Little Dog Lost

carnesi littlelostdog 336x300 Little Dog LostWith a text so simple it could be an easy reader, Monica Carnesi tells the true story of a dog who got stuck on an ice flow in Poland’s Vistula River, swept out to the open sea, and rescued two days later. I am hoping this outwardly simple book will catch the committee’s attention. The straightforward approach is artless in the best sense — but also in the sense that it requires a closer look to see how perfectly it uses the picture book form.

No one knows what brought this dog to his predicament, but the title and dedication pages show him running through woods full of red squirrels until he finds a stick on the frozen river. Carnesi’s line art and watercolor perfectly convey the freezing temperatures and the vastness of Dog’s predicament. Emotion runs high in both text and art, but the author wisely allows the story to speak for itself. There are no embellishments of palette or extreme close-ups of a worried dog. Instead, she uses the very horizontal spreads to accentuate the fastness of the moving water and the hopelessness of Dog’s situation. The fact that he remains far away makes the reader long for a close-up view and his safety. We can see just enough of his expression — first confused, then resigned — and his body language tells us the rest. Dog’s stiff front legs braced against the snowy surface of the ice are all we need to feel the treacherous motion of the waves.

Although Dog’s rescue begins halfway through the book, by then the reader is completely invested in his predicament and peril, making the last few spreads showing a warm, content dog aboard ship all the sweeter. I challenge all dog lovers not to feel a little weepy when he finds and “thanks” his savior. For me, this is a perfect example of the sum being greater than the parts. Simply told text, subtle art, and perfect pacing are combined with a gripping story that might seem unlikely but is, in fact, true.

This is Carnesi’s first book and it hasn’t made a big splash in terms of stars. But it’s the kind of quiet book the committee, who is reading everything with an eye toward detail, might be able to discover. What do you think?

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Lolly Robinson About Lolly Robinson

Lolly Robinson is the designer and production manager for The Horn Book, Inc. She has degrees in studio art and children's literature and teaches children's literature at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education. She has served on the Caldecott and Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committees and blogs for Calling Caldecott and Lolly's Classroom on this site.

Comments

  1. I love this book. For the reasons you’ve written about and more. I almost used it in a workshop on picturebook biographies this summer and then inadvertantly left it out. The fact that it is a true story makes it so much more appealing. My son was very emotionally involved on the first reading. I thought the illustrations were lovely – who knew that much snow and ice, i.e. white could look so beautiful. I hope the book gets serious consideration.

    • Susan Dailey says:

      I agree that this is a deceptively simple book with many wonderful traits. I particularly appreciate the variety of layouts Carnesi uses—panels, full bleed pages, small images with a lot of white space. The color palette is effective with touches of a soft shade of red in the town and on the boat to indicate warmth. I really liked the page with the four vertical panels showing the two days and nights the dog was on the ice–good way to indicate time and movement. The next page wonderfully captures the dog’s predicament—the slumped shoulders, the downcast expression, the sense of isolation shown by the use of white space. The ice has jagged edges, but the overall circular shape of the image keeps it from being too scary. I’m not sure what I think of the two illustrations shown from an overhead perspective. I’d love to know what others think?

  2. I love this book, and my little ones loved the story and pictures. I agree that it perfectly uses the picture book form. Sensitively written and beautifully illustrated…well done!

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  1. […] THE HORN BOOK: CALLING CALDECOTT blog just posted the most wonderful write up about LITTLE DOG LOST. And here is the link to THE HORN BOOK starred review. […]

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