Sunday, April 08, 2012

Pooch Playoff: Homer by Diane deGroat

Alex loves baseball, but his dog, fittingly named Homer, if anything, loves it more!

Homer doggedly follows Alex to ball practice and home again, and when Alex finally collapses into his bed and falls asleep to dream of play action under his posters and pennants, Homer is there on the rug right beside the bed. But Homer is a dog with a secret life.




The cover of Diane de Groat's and Shelley Rottner's latest team effort, Homer [HOMER] [Hardcover] (Orchard, 2012), tells all. Rottner's photo and art collages pitch this tale with all the verve and creativity of their earlier hilarious hit, Dogs Don't Brush Their Teeth!, as skillfully manipulated photos of their canines are digitally adapted to the ballpark. We see the opposing teams, the Doggers and the Hounds, suiting up in their locker rooms and psyching themselves up in their doggy dugouts as the groundskeeper pooches prep the infield and the umps put on their chest protectors and take the field.

The ballpark itself has been set up specially for canines, with a convenient fireplug provided for the paws that refreshes near the on-deck circle, and the championship game is on.

The teams are well-matched, but as the game goes into the final inning, Homer's team, the Doggers, are trailing 3-0, and it looks like the Hounds are going to emerge top dogs after all.

But then, the Doggers rally.

The crowd begins to roar as Whitey gets on base, and Rocket races to second. And then Lucky manages to hit the pitcher's sneaky money pitch, a droolball!

The bases are loaded. It's all up to Homer as he steps up to the plate. The roaring crowd quiets as the count quickly goes to 2 and 0. Then Homer swings mightily and a long drive soars into center field. Is it a long out, or will it clear the fence and cinch the series for the Doggers?

Does Homer hit a homer? The outcome of this tail-wagging tale may not be in doubt, but in art as well as sport, it's not who wins or loses, but how you play the game, and the team of veteran author de Groat and illustrator Rottner show they've got game in their second canine collaboration. Kids will love the doggone funny visual humor as well as the verisimilitude of the digital ballpark and the varied canine breeds as seasoned ballplayers toiling on the mound and squaring off at the plate. As Kirkus Reviews points out in their play-by-play, "The format is everything here.... Even the endpapers are part of the fun, taking the form of doggie baseball cards. A howlingly good time."

Pair this one with Brian Lies big hit, Bats at the Ballgame, for a two-bagger baseball storytime treat.

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