Holiday books hold a unique place in the world of children’s literature. They are likely to get a bump in popularity due to the holiday tie-in (at least for a certain part of the year), but critically, they often receive less attention. Bone Dog by Eric Rohmann (My Friend Rabbit) deserves all the attention it can get. It’s one of the more unique and well-crafted books (Halloween-related or otherwise) I’ve seen this year.
Gus and his dog Ella were the best of friends, but canine companionship doesn’t last forever. Before shuffling off the mortal coil, Ella makes a promise to Gus:
I’m an old dog and won’t be around for much longer. But no matter what happens, I’ll always be with you.
Ella passes on and Halloween arrives. Gus sets out for some somber trick-or-treating dressed as a skeleton. He is soon confronted by a posse of real skeletons who mistake the boy for one of their own. When they realize their error, the ghouls turn on Gus. But Ella’s perfectly-timed return to the world of the living (and pack of friends) saves the night.
It’s quirky, sure, but not in a way that will turn off readers. In fact, I think many readers will like the book precisely for the more macabre moments. While there’s some spookiness (and a touch of melancholy), humor also comes into play. This range of emotions is a welcome sight.
The illustrations are standard issue for this former Caldecott winner – exquisite. Here Rohmann keeps to his signature chunky relief print technique. The pages hang together superbly. Can a Caldecott be awarded on the merits of a 3 spread sequence alone? Bone Dog might just pull it off:
A unique take on the standard Halloween fare, Bone Dog will win a lot of fans.
Review copy from publisher
Find this book at your local library with WorldCat.