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Black Dog Hardcover – September 25, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 1-6-This tale of fear grown wild will ignite the imaginations of many children. Like a thriller, it starts with a threat: a big black dog is outside. As each family member awakens and notices it, it grows as big as a Jeffy. (Look for clues of that beast in drawings strewn about the house.) Structured with outstandingly toned tempera paintings on one side, each family member color-coded and carefully wrought sepia vignettes interspersed with text reminiscent of the work of Shaun Tan on the other, the action advances quickly into a chase. Small, the youngest of the artistic family living in a vertical-gabled red house in an eerily green snow-covered forest, sees the dog for what it is-she calls the MacGuffin a guffin-but agrees he is BIG. She could fit in one of its nostrils! Small makes him catch her if he can. She taunts him down a size and makes him squeeze into a slide, under a footbridge. The visuals go cinemascope during the chase, but resume their structure when they enter the cat flap. An ode to scale, to the portholes and bay windows of Victorian architecture, the poetry of family chatter, and steampunk elegance of antique hot-water heaters, all are here for young eyes to luxuriate in and imagine that they are courageous Small with their family's love shining down like rainbows. Fear, fun, and just dripping with beauty, this title will pair perfectly with Neil Gaiman's The Wolves in the Walls (HarperCollins, 2003).-Sara Lissa Paulson, American Sign Language and English Lower School, New York Cityα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* This fable about confronting and conquering fear should hook anyone who sees Pinfold’s cover illustration, which depicts a Gothic-looking house, a tiny child, and a paw print the size of a tank. The story begins one snowy morning when Mr. Hope looks outside to see a dog the size of a tiger. That assessment is upgraded to the size of an elephant when Mrs. Hope sees it, and the size of a Tyrannosaurus rex when little Adeline sees it. (A huge golden eye stares through the window next to where Adeline brushes her teeth.) The family’s solution? Turn out the lights, close the curtains, and hide beneath the covers. Thankfully, the youngest, Small, goes outside to meet the towering dog, whose big wet nose covers a full two-page spread. She gets the dog to chase her, using rhymes to convince the animal to get progressively smaller to fit through various obstacles: You can’t follow where I go, / unless you shrink, or don’t you know? Pinfold’s lavish, Van Allsburglike illustrations, which juxtapose tiny black-and-white sketches with big, detailed, frozen-in-time paintings, are quirky, funny, and often heart-stopping. Part David and Goliath, part Gingerbread Man, this UK import is a shot of courage for those who need it most. Grades K-2. --Connie Fletcher
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Top Customer Reviews
Then I saw Levi Pinfold's Black Dog. Now, this is not published by an American house, but by the British Templar. European children's books still retain that childlike darkness which is very real, more real sometimes than the hyper-fun. I think this book is one of the best to come out in years, both for its stunning, rich, detailed illustrations and its emotional respect. Both hold to the best values in picture books. Bravo.
Small who lives in a remote-looking house situated in a wintry wood, ventures outside to confront the beast. The black dog is enormous but appears to be docile somehow. Small cajoles the dog into following her by saying: "All right then...if you're going to eat me, you'll have to catch me first." During the chase, she sings and leads black dog through various adventures through the wood, over frozen pond and then into a playground decorated with elephant equipment (there is probably some symbolic relevance for this visual choice or it's an ode to Elephant and Piggy books). There are other visual cues in the larger color illustrations that remind me of other author/illustrators as well; Dr. Seuss for instance. I'm probably missing some too, but there is a wealth of detail that makes the primary illustrations a joy to explore. Accompanying these are smaller sepia toned accent images.
In any event, in each subsequent scene the dog grows smaller until it assumes a normal size and enters the Hopes' home. Small and the dog enter the house to find her family armed with kitchen utensils behind a makeshift barricade. The book ends with a collective acknowledgment that it was not as "huge nor as scary as they feared."
The illustrations for this book are fantastic--the biggest reason I bought the book. Being a parent, I do have some minor issues with the underlying message of the tale. Although I think the story is meant to help children overcome their fears and to assimilate those fears into something positive, on a literal level the whole little child wandering outside alone to confront a stranger thing sits with me wrong. Given that I take great pains to teach my children to never be alone or wander off, this book takes the position that it is okay to confront fears alone. I think this story would have been served better if the parents were more involved rather than illustrating them as helpless bystanders cowering in a corner, so to speak. But if a parent reads this book WITH a child and makes it clear what the message's intention is, then I think it would be fine.
The writing is lyrical and flows nicely. Comical overtones are supported by the fun and quirky illustrations, enhancing the narrative delivery. For example, I love the toast falling into the cat's dish. Also, I thought the line that purposely broke up rhyme: '"You haven't been eaten!" yelled Maurice Hope (missing a poetic opportunity)' made the book feel accessible and real. All theses little things add up to big storytelling!
Overall, I would definitely buy this book again as it has a timeless feel that makes it stand out from the pack. It is one of those offerings that will have a permanent home in my children's book collection and will most likely be as relevant tomorrow as it is today.
For starters, this is one of the very few children's books I have seen where the dust jacket is not identical to the hardback cover, but both are equally stunning. Readers can expect all the image they find inside to be every bit as amazing.
One day, a black dog appears in the Hope family's yard. Mr. Hope spots him first and announces him to be the size of a tiger, but the dog increases in size with each family member's sighting. By the time Maurice gets a glimpse, the black dog is reportedly larger than their three storied house. All the Hopes huddle together under the covers, except for one. It is the youngest member of the family, called Small, who dons her coat and steps outside alone to face the beast.
Although the dog appears quite large and very black, Small is not afraid. As she leads him on a merry chase through the trees, across the frozen pond, and through the playground, the black dog following her every step of the way seems to be shrinking. By the time they reach the Hope house, he is small enough to crawl through the cat flap like Small does. When the rest of the family is faced with the reality of sees the dog, they realize he isn't frightening at all, through thought about how much courage Small had shown. The way the entire family is staring at the black dog while he licks a plate clean, and the very last image of Small cuddling with him in front of the fire leads me to believe that I just read the story of how the Hope family adopted their dog.
I do like the story, but it is most definitely the illustrations that make the book. They are extremely well done, but just a bit quirky, with odd little bits tucked in every cluttered room. I love every page and hope you will too.
Perhaps that's what is happening in this story, OR ... is it something else?
Each family member sees the dog and imagines it is something that frightens them. The small child sees the dog and loves it right away. It becomes less and less a fearsome thing and more and more a living thing to love. The dog got a family and the child got a friend.
This is a sweet story, of both overcoming one's fear and of love and friendship. The illustrations are fabulous.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
a Small Hope in their lives.