Archive for November 18th, 2016


by Sam Juliano

Though Lynne Rae Perkins’ Frank and Lucky Get Schooled is brilliantly conceived and is astonishingly diverse in its unique unfolding of its domino structure, it remains a moving story of friendship from the moment boy meets dog till the final autumnal vignette  when it is revealed that the human protagonist values his beloved black lab’s company more than anything in the world.  This was the message too in Peggy Rathman’s Caldecott Medal winning Officer Buckle and Gloria where a policeman and his trick performing dog served as a team to introduce students a host of imperative safety tips, but in the end it was their relationship that mattered most of all.  Books about the intractable bond between an impressionable laddie and his cherished canine companion are plentiful,  some like Wilson Rawls’ Where the Red Fern Grows, Fred Gipson’s Old Yeller, William H. Armstrong’s Sounder and Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Shiloh -the latter two winners of the Newbery Medal- are now seen as literary classics and classroom favorites, as well as prime examples of coming-of-age stories with baptism-under fire denouements.  Rawls’ novel, shattering and beautifully written ended with the bleakest resolution ever posed in this genre when a boy’s two redbone coon hounds, Old Dan and Little Ann save him from a mountain lion, but at the steepest price when the former is mortally wounded and succumbs the next morning.  Little Ann is so devastated that she loses her will to live and dies on Old Dan’s grave, leaving the young owner disconsolate and grief-stricken.  But he returns later to the graves to find a giant red fern growing between them.  Some vital lessons about life and responsibility are integral to a true appreciation of these books, all of which can also be framed as slice-of-life adventure stories.

Perkins, an eminent writer who won the coveted Newbery Medal in 2006 for Criss Cross, is also an extraordinary illustrator, and her dual talents are stunningly showcased in Frank and Lucky, which takes no sides in favoring either component.  The art in the book is varied in style, density and canvas size but the pen, ink and watercolor tapestries are as sublime as any of the more pictorially conspicuous picture books of 2016, and to boot, it is accompanied by Newbery level prose. (more…)

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