Review of the Day: Good Boy, Fergus
Some breeds of dog are especially picture book friendly. Your bulldogs, of course. Your weiner dogs. And then there's your West Highland terriers. I daresay that if you were to ask what type of pup is owned by more children's authors and illustrators than any other, it would be this breed. Author Rosemary Wells (who wrote the "McDuff" books) takes hers to book signings. "Widget", by Lyn Rossiter McFarland created a series out of her character. And now, to top it all of, David Shannon has thrown himself into the mix. Best known at this point in time for his "David" picture books (though I consider his, "Duck On a Bike" to be one of the best readlouds ever conceived), Shannon has come up with a whole crop of misbehaving but adorable misfits. First came "David" and his ilk. Then trotted out, "Alice the Fairy". And now we've gone into the world of canines with the new dog in town, "Good Boy, Fergus!". He's a West Highland terrier who, according to the bookflap, is found, "in ten of David Shannon's books". Apparently being an extra has paid off well in the end. Fergus has gotten his very own book and he's attempting to take the world by storm.
Your first view of Fergus is of a little white dog playfully chewing a monkey toy, rear firmly in the air. The first official page of the book, however, shows the little guy's head just barely peeping up over the coverlet of a bed. "Good morning, Fergus! Want to go out?". You bet he does. Together, we spend a day with a dog. From tummy tickles to a failure to obey commands, to the rapid destruction of a houseplant, we see Fergus pull every trick in the book. No matter what he tends to do, however, in the end he's always a, "Good boy". And by the time you see him sleeping peacefully on the bed's coverlet, you almostn begin to believe it yourself.
Until now, I don't think you can say that Shannon's done out-and-out cute before. You can make a case for "Alice" or "David" having a kind of grody charm, but you certainly wouldn't slap a label of "Adorable" onto their books. With "Fergus", it's different. Something about this terrier has struck a particularly delicate chord in the author's heart. Fergus hasn't the jolly ugliness of David's triangle nose and sharp pointy teeth. Maybe it's the fuzziness that makes him so lovable. Maybe the fact that Shannon can make a fast-moving dog's legs look to be in four different places at once. Or maybe it all comes down to the, "Don't beg, Fergus", sequence. This consists of four different colored shots, three of which show Fergus staring meaningfully up at a man sitting at the dinner table. By the fourth panel the man has given in and Fergus, munching delightedly on a meatball, gives the audience a waggish wink.
Sometimes picture books with canines can be separated into two categories: For Dog Lovers Only and For Everybody. "Fergus" kinda straddles this line. On the one hand, it's a perfectly nice book with plenty of mischief to keep the kids amused with doggie antics. On the other, I think dog lovers will find this book especially amusing. The rest of us? Moderately. Unlike the David books, Fergus's antics are just those of a high-strung pup. You can't revel in his naughtiness because so much of what he does is just what dogs do. The two-page spread of him having peed on everything in sight on a street corner is kind of naughty, but what else would you expect from a dog? Now if David were to do that, it would be another matter entirely. Just the same, it's hard to resist such a good-natured book. And when it all comes down to it, kids will love this pup's crazy schemes. Fun to read, "Good Boy, Fergus!", is a worthy successor of an already enjoyable series.