Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Mine! Frankie by Mary Sullivan

With no blankie, no toys, no nothing, a squatty pooch with absurdly big ears waits hopefully in a cage at the dog shelter.

Well, she has a name, but she doesn't know it. There is a sign on her door.

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And then a woman's hands open the door and reach out to her, with a word.


Is that her name? In the car, with her ears blowing back in the breeze from the window, she asks herself, Is that who I am?

In the house she asks herself a another big question:

"Frankie's home?"

But there's already a dog there, a portly brown dachshund--Nico. And Nico has a different idea.

"Nico's home."

Nico thinks of himself as the big dog, the only dog, of the house.

Frankie spots a polka-dot red ball. Could that be her ball?

Nope. Nico grabs it. It's his ball. Ditto for the chew bone, the toy dog, the chew rope, the green blankie, which Nico snatches out from under her, and the monogrammed dog bed, in which he sprawls out regally.

No Way!

Frankie quickly figures out the law according to Nico. It's ALL Nico's stuff!

But Frankie has her own ideas. She'll get her own stuff. She gets busy, rounding up a ball (of yarn), a bone (a toilet paper tube from the wastebasket), a toy (a plush shark from a child's bed), plus a sock for a chewie rope, a washcloth for a blankie, and a cardboard box for a dog bed. Frankie plops down in her "bed" surrounded by her STUFF! Nico gives her a baleful look as he carefully flaunts his own possessions spread all around his bed.

And then Frankie hears something beautiful. It's the woman, calling her name!

And what does she find? Brand-new stuff (with her name on each item)--a ball, a chewie stick, a bone, a blankie and bed, a doggie toy, and a wonderful squeaky green frog! Frankie's in dog heaven, toting everything off to her very own bed!

But Nico's clearly got his eye on Frankie's new green frog....

There's a surprising but satisfying bit of canine negotiation in the Geisel Award-winning Mary Sullivan's forthcoming dog story, Frankie (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). Sullivan's charming narration, is told chiefly through short and snappy thought balloons and winsome illustrations of the stolid and spoiled only dog and a hopeful and perky rescue pup working out their disputed doggie territory in one household, and how they do it makes for an amusing and heartwarming story of give and take. Her illustrations portray the comedy and pathos of Frankie's determination to make her own place in a world that hasn't always wanted her.

Sullivan rightly keeps the visual focus on the interplay between the two dogs in endearingly drawn comic characterizations that capture their personalities perfectly. While the back of Sullivan's dust cover features a photo of the "real" shelter dog Frankie, her endpapers show an assemblage of pet shelter residents--cats Fluffly, Orange Jello, and Miss Kitty and dogs Broccoli, Shamrock, and the rest, for which young readers may want to create their own adoption stories. A perfect first choice for primary collections and pet lovers alike.

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