Why teach an old dog new tricks when the old dog is already perfect? Our Caldecott consideration continues.
Look closely here. On the surface this is a simple, lovely story about a nice old dog (a dog who doesn’t die, by the way, for those of you worried about that kind of thing). With sensitive brush and pencil work Cooper gives us an irresistible, flesh and blood (and fur) dog in Homer. But beneath that sweet surface is an especially sophisticated piece of storytelling. Copper lays the story out across a carefully structured set of panels. One by one, the members of Homer’s family pass him on the porch, inviting him to join in one outing or another. And with each cumulative turn of the page and subsequent invitation, we see the previous family member attending to his or her pursuit. And then the whole things plays back in reverse as the family returns. A wordless denouement finds Homer leaving his post on the porch and joining the family inside, hoisting his arthritic frame into what is clearly his chair. And there is peace. Cooper’s ability to paint such full-bodied characters, human and canine, is such simple linear gestures is, on its face, a little bit amazing. That he applies that skill to a brilliant narrative arc is extraordinary. It’s hard to imagine paying more respect to a child audience.