed by pups in equally scary, lonely situations. That’s not going to affect the kids who read this book, but they will be able to relate to it in a far more direct manner. Here we have a book about a dog coping with the misery of loneliness. Kids understand loneliness. They understand needing a toy to comfort and cuddle. They understand what happens when that toy disappears. So here we have a book that both adults and kids will relate to. It may be in different ways, but the end result stays the same.
A little girl and her parents adopt Lucy the dog from the pound. All seems to be well until the pup begins to howl. And howl. And howl some more. Various solutions are suggested and tried. Perhaps Lucy is lonely for other dogs? A mirror doesn’t work. Maybe she would like her own doggie bed? One is purchased and summarily rejected. Doggie therapy? Ha! When our heroine’s parents lay down the law and say that Lucy needs to quiet down or she’s going back to the pound, that’s when things get real. Fortunately the little girl has an idea. Offering Lucy one of her stuffed animals she successfully determines that this was the answer to everyone’s prayers. After that Lucy is given a range of stuffed friends. She’s perfectly content at that point, but woe betide you if one happens to go missing.
The title of the book is Lucy Rescued but Lucy’s initial rescue from the pound happens essentially on the first page. Why name the book something that’s so fleeting in the story? Probably because the true rescue here isn’t the physical one from the pound but rather the rescue of the dog from her own unhappiness. Not that it’s easy. It takes a child to see through the dog’s howls and to the solution to her misery. Ziefert, as it happens, based this book on actual dogs that she herself was familiar with. In her experience she knew a dog that could not go to bed at night unless all its Beanie Babies were present and accounted for. Dogs can’t count, but if even one Beanie was missing the pup was reduced to a sad little puddle.
You would not be amiss if you considered for a second or two the possibility that the French are taking over American children’s publishing. How else to account for the magnificent books brought to our shores from the likes of Herve Tullet, Martine Perrin, Blexbolex, and many others? Barroux is a little different in that in his books he illustrates American children’s authors like Ms. Ziefert. This book was originally published in the States, then. Not France.
In this particular title Barroux fills his images with for some clever details. For example, he highlights his characters by leaving an unpainted areas around their bodies when they stand against colored walls. It’s a way of drawing your eyes to the people of the story without drawing attention to the fact that you are drawing attention. Then there’s the dog herself. Part of Lucy’s visual charm is that she is utterly expressionless in the midst of all her howling. On occasion, when she’s particularly dejected, her eyes will turn from straight dots into short little downward lines that somehow manage to reflect all the sorrow in the world. That is the range of her emotions, however. I also enjoyed the fact that Lucy’s cries or “WAH-OOO”s collect in crevices and puddle around the feet of the people who love her most. You can see piles of them on the seat cushions she’s vacated and swarms of them circling anyone who happens to get near. Finally, I liked very much that the cover of the book is a part of the story we don’t actually get see on the inside.
Very small children and pets have a lot in common but the most frustrating similarity is that neither has the language to describe what they want. Older children don’t tend care all that much about babies and their wordless states, but the fact that pets can’t communicate their needs is a very real concern for them. Lucy Rescued taps into that worry and the result is a lovely tale that shows that sometimes the easiest solution to a problem is the one thought up by a kid. A good pet book and a good kid book, this is one story that doesn’t have any difficulty with its ability to relate.
On shelves March 27th.
Source: Final copy sent from publisher for review.
Like This? Then Try:
- “Let’s Get a Pup!” Said Kate by Bob Graham
- A Ball for Daisy by Chris Raschka
- Fred Stays With Me! by Nancy Coffelt