The Longest Letsgoboy by Derick Wilder, illustrated by Cátia Chien


The Longest Letsgoboy 
by Derick Wilder, illustrated by Cátia Chien
review copy from Chronicle Books
 
As with my review of Shaw Harris' Have You Ever Seen a Flower, I have to begin this review by telling you that Chien expertly employs a neon tangerine color in her illustrations that is a vital aspect of the emotional tone of The Longest Letsgoboy and it just does not translate in the images seen here. Next, I have to confess that this was a pretty hard book for me to read and review because the longest letsgoboy is imminent for my beloved canine. A stray I lured in from the street with a pack of hot dogs ten years ago, my big, black bear of a dog has slowed down considerably, but he always manages to haul himself up from his bed when he hears, "Let's go boy!"

Wilder tells this story from the cheerful perspective of a dog heading out on his final walk through the woods with his girl. His language is musical and descriptive, as the dog has his own names for the things he encounters in his life. "Mewmew" is the cat wakes him as the fireball (sun) floats across the sky. "Little," the girl, is his "foreverfriend," and trees in the "bigwild" are "tallsticks."

The story follows the pair as they explore and enjoy, hugging as they watch the sunset. Returning home, the dog heads to the far corner of the garden where, after circling then settling, he hears a distant, "Letsgoboy!" The "flutter of beautifuls" lifts him and his "oldbones feel new." Here, Chien, who excels at imbuing her illustrations with emotions, is at her best. The dog's peaceful, happy, passing is an ebullient burst of bright colors, the neon orange of his collar now spread across the page. A page turn and deep blue and darker shapes suggest the family gathered around the body of their dog, letting readers know, in a concrete way, that the dog has died. The spirit of the dog continues to narrate the story, watching as days pass and his girl keeps going on "letsgoboys," happy when a new "awwwpuppy" arrives on the scene. As he closes his story, Wilder reassures readers that both dog and girl are happy. Chien's final illustration affirming this, as you see the girl in her home, the new puppy in her lap, with a wispy, cloud-like presence that is the dog, wrapped around the home, a smile on his snout, and swishes of the neon tangerine from his collar adding to the emotion.

There are a handful of picture books about the death of a pet, many of which have been around for a long time, both because deserve to be, but also because there are so few books on this subject. My go-to, as a bookseller, librarian and pet owner, was always Cynthia Rylant's Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven from 1995 and 1997. Within this narrow genre, these did the job. I am happy to have a picture book that is secular and a standout.

More excellent picture books illustrated by Cátia Chien

The Bear and the Moon


The Town of Turtle

A Boy and a Jaguar

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