Blue Dog lives on a small wooden farm where life is pretty quiet-except when Big Billy comes to visit. Whenever that happens, things change. Suddenly the pig is put in the hayloft, and Blue Dog might find himself in the chicken coop. But no change is as startling as the one that occurs when Big Billy picks Blue Dog way, way up and says, "I wish I had a dog just like you." It's then that Blue Dog's strange and wondrous adventures truly begin.
Jean Van Leeuwen and Marco Ventura offer this tender yet unsentimental tale sure to touch the mind and heart of any child (of any age) who has felt the magical power of a beloved toy.
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A small, blue wooden dog lives a (real) dog's life, for a while, in this confusing story. Blue Dog lives in a wooden toy farm in Big Billy's room. The boy tucks Blue Dog in his pocket and takes him everywhere, to school and even on a field trip to a working farm. Big Billy makes no secret of the fact that what he wants is a real dog, and when he gets a springer spaniel near the close of the book and names it "Blue," the pet usurps the toy's place: "Now it was Blue who waited for Big Billy to come home from school, and Blue who went traveling." Although Van Leeuwen (the Amanda Pig books; Going West) hints that Blue Dog could be "real" after he visits the working farm, and the artwork portrays Blue Dog running alongside Billy as if he were lifesize, such suggestions are only a tease. Unlike The Velveteen Rabbit, in which love makes the toy come to life, Billy sadly admits that his toy is not real; and Blue Dog doesn't seem concerned that he is largely shunted aside by the living, breathing pet. A newcomer to children's books, Ventura creates serene, detailed oil paintings, luminous with warm sun or bluish moonlight. The photo-realist quality of the illustrations works well with the tale's interplay between reality and fantasy. But because the tale is told from Blue Dog's point of view, readers will identify with the appealing fellow, and likely be disappointed that he is ultimately cast aside. Ages 4-8. (May)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Blue Dog is one in a menagerie of toy farm animals in the collection of Big Billy, a gentle boy much taken with his cows and hens and horses. He loves putting the pig in the hayloft and the rooster on the barn roof, but most of all Big Billy likes to play with Blue Dog. He starts taking him everywhere: school, a real farm, to bed. Van Leeuwen (Hannah of Fairfield, p. 73, etc.) makes it clear from the outset that Blue Dog is a surrogate, though a beloved one: ``The moon rose. A soft beam of light reached down from the sky, coming to rest on Big Billy's pillow. Big Billy sighed. And suddenly Blue Dog felt the room flooded with longing.'' Then, after a portentous out-of-body experience, Blue Dog wakes to find another, rather larger dog in residence. He grows even happier, because his life on the farm has taken on a curious dose of reality, and Big Billy has not forgotten himthey still bunk together. Van Leeuwen gets the sense of yearning just right, balanced between a healthy hankering for the new and continued respect for (and joy in) the old. Ventura's highly realistic artwork makes grand gestures toward the dramatic, but artfully remains true to the story line. (Picture book. 4-8) -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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