Monday, September 6, 2010

City Dog, Country Frog: what were they thinking?

OK, I've been avoiding this topic all summer, but it's really gotten under my skin. You think I'd love it: a foxhound lovingly treated by the brilliant watercolorist Jon J Muth, combined with text by the exceedingly clever Mo Willems.

Despite countless ads in the New Yorker and glowing reviews, my take on it is this: this effort simply does not work. First, deep and sincere thanks to Mr. Muth for deciding to highlight my distinguished breed. I often complain about the missed opportunities to showcase my, I mean, our handsomeness. Yet, since when is a hound a city dog? A hound is nothing but a country dog! Even Mom must admit that one reason I garner so much attention is because of my rarity here in Swellesley. My family is known for tackling tough cases when it comes to canines, so they didn't mind my country manners (read: none) too much. The owners in the book, though they never make an appearance, must have been awfully glad to get that hound back to the country.

Ok, so right dog, wrong book. The story simply makes no sense. It also has no connection to the Aesop fable The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, one of Mom's favorites.

In this effort, a dog meets a frog and they become friends. Hounds are extremely kind beings, true. I have not only two rabbits in my pack but a gazillion fish and three frogs. Although I receive my liquid refreshment from our outdoor pond, I would never dream of harming those amphibians. Somehow, I don't think they'd be great playmates, either.

And, frogs overwinter without any trouble at all, so why does this frog not reemerge in spring? We are not told. In one truly frightening picture, the hound's face is distorted to become frog-like as he remembers his friend. Then, once the reader has absorbed the fact that the frog is gone, the dog makes a new friend, just like that, with an even unlikelier creature. Tadpole's Promise by Jeanne Willis does a better job of addressing the cruelties of nature, friendship, and loss. Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print.

My favorite dog book du jour doesn't deal with any of the above heavy topics, but the joy of reading: Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates. Completely adorable, just like me.