Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Book #347: My Dog Thinks I’m a Genius by Harriet Ziefert, Illustrated by Barroux



Image from BlueAppleBooks.com
When he was five the dark-haired boy in this story said, “I’m an artist. / I need to paint and draw every day.” So he did. Now that he’s eight he still draws every day and his faithful dog, Louie, is always there to observe and help. When he likes a painting he barks and runs, wags his tail and gives kisses. The boy names his latest picture, “My Dog Thinks I’m a Genius.” But then the boy has to go to school and Louis is left at home. He doesn’t like that at all. When the boy gets home Louie isn’t sitting in the window waiting for him like usual. The boy is ready to put Louie in time-out when he steps into the studio and sees…a masterpiece! The boy calls the picture, “My Dog is a Genius.”

This story of friendship and art, written in first person present tense from the boy’s point of view, is casual and matter-of-fact. There is no question in the boy’s mind: he is an artist and his dedication to his art is inspiring. The boy and his dog are the only characters in this story and their interactions show how much they love and respect one another. The illustrations are a combination of hand drawn line work and thick strokes of paint. Barroux uses color to call attention to important elements in the compositions, leaving less important, but nevertheless intriguing elements, to be outlined, but not colored completely. As noted in the illustrator’s note on the back endpapers, Louie’s painting was inspired by Paul Cézanne’s still life, nature morte au panier. A short biography of Cézanne is also included.

Use this book for a storytime about painting and painters. Try pairing it with titles such as, The Magical Life of Mr. Renny, Emma’s Rug or I Ain’t Gonna Paint No More. Discuss what inspires each of the painters in these stories. Where, when, and why do they paint?

Louie thinks paintings should have dogs in them, so bring in photographs of famous paintings that include dogs. PetCentric has a list of dogs in art to get you started. Bring in art books with lots of color photographs. Divide kids into groups of 3-4 and have a dog scavenger hunt. Have kids mark pages with a sticky note or a book mark. How many dogs can you find in 5 or 10 minutes?

Try pairing this book with the title poem from Jack Prelutsky’s poetry collection, My Dog May Be a Genius, illustrated by James Stevenson.

If you’re a fan of Barroux’s style, check out Extraordinary Pets.

-Amy

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