The Sally of the title, a black Labrador retriever, is a real dog. As notes included with the book tell it, she was originally trained to be a Seeing Eye dog but didn't find her niche in that role. Eventually the well-known artist Stephen Huneck and his wife Gwen adopted Sally. She is featured in a chapel that Huneck is building for dogs atop Dog Mountain, on his farm in Vermont. And now, with Sally Goes to the Beach, she has her own book. Any preschool age child will find the illustrations striking, beautiful woodcuts charming. So will adults. Sally was lucky in the choice of artist to portray her. Stephen Huneck's sculptures, paintings, and woodcuts hang in a number of museum collections, including the Smithsonian's. In the tradition of the graceful and evocative medium of woodcut, which dates back for many centuries, Huneck's line is elegant and his colors vibrant in this lovely and warm-hearted picture book.
Sally narrates her own story. From her first sight of the suitcase that alerts her to an imminent journey, through the ride in a convertible (whose license plate reads SALLY), to the ferry ride and cab ride, Sally convincingly doggish gets as much fun out of going to the beach as she does in being at the beach.
But then there are the great joys of new smells, playing in the ocean, riding in a boat (named Friendship), and encountering the not always welcoming creatures of the beach. In the beachside hut that evening, Sally lies in bed with her master and ends her story with the motto of most children (and probably of most dogs): I cannot wait for tomorrow!