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Archive for December 28th, 2019

by Sam Juliano

The most intrepid of canines was the ever-resourceful family handyman and space traveler Stanley who was the titular character in Jon Agee’s 2015 picture book It’s Only Stanley.  Peggy Rathman’s Caldecott Medal winner Officer Buckle and Gloria chronicled the unbreakable bond between a policeman and the dog who performed with him on his visit to schools to speak on safety.  In the cinema the loyal companion Parson Russell Terrier Uggie engineered a mad dash down a street to alert a policeman that his master was trapped in a house fire in Michel Hazanavicius’ 2011 Oscar Best Picture winner The Artist.  But the role of a dog in the life of a child can never be downplayed both for steady companionship during upbringing and for an emotional bond that often supersedes any other.  Veteran children’s book author-illustrator Sergio Ruzzier deliberately blurs the role of each protagonist in his latest early-age treasure Good Boy, which intimates a spiritual connection that rivals the deepest intimacy between a married couple, familial siblings, or the closest of friends.  in fact Ruzzier raises the ante in a story where daily activities, meals, inter-space travel and sleeping re-define the meaning of soulmate in the context of a boy and a dog who are not -in contradiction of the conventional wisdom- separated by species, physical size or age, but are wed by common purpose and incomparable compatibility.

Ruzzier, the Italian born classicist with duel citizenship who divides his time between the US and Italy is in the Caldecott hunt for the fifth time in six years.  With Good Boy he has produced what is surely by any artistic and conceptual barometer of measurement one of the finest works of 2016.  Like all the best creations, Good Boy is thought-provoking, elegant, and invested with the most vital, if rudimentary measure of advocacy for our youngest readers.  The book celebrates the power of friendship and the unlimited boundaries of the imagination. Once again Ruzzier’s colorful and sumptuous otherworldly tapestries evoke a European sensibility and some of his eccentric carnival scenes envision the surrealist cinema master Alejandro Jodorowsky, though framing the art as Felliniesque seems just as appropriate.  The creator of the charming story of forgetfulness, Have You Seen My New Blue Socks?, the melancholic tale of friendship, A Letter For Leo, the counting book in miniature, Two Mice, and his gem about the power of reading, This is Not a Picture Book Ruzzier again makes in intimate pitch to the youngest readers with stirring examples of personal interaction and to teachers and adult readers his singular art  Sharp-eyed viewers might see some persuasive comparisons with the art of renowned artists Leo Politi and Tomie DePaola, but on the other hand Ruzzier is an original whose work is far more singly identifiable. (more…)

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