Carolyn Beck. Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan.
Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Grades 1-5 / Ages 6-10.
Review by Gregory Bryan.
You ate my birthday cake—the whole thing, candles, too—and got yourself so stuffed you threw it up.
I was so mad I yelled, “I hate you!”
Even the dog lovers amongst us concede that a kiss from our beloved pet would be all the more enjoyable were it not for the dreaded dog breath with which it is invariably accompanied. Carolyn Beck and Brooke Kerrigan’s new book, Dog Breath, focuses on unpleasant canine breath as just one of several unsavoury characteristics of the nonetheless loveable dog in their story. Told in the first person voice of a child narrator, the book is essentially a celebration of dogs, despite all the mischief and mayhem they might cause. The unnamed dog in the story is a dopey but good natured, albeit poorly behaved, child’s pet. That careless and pleasant nature of the dog makes for a funny story that, despite all the mischief, somehow rings true. On several occasions, I found myself thinking that the dog in the story was my own family dog.
Kerrigan’s use of muted colours, rounded shapes and curved lines lends softness to the book that manages to tone down some of the dog’s mischief so that it is still a loveable animal. Another interesting feature of Kerrigan’s illustrations is that readers never see the face of the child narrator. With what readers do see, the narrator could be a boy or a girl. This is clever artwork that increases the appeal of the book to potential readers of both genders. Whether the readers are boys or girls, they can put themselves in the shoes of the narrator.
In 1994, popular and humorous children’s author, Dav Pilkey, published a book by the same name. Pilkey’s book, however, was far more slapstick than Beck and Kerrigan’s careful, thoughtful portrayal. Where Pilkey went only for laughs, the humour in Beck and Kerrigan’s book gradually gives way to poignancy and melancholy at book’s end. This change in tone is skilfully executed and, in the hands of a less capable writer, would not have worked.
Dog lovers of all ages will enjoy Beck and Kerrigan’s book. It is a fun story about a sweet, but mischievous dog.
Gregory Bryan is a professor for a Manitoba University and works with children's literature.
It has been suggested that the memories are brought back because this family dog, a favourite pet, is deceased. Wonderful book and a great segue to conversations about your own family pet. Read and be happy today.