Monday, October 24, 2011

Best Friend - Always: Bone Dog by Eric Rohman

Elly has been Gus's dog and best friend as far back as he can remember. But, as Elly points out one beautiful autumn evening, dogs don't live forever.

"I'm an old dog and I won't be around much longer.

But no matter what happens, I'll always be with you."

They sat together in the moonlight. Then Elly said, "A promise made under a full moon cannot be broken."

And then Elly is gone, and as the leaves begin to fall, Gus is lost without her. Sadly he pulls on his old skeleton costume, grabs his treat bag, and heads out with the others for trick or treating. But Gus can't really get into the spirit of fun, and before long he finds himself with a candy-filled bag heading for home through the graveyard.

Just as Gus looks around and realizes that he'd rather be somewhere else, he is suddenly surrounded by a ring of dancing skeletons--and they are NOT kids in old Halloween costumes. They are the real deal, clacking bones and all.

"Come along now" said a skeleton. "It's Halloween, and you know what that means."

"But I'm not a skeleton. I'm a boy," said Gus.

"Numbskull!" said another skeleton. "You have got guts, boy. But not for long! Bone appetit!"

The skeletons begin to dance around Gus ominously. But then the moon breaks through the clouds.


"Elly!" cried Gus.

Elly barked and growled. It gave Gus an idea. He joined in, and boy and dog howled into the night.

The skeletons stopped dead in their tracks.

"Woof? Dogs? Real-life dogs?"

A gang of Elly's friends appear, and the skeletons exit, page left, with the dogs in full chase. Apparently, it doesn't go well for the bony ones. Dogs like nothing better than bones, and a proud little dachshund soon trots by, a giant bone happily in his mouth.

Gus and Elly once more sit together under the moon.

"Will I see you again," Gus asks.

"A promise made under the moon cannot be broken," says Elly. With that she disappeared into the night."

Caldecott winner Eric Rohman's newest, Bone Dog (Roaring Brook, 2011) is a funny-sad little ghost story illuminated by the idea that friendship never dies. With clever wordplay badinage from his bony bad guys and his trademark prints executed in somber but soothing palette, this little fantasy is less spooky than reassuring, a story for the scary season that will be remembered whenever the night is dark and the moon is full.

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