Last summer we lost a huge branch from our favorite tree. I was distraught thinking that we may have to cut it down. We have not. But I was able to smile through my sadness because of a book I found at the library that very week during my regular picture book research hunts. You can read about that special tree book here: https://lisaconnors.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/for-the-love-of-trees/
Once again my sadness has been lifted by a picture book. For a month now I’ve been taking a watercolor painting class. While I’ve a lot to learn, I am thoroughly enjoying the process, practicing techniques, seeing the world around me more clearly and even wondering if I might illustrate my own picture books someday. I did an online search for picture books done in watercolor and one of the selections I was able to find in the library was Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (Candlewick Press, 2012). It’s a sweet story of a boy and his new puppy’s first night together. Oxenbury’s illustrations have a perfect softness and color combination to calm the reader who may feel anxious for Charley, the new puppy. I found myself smiling and recalling the first days with our dog Pirate. We lost our Pirate last month. You can read his obituary here: http://www.halcyonnature.com/2016/01/09/the-best-pirate-ive-ever-known-12403-1816/
After the initial sadness about Pirate, we fell into concern for our other dog, Toc, who was attacked by a neighbor dog just three days after Pirate died. She’s not quite the same now, afraid to go outside and favoring a hip that was bitten. Now as the days bring us closer to spring, we feel the hole in our lives where Pirate was. He loved the outdoors and our property, Halcyon, was his piece of paradise. Charley’s First Night lifted my spirits better than my rational brain, which knows we gave Pirate a great life. That’s the power of a picture book. I am pretty sure Charley’s First Night was written to help the young child see how to comfort a small puppy (or anyone feeling anxious) and yet, it was able to help a grownup feel better about the loss of an old dog.
I highly recommend Charley’s First Night to any parent seeking a book about a first pet, to anyone wanting a book about love and compassion or to anyone needing a feel-good kind of break to their day. It’s also pretty sweet for any child who needs to convince their parents that their new puppy should sleep in their bed! Yep, picture books are that powerful.