I Am the Dog, by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jack E. Davis
(2010, HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-06-055505-4)
It was story time at the library today. My son was the one with the sock hanging out of his mouth. On the one hand, that’s disgusting. On the other, it made this book just that much more realistic to me.
This is the story–told in first person–of Jacob, a boy who voluntarily switches places with his dog, Max. This is not in any Freaky Friday sort of way…no, the actual boy takes a fancy to sleep on the floor and eat kibble and run around the yard on all fours. Max the dog–in Snoopy fashion–walks on his hind legs, gets dressed, and attends school. (He even does homework at the end of the day which Jacob eats so he has to do it over again.) Jacob speaks to his parents and wears clothes despite doing everything else like a dog. Max never appears to speak despite doing everything else in human fashion. Jacob’s family, friends, and various acquaintances seem to have no problem whatsoever with a boy who eats kibble and sniffs things at the park or with a dog who attends school and eats at the kitchen table. In the end, boy and dog agree…it’s better to be a dog. (There goes the thought that there might be a moral to this story!)
The illustrations are bright paintings with attention to offbeat detail such as the fish-themed curtains on the bedroom windows and various strange lamps (penguin, super hero, silver pig, etc.) throughout the house. You see outlets and plugs, random cars parked on the street outside the window, and the tassels on the bedspread. Shadows and highlights are strong–his mom’s glasses (hanging around her neck) cast a shadow on her shirt, and even noses have shiny highlights. The little birds kind of look like Pink Pearl erasers on legs. Needless to say, the art is pretty quirky, but I think it is probably very appealing to the likely intended audience: weird children. Oh, wait. I meant kids (mostly boys) ages 4-7.
As a note, it appears as though neither the author nor illustrator intends to be taken very seriously. Not only are all their book titles slightly outrageous (The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, The Artsy Smartsy Club, and Marsupial Sue, for example), but the book appears to be dedicated to their family pets and their jacket bios are full of silliness. Sounds like the perfect team, doesn’t it? 🙂
GirlChild’s Reaction: GirlChild thinks this book is pretty funny. When I asked her what her favorite part was, she responded, “The part where he pretends to be a dog.” (Um, that’s the whole thing.) “[GirlChild], that’s the whole thing!” “Well, I *like* the whole thing!” This is one of those books that we groan inwardly and drag ourselves to read because it’s just ridiculous but that GirlChild loves and asks for over and over while we have it checked out. (This is also the third time she’s chosen it to check out. Any book with a dog on the cover draws the attention of this future veterinary neurologist!)