Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Black Dog - book review

"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend.  Inside a dog, it's too dark to read."
                                       ~Groucho Marx

Title:  The Black Dog
Author:  Levi Pinfold

I love the cover.  It is mysterious and intriguing, with it's soft, hazy hues and old-style charm that makes you want to walk right into the scene and find out what this book is all about.

Levi Pinfold's illustrations are eerie and gothic feeling.  They are very detailed with subtle, muted colours.  The style is similar to Brett Helquist's illustrations in Lemony Snicket's " A series of Unfortunate Events."  The rich paintings adorn each page and you are invited in to have a peek at the old fashioned style of the Hope family's house - copper kettles, brass door knockers etc. that ooze warmth and coziness and say welcome to our home.

The Hope family has a HUGE problem.  One day Mrs. Hope looks outside and spies a big black dog the size of a tiger....she is terribly frightened.  As each family member glances through the window, the size of the dog escalates, as does their fears towards the potentially menacing beast outside their door.

Small, the tiniest member of the family calls them all "sillies" and ventures outside to put their fears to rest.  The size comparison between the little girl and the huge dog evokes doubt in the readers mind as to whether her approaching this canine is really a good idea.  But confident and fear-free, Small is determined to show her family that the black dog is not there to harm them and that their worries and anxieties are irrational and unnecessary.  Black Dog proves to be not one of their worst nightmares but a tribute to what can transpire when you face your fears, cast them aside and finally conquer them.  Small Hope certainly proves to be the bravest member of her family , "Golly you ARE big!" she says to him with child-like wonder and respect.  "What are you doing here guffin?" Small teases the dog as she walks across the snowy ground encouraging him to follow her! "You can't follow where I go, /unless you shrink, or don't you know?"  The monstrous, humungous Black Dog does follow her and in so doing shrinks, and shrinks, and shrinks to normal size.

This modern day fairy tale is a visual treat.  It is about fear and overcoming that fear.  If you have a child that is afraid of monsters or things that go bump in the night then this is the perfect story to share with him/her.  I loved the fact that the smallest, most insignificant member of the family had the courage and power to overcome and overturn this huge, scary problem that was presented to their family. Quite a David and Goliath tale.  I loved everything about the book.

About the author/illustrator:

About Levi Pinfold

Levi Pinfold was born in the Forest of Dean. His love of stories, painting and the work of illustrators such as Maurice Sendak, Alan Lee and Dave McKean led him to study Illustration at the University College Falmouth, where he developed narrative illustrations in his own style; a stylised realism.

Alongside painting, Levi writes stories in his spare time. Since graduating from university in 2006, Levi has worked as a self employed illustrator. The Django (Templar Publishing) his debut picture book, is inspired by Levi's love of music. Levi lives and works in Cornwall, and plays banjo and guitar when no one else is looking. Levi won The Booktrust Early Years Award in the Best Emerging Illustrator Category for 2010.

Levi was chosen for a Booktrust Best New Illustrators Award in 2011.

Illustration Technique

Creating stories is an organic process for Levi. Sometimes he does a drawing and then the story might come afterwards which is common with people who write and illustrate. He likes to get the text finalised before he starts on illustrations.

Levi works up detailed roughs to arrange the order of illustrations so that both he and his publisher know what they are getting before he starts the long process of painting. He typically takes from one to three weeks on each illustration as he likes to paint a lot of detail as he enjoyed detailed illustrations as a child. As a child he absorbed himself in books and comics which were big influences on him as he grew up, as well as fine art as an adult.

Levi grew up on Roald Dahl and Morris Sendak, John Burningham, Pat Hutchins, and was obsessed with Clocks, Clocks and More Clocks. He now loves painters like Breugel, David Friedrich and the Romantics. He says that if you cast your net as wide as you can you can take bits from other artists. You can see what’s possible.

The Django was painted in watercolours and gouache and his latest book, Black Dog, is painted in tempera – a mix of pigment with egg and water which has the same light touch as gouache but you can lay down dark underwashes with.

                                           Book review rating:    9  (Close to perfection!)
                                The Black Dog won The Clip Kate Greenaway Medal 2013.

Read on and read always!

Have a wonderful day and chat to me.  Thank you for checking me out.

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