lovers unite! Stephen Huneck loves dogs, especially his dog Sally, and that love shines through in his newest picture book. Like his previous two books featuring Sally, My Dog's Brain and Sally Goes to the Beach, Sally Goes to the Mountains is a celebration of All Things Dog. Big Dog.
It's a big book, too, the kind I loved as a kid. It fills the whole lap. The illustrations are simple, bold, imaginative, and they make you laugh. They'll also take your breath away.
Huneck is an artist and sculptor who has created a series of woodcut prints to showcase Sally's adventures. They are drop-dead gorgeous and almost vibrate with anticipation and action the way children do when they know they are going on an adventure.
In my family, we take a trip to the mountains each summer and stay in a cabin in the woods. How well I remember my small children wondering what they would find, itching to get there, to explore. We read books, preparing for our first trip, in much the same way that Sally prepares for hers. By the time she is in the car and on the road, she can't wait to get there.
Children will identify with Sally, as they listen to her first-person narrative of her trip. Huneck gets inside a child's world, using simple sentences ("I want to play with a rabbit.") that speak to the basic desires children have on a long trip, including having lots of food close at hand. Adults are shown only peripherally an arm or a hand which is just the right perspective from a dog's view . . . and a kid's!Sally, a carbon-copy of Huneck's real-life black lab, is alternately energetic, patient, boisterous, confused, innocent and always hungry, as she dreams of what her trip to the mountains will be like. Here is a concept book, a storybook, a reference book for the very young. Here is a grand introduction to the mountains, to adventure, to the life of a big dog who is well loved. Here is a doorway opening wide for a small child to discover the delights in the everyday wonders of the world.
Deborah Wiles' first two books for children, Freedom Summer and Love, Ruby Lavender, were published this spring.