Seven-year-old author Brod takes readers on a charming, simple journey toward a gentle joke at the end of her debut picture book. You might even call it a shaggy dog story.
Can you teach an old dog new tricks? And just how far will you go for a punch line? When Lorisse decides to train her dog, Marie, she takes all the important preliminary steps—buying supplies, making a list of tricks—before diving into an intensive week of training. Her work is so successful that not only does she achieve all her training goals, but at the end of the week, she is also invited to show off Marie’s new skills at the Play Theatre. Not everything goes quite as planned at the theater, yet Lorisse and Marie roll with the punches—even turning their troubles into the book’s main joke. Aside from the joke, the age-appropriate storytelling feels a little dry, with a solid, straightforward structure built on a “this happened, then this happened” structure. But Brod makes it all worth reading with her sly twist at the end. Her sentences are clear and readable, with little hints of personality coming through, as when Lorisse makes up her training plan: “She decided one day for each trick, less than a week. EASY!” Illustrator Starkes is 12 years old. While the technical skill displayed in her drawings, apparently created with crayons and filled in with computer design programs, is about what you’d expect from an artist that age, the sophistication and humor of the drawings show remarkable promise. Her illustrations advance and enrich the story rather than just explicate it. Marie’s tricks include playing dead (in dramatic fashion), dancing in a tutu, playing a horn while twirling a hula hoop and drawing pictures with her feet while playing paddleball, all with a certain cunning nonchalance.
A solid effort from a talented young writer and promising illustrator.