Friday, March 13, 2009

Clare Turlay Newberry, author and illustrator
1961, Harper & Brothers

No one, except the dog, enjoyed the ride home. He had a glorious time. He loved riding in cars anyhow, and he simply adored the nice people in the front seat. All the way to Cerro Gordo he kept licking their necks with his very large and very wet tongue. And every few moments he tried clumsily to climb over onto their laps.

Felice Romero wants a puppy but her mother falls in love with a full-grown Malamute at the animal shelter. Felice, sulky and slightly afraid of the genial but enormous Frosty, slowly comes around. Though the family cats are less flexible.

Clownie and Pussums, however, still regarded Frosty as a Terrible Mistake

When I was seven and had finally bugged my parents enough that they relented and said we could get a dog, I automatically wanted a puppy. We went to the animal shelter and walked through looking at the dogs, and I found the two litters of puppies and was trying to decide between the identical black-and-tan forms when I realized my mom had vanished. I found her gazing down, smiling, at a shaggy adult dog who was doing her best to ingratiate herself with my mom and win a pass out of being trapped in a smelly kennel with two hysterically barking spaniels. Long story short, we went home with the shaggy adult dog. She was perfect. Mothers know these things.

The beautiful illustrations are a definite draw, but the simple story does stand on its own. The slightly unusual setting - clearly the southwest, with Hispanic characters - is nice for a book this age, particularly as it isn't insistent. Felice is a believable little girl, as are her friends and neighbors, and Frosty is a most believable dog. The parents have their moments of doubting the wisdom of keeping this huge dog, and that rings true also. And from a dog owner point of view, much of the observations in the book, both explicit and implied, are still valid.

And as Frosty was treated more like a member of the family, his manners began to improve.

Frosty is a shelter dog who's unneutered and at the end of the book, the family is considering buying a female Malamute and breeding them. This is a capital crime in today's doggy world, though I have a sneaking sympathy for the idea of breeding any dog who can play with a yardfull of strange children safely. That is another archaic idea, sadly - nowadays, too many people claim that 'all dogs bite' and pretend there are no dogs that are safe with children. Also sadly archaic is the idea that a shelter dog can be a nice, normal pet. If "Frosty" had been written in 2008, he'd be 'rescued' with 'issues' and Felice would take him to doggy obedience classes to learn how to understand his lunging at children.

Frosty - male Alaskan Malamute (registered name A-put)
Poochie - female mixed breed

Pussums - male grey and white cat
Clownie - female black and white cat

About the author

Other books

Newberry was famous for her cat books, but she did one other book with a canine hero, Barkis (1939). But her cat books are also well worth finding.

Mittens (1936)
Babette (1937)
Cousin Tony
April's Kittens (1941)
Lambert's Bargain (1941)
Marshmallow (1942)
Pandora (1944)
T-Bone The Babysitter (1951)
Cats & Kittens: A Portfolio (1956)
Herbert The Lion
Ice Cream For Two
Drawing A Cat
The Kittens ABC

de Grummond Collection

Northwest Digital Archives
Newberry Cats

No comments:

Post a Comment