Friday, August 28, 2009
Dog Heaven written and illustrated by Cynthia Rylant
I loved this book. It is actually a little bit long, 28 pages to be exact, but really it doesn't matter for two reasons. First of all, there are actually very few written words in this book, the majority of it is pictures. Second, the message is something relatable and the author tells such a meaningful story that it flies by. As the title would suggest, this book is all about a dog heaven. Cynthia Rylant carefully describes the activities, the food, and the comfortable beds that dogs will have in their heaven. For example, "God turns clouds inside out to make fluffy beds for the dogs in Dog Heaven, and when they are tired from running and barking and eating ham-sandwich biscuits, the dogs each find a cloud bed for sleeping."
The pictures are done in a minimalist way, that is there isn't a whole lot of detail to them. They actually look as though perhaps a child painted them. Which would be nice for children I would think to look at pictures that they could have easily done. The pictures are also very bright and colorful. This was a good choice as, given the subject of the book, it could have been quite somber. Cynthia Rylant however is showing us a happy view of the after life, and the chosen colors really help her to express this. I feel that her goal was to show children that they shouldn't be sad for their dogs who have died because look how wonderful Heaven is! Also this book would probably help children to understand and feel better about death in general.
Okay, something of a warning for teachers who are are looking to read this in their classrooms however. As this book is called Dog Heaven, it would only make sense that there are references to God and angels. Since religion tends to be a touchy subject in the public school, I would steer away from this book for the classroom. That having been said, I love this book and I would totally recommend it for more private use, outside the classroom. Or perhaps it could be suggested to a family or individual student dealing with the death of a pet. I can still remember after my dog Max died when I was in the third grade, my mom bought me this book to help me understand. It really did help and it also made me feel better to see this wonderful interpretation of where dogs go when they pass away. Cynthia Rylant did an awesome job of painting a perfect life after death for (wo)man's best friend :-)
Also! There is a Cat Heaven by the same author for those of you who a partial to pets of the feline variety.