Friday, March 17, 2017

Nature or Nurture: Antoinette by Kelly DiPucchio

Mrs. Bulldog watched her puppies race through the yard.

(Ridiculously cute, aren't they? But please don't tell them that!)

Mrs. Bulldog knew (
as mothers do) why each of her puppies was special. Rocky was clever! Ricky was fast! Bruno was strong!

And Antoinette? Well, unlike her burly brothers she still hadn't quite discovered what she was good at.

"Chin UP!" barked her mother. "You have something extra special! I can feel it in my bones"

Antoinette, a svelte, lithe, and dainty little poodle among her brawny brothers, feels as if she doesn't quite belong in her muscular family and is not totally reassured by Mrs. Bulldog's promise. Still, she is able to forget herself in the daily romp in the park with her brothers and their playmates, a dog family that is the mirror image of her own--three dainty poodle siblings--Fifi, Fou-Fou, Ooh-La-La--and the one sturdy bulldog Gaston.

But one day little Ooh-La-La goes AWOL from the group.

"Where is Ooh-La-La?" Mrs. Poodle asked frantically.

The playdate in the park turns into an instant search party. Clever Rocky spots footprints. Quick Ricky races to follow them around the lake. Strong Bruno leaves no boulder unmoved. But Ooh-La-La is not to be found. Ah, mon dieu! No one knows what to do.

Antoinette felt a tug in her heart and a twitch in her nose.

Following her nose down the Paris sidewalks, Antoinette takes charge, leading them through the busy streets to the Louvre Museum, where heedless of the grumpy guard she sniffs and darts through the crowd and discovers quite an unsuspected scene. It seems Ooh-La-La, in her pursuit of butterflies, has followed one to the perilous tippy-top of the statue of Winged Victory. Brava, Antoinette!

All's well that ends well, in Kelly DiPucchio's latest adventure among the ever-popular Parisienne French poodle and French bulldog pups, Antoinette (Gaston and Friends) (Atheneum Press, 2017), with a satisfying rescue and an even more happy ending (no spoiler here) for those odd ones in their families, Antoinette and Gaston.

Author DiPucchio tells this tale with verve and plenty of Gallic panache, and Caldecott-winning artist Christian Robinson's faux naif acrylic paintings portray the oh-so-French ambiance in this lost puppy tale, told en famille in a pastel palette that catches the French street scenes winsomely and winningly, so well done that Kirkus says in their starred review, "Robinson's seemingly simple artwork belies his masterful ability to imbue his characters and the places they live with an authenticity and humanity that move readers beyond the surface of the page."

See the review of Kelly DiPucchio's and Christian Robinson's companion book Gaston (Gaston and Friends)(Atheneum, 2014) here.

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