Sunday, May 22, 2016

Both Sides Now: Frank and Laverne by Dave Whamond and Jennifer Stokes

SUNDAY 0600 hours

Woke up and went outside for Squirrel Patrol.

Then I woke up Laverne.


In combat gear Frank the Pug goes on patrol, defending his humans and his co-pet Laverne the Cat against that elusive enemy, the squirrels who infiltrate the backyard. Frank sees Laverne as his comrade in arms.

We do basic training exercises together every day. I love Laverne.

Frank is always on duty. His job is to be underfoot while the humans try to get off to work and school and always to locate that slimy tennis ball no matter how wildly Sam the Kid throws it. Frank is a happy and fulfilled dog.

Dogs like me prefer the simple things.

A nice shoe after a good meal.

The pure joy of barking.

Poor Frank is unaware that Laverne doesn't share his point of view. Laverne hates the pre-dawn call to duty. She glares at Frank as she endures his sloppy affection while she pulls up her daily schedule on the laptop:

10:00 a.m. Nap

10:30 a.m. Knead cat bed.

10:32 a.m. Nap

Yep. Dogs and cats lead different lives. Frank loves his fish toy. He loves barking and chasing squirrels. He loves the exotic aroma of the truck on Garbage Day. Laverne loves her bed. She loves hiding Frank's smelly toy and snitching on him when he chews the rug and climbs on the furniture for neighborhood watch time.

But Frank and Laverne are bound by one common enemy--Carl, the enormous and vicious Great Dane nextdoor, whose slavering snarls are heard over the tall board fence between their yards. Frank tries to sound bigger than he is, and Laverne loves walking the top of the fence just beyond Carl's ravening jaws to whip him into a frenzy.

But then, one day when Frank is coming up with some especially impressive yapping aimed at Carl, Laverne just can't resist trying a dirty cat trick. She lifts the latch on the gate in the fence and poor clueless Frank dashes through, only to face the fangs of the waiting Carl.

Frank flees as fast as he can on his silly short legs back into his own territory, and Laverne gives herself a dope slap as she realizes that her mischief has backfired spectacularly.

I realized those fleabags were running in circles.

There were now two dogs in my yard.

That would not do.

Sometimes a cat has to do what a cat has to do. Laverne unsheathes her unique weaponry and launches a deadly strike from above.

Dave Whamond's and Jennifer Stokes' Frank and Laverne (Owlkids Books, 2016) is a truly funny look at the eternal war between dogs and cats and the humor of their occasional liaisons. Whamond and Stokes' shtick here is the reversible book in which first Frank and then Laverne tell their versions of the same story, ending at the same outcome in the middle. There are two sides to every story, and the contrast between the canine and feline takes on life are part of the fun, a mini-lesson on the importance of point of view in a narration.

Whamond and Stokes give us some hilarious illustrations which point up the differences between Frank's naive infatuation with everything and Laverne's sardonic take on what she sees as the idiocies of dogs in general and Frank in particular. Loyal devotees of Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty and Poor Puppy (see reviews here) will love Frank and Laverne's wry version of the eternal story of Cat Vs. Dog!

Says School Library Journal, "bright, expressive cartoon illustrations will certainly draw in the younger crowd, who may enjoy this book over and over again, understanding more and more each time."

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