Skip to main content

Black Dog by Levi Pinfold

Congratulations to Levi Pinfold's BLACK DOG for winning the 2013 CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal (the UK's version of the Caldecott)!!

Levi Pinfold, who's work is new to me, immediately strikes me as one of those illustrator/authors who could write a story about anything and his amazing artwork would carry it along, no matter what the subject matter. I'll be honest, I didn't know what to make of Black Dog the first time I opened it. But, being the owner of two black dogs, one of which came to us as a big, ferocious looking stray, I wanted to love this book. I found myself poring over the pages, letting the illustrations tell the story, not reading the words at all my first time through. Pindfold's style immediately calls to mind the magnificent Shaun Tan, creator of the amazing wordless graphic novel, The Arrival. There are so many details to take in with every illustration and on the pages where text appears, Pinfold has added six more small illustrations in panels, like a graphic novel. Finally, after several readings without reading the words, I sat down and read Black Dog.

And it is wonderful! Both the story and Pinfold's writing! The book begins, "One day, a black dog came to visit the Hope family. Mr Hope was the first to see it." Looking out the window, Mr Hope is stricken. He calls the police to tell them that there is a black dog the size of a tiger in his front yard. The police caution him not to go outside. Mrs Hope, Adeline and Maurice Hope also all have encounters with the big black dog outside and, like a folk or fairy tale, each family member describes the black dog as being increasingly enormous. The family hides in fear, but the youngest member of the family, "called Small (for short)" puts on her parka and heads out the door to see about this black dog.

This has to be one of THE BEST picture book illustrations I have seen in a while! After being snuffed by the beast, Small tells the black dog that he will have to catch her if he wants to eat her and she takes off running. As she speeds over the snowy terrain, she sings a little song to the beast telling him he "can't follow where I go, unless you shrink, or don't you know?
Singing and teasing, the dog chases Small through the neighborhood, getting smaller every second so that he can follow her under bridges and through playgrounds (another fantastic illustration) until they return to the Hope house and both tumble through the cat flap. Hiding him under a laundry basket, she shows her family that the black dog is "not that fierce at all," showing her family that there was nothing to be scared of at all.

No doubt, Black Dog seems like a simple story, and, while it works perfectly well on that level, making this a superb read-out-loud for the littlest listeners. However, Pinfold weaves so much more into his text  (rhymes, a narrator who notes the lack of rhymes at ideal times, and a "Big Jeffy," which Maurice compares the black dog to although will not reveal exactly what a Big Jeffy is...) and employs melodic words like scuttled, guffin, and lowering, making this book a keepsake. Black Dog is a book that young readers will remember well into adulthood and want to read to their own children.

Source: Review Copy


The Spruiters said…
This looks so sweet! And I am SO excited that you have linked the blog to the Seattle Public Library! Now with a single click (OK - 2 or 3 to actually log in to my account, etc.) I can read one of your reviews and then put that book on hold at my branch - awesome!
Tanya said…
Yay! Feedback! So glad you are interested in the book and especially glad to hear you like the new widget I added - with the help of a reader and fellow Seattle resident IAN GILMAN. In my post from October 27 I explained how I came to have this widget, if you want to know more about it...
Anna S said…
This is one of the few books I bought this year without even reading the story -just off the power of illustrations. The story is versatile - conquering fears, going against the flow, but most of all I like the Small character that follows in the footsteps of Pippi Longsocking, Keneth Oppel's Peg, Olivia and many others created to empower little girls around the world.
Tanya said…
Well chosen and very well said! Thanks for your comment!

Popular posts from this blog

Made by Dad: 67 Blueprints for Making Cool Stuff - Projects You Can Build For (and With) Kids! by Scott Bedford

On his personal website, Scott Bedforddescribes himself as an "Award Winning Online Creative Professional" working within the advertising and design industry. What is more interesting (and applicable here) is how hisWhat I Made website came to be. While sitting in a Starbucks with his restless young sons, trying to enjoy his latte, Bedford created something out of coffee stir sticks that ended up keeping his boys entertained, finishing his coffee in peace and sparking (re-sparking, really) his creative drive and reminding him of the "enormous joy gained from making things, even simple things, and that this joy is not the complexity or quality of the finished project but in the process of making itself. On Bedford'sWhat I Made website, he even shares Six Cool Coffee Shop Crafts for Kidsthat you can try out next time you want to enjoy your coffee and your kids are making that difficult. I've shared two below - be sure to check out the website and see the rest!


How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers

How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers remains the most read post on my blog since I wrote it in 2012. Because of this, I have cleaned up this post, tightened the writing and added in any pertinent information that has come about since it originally ran. When I first started in August of 2008, I was scrambling for content, finding my purpose and my voice and not always doing my best writing. How to Choose Age Appropriate Books for Advanced Readers was one of the first articles I wrote and, as a bookseller and a book reviewer, and now as an elementary school librarian where I have gone from working with kids reading well beyond their grade level to kids reading well below, this philosophy remains my organizing principle and central focus when reading and recommending books to parents and children. 

In the interest of my mission and the attention this article continues to receive, I have updated and expanded this article and included a guide to using …

POP-UP: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book, paper engineering by Ruth Wickings, illustrations by Frances Castle RL: All ages

POP-UP:  Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Pop-Up Book with paper engineering by Ruth Wickings and illustrations by Frances Castle is THE COOLEST BOOK EVER!!!  I know that I haven't dedicated much time to pop-up books here, but they have always held a special place in my heart, and the phrase "paper engineering" is a favorite of mine. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I did go through a paper engineering phase when I was ten or so. I would sneak off to the back of the classroom during independent work periods and go to town on the construction paper and glue and make these little free-standing dioramas. A huge fan of The Muppet Show (the original), I reconstructed the all-baby orchestra from an episode, drawing and coloring each baby and his/her instrument then gluing them onto a 3D orchestra section I had crafted out of brown construction paper.  I also made a 3D version of Snidely Whiplash throwing Nell off a cliff with Dudley Do-Right wa…