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BACKWARDS DOG

A charming, amusing, and sweet canine tale about difference and friendship.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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A dog who marches to his own drummer tries conforming in this debut picture book.

All the dogs of Harmony Street act in a normal and proper way except for one: Charley. In defiance of canine custom, Charley sticks his rear out the car window rather than his head; he runs in triangles, not circles; and instead of playing catch in the park, he heads home to nap—“with CATS!” Charley’s friends wonder why he can’t act like the rest of them. But Charley just replies, “You say forwards, I say backwards. It’s not right or wrong, wrong nor right. We are just different, you see. And I’m just happy being me.” But Charley’s friends walk away (CATS!), and he decides that maybe he should try acting like other dogs. When he does, though, things work out badly. But finally, his friends return: “As long as you’re happy, what else is there?” To prove it, they all walk Charley home—backward. Rogers’ book effectively reads as a metaphor for autism or any condition that sets kids apart from the majority. Charley has good reasons for doing things the way he does, and the author wisely doesn’t demand that he ultimately conform or reveal some acceptance-earning supertalent. The slightly exaggerated realism of the illustrations by Boyd (Calling the Water Drum, 2016, etc.) does a superb job of showing the dogs’ personalities while adding much liveliness and humor.

A charming, amusing, and sweet canine tale about difference and friendship.

Pub Date: April 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-942586-24-1

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Little Creek Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

FAMILIES BELONG

A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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