Bone Dog

Bone Dog

by Eric Rohmann
     
 

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One of School Library Journal's Best Picture Books of 2011

One of Horn Book's Best Picture Books of 2011

Ghost dogs and skeletons in a tall tale with a tender heart from the Caldecott Medal-winning creator of My Friend Rabbit.

Gus doesn't feel like doing much after his dog Ella dies. He doesn't really even feel like dressing up for

Overview

One of School Library Journal's Best Picture Books of 2011

One of Horn Book's Best Picture Books of 2011

Ghost dogs and skeletons in a tall tale with a tender heart from the Caldecott Medal-winning creator of My Friend Rabbit.

Gus doesn't feel like doing much after his dog Ella dies. He doesn't really even feel like dressing up for Halloween. But when Gus runs into a bunch of rowdy skeletons, it's Ella--his very own Bone dog--who comes to his aid, and together they put those skeletons in their place. A book about friendship, loss, and a delightfully spooky Halloween.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Caldecott Medalist Rohmann's (My Friend Rabbit) friendly figures and soft, autumnal colors give this spooky story an overlay of tranquility. Ella is Gus's dog, but she's aging: "I'm an old dog," she tells him, "and I won't be around much longer." Yet she promises to stay near him always, and "a promise made under a full moon cannot be broken." After she dies, Gus, dressed as a skeleton for Halloween, is threatened by a half-dozen ghoulish graveyard skeletons: "A boy!" "And he's alive!" "And you know what that means?" "Bone appétit!!" Ella, now just a dog skeleton, shows up just in time to rescue him. It's an offbeat mixture of humor and sadness: in an arresting image, Gus looks incredibly alone as he stands in the middle of an empty graveyard, clutching his Halloween candy; the skeletons' scariness is tempered by their kooky poses and glib lines. Yet more than the skeletons, it's Gus's grief that's vanquished. Some may find the sight of Ella as a skeleton off-putting; others will find comfort in the idea that a dog's loyalty transcends death. Ages 4–8. (July)
From the Publisher

“Several moments border on frightening, but this is ultimately a tender look at love's never-ending reach.” —Booklist

“On Halloween night the ghost of a little boy's dog returns to help him combat some bossy skeletons. It's by turns spooky and heartwarming.” —People

“…dog lovers will likely delight in this quiet story of a dog's devotion even beyond the grave.” —BCCB

“Sometimes scary, often funny and ultimately heartwarming, Rohmann's tale successfully balances a tight text full of tough emotions with clear images of an everlasting friendship.” —Kirkus STARRED

“Sad, spooky, and comforting by turns, this deceptively simple approach to the loss of a pet quickens and gladdens the heart.” —School Library Journal

“It's an offbeat mixture of humor and sadness…Some may find the sight of Ella as a skeleton off-putting; others will find comfort in the idea that a dog's loyalty transcends death.” —Publishers Weekly

Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
As his dog Ella grows old, Gus knows he must accept her leaving him. She promises that she will always be with him, explaining that "[a] promise made under a full moon cannot be broken." Still sadly missing Ella, Gus does not feel like trick-or-treating for Halloween. But dressed as a skeleton, he goes out anyway. On his way home in the dark, Gus finds himself in the graveyard, surrounded by skeletons that invite him to join them in "skeleton stuff." When he reveals that he is not a skeleton but a boy, they seem ready to attack him. Then the moon emerges from the clouds and help arrives. It is Ella, as a skeleton dog. She and Gus manage to summon other dogs to help. The skeletons flee as the dogs pursue them across double-page spreads. Ella and Gus are together again for only a moment before Gus goes home. Rohmann creates an appropriate atmosphere for the climax by showing a dark blue sky and gyrating skeletons. Heavy black outlines produce believable figures that act like full-fleshed humans and dogs as well as skeletons. Following the wordless chase pages, a comic note is added as a pooch marches off across the pages with a bone in his mouth. Although a touch scary, the story should offer some comfort to children who have lost a cherished pet. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Employing the printmaking techniques that earned him a Caldecott Award for My Friend Rabbit (Roaring Brook, 2002), Rohmann continues to mine the depths of friendship, this time between a boy and his dog. Readers first encounter Gus and Ella frolicking with a pack of dogs; then they are framed against a low-hanging moon having a heart-to-heart. Ella explains that due to her age she "won't be around much longer. But…I'll always be with you." Furthermore, "A promise made under a full moon cannot be broken." The dog's death occurs offstage; ensuing panels depict the protagonist's dispirited movements during daily activities, his heart heavy with loss. An encounter on Halloween night forces Gus to grapple with his new reality. Walking through a graveyard in his skeleton costume, he is surrounded by the real deal. Just as things are looking grim, a skeletal Ella and a pack of flesh-and-blood canines save the day. As in Rabbit, black borders contain the action and create a cinematic distance. The green landscape and horizon line disappear in the climactic scenes, with the action playing out against a deep blue sky or a moonlit white background, furthering the sense of a movie in motion. Rohmann's bony wordplay lightens the tension, and a controlled palette provides a calming continuity, as does a conclusion that mirrors the beginning (with the exception of some ecstatic dogs trotting home with new bones). Sad, spooky, and comforting by turns, this deceptively simple approach to the loss of a pet quickens and gladdens the heart.—Wendy Lukehart, Washington DC Public Library
Kirkus Reviews

Caldecott Medalist Rohmann employs a similar artistic style to his award-winning My Friend Rabbit's as he depicts a young boy's journey through grief by way of a spooky graveyard on Halloween.

Beloved dog Ella tells Gus under a full moon, "I'm an old dog and won't be around much longer. But no matter what happens, I'll always be with you." Once Ella is gone, Gus mopes. On Halloween he reluctantly goes trick-or-treating, costumed as a skeleton. Heading back home he cuts through the graveyard. Here Rohmann's hues darken, and Gus looks small and utterly alone. In a quietly dramatic page-turn, Gus is suddenly surrounded by a group of skeletons. Their goofy behavior and wisecracking taunts turn sinister, and soon they close in. The ghost of Ella comes to the rescue, yet she alone cannot save him. "Together will all their might..., boy and dog howled into the night." A pack of dogs arrives to vanquish the bony bullies in an offstage battle readers see only in hilarious denouement. Gus and Ella cuddle once again. He asks, "Will I see you again?" Ella answers, "A promise made under a full moon cannot be broken." Here the image of ghostly Ella and skeleton-clad Gus echoes the earlier picture of the two.

Sometimes scary, often funny and ultimately heartwarming, Rohmann's tale successfully balances a tight text full of tough emotions with clear images of an everlasting friendship. (Picture book. 4-8)

Kristi Jemtegaard
It's not often that a book can be described by two almost opposite words, but Bone Dog is just such a book: tender and creepy, sweet and spectral, winsome and just a bit weird.
—The Washington Post
Pamela Paul
Genuine goose bumps arise from this moving story…At once heartbreaking and heartwarming…
—The New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596431508
Publisher:
Roaring Brook Press
Publication date:
07/19/2011
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
32
Sales rank:
887,622
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.50(d)
Lexile:
AD450L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Eric Rohmann won the Caldecott Medal for My Friend Rabbit, and a Caldecott Honor for Time Flies. He is also the author and illustrator of Clara and Asha, A Kitten Tale, and The Cinder-Eyed Cats, among other books for children. He has illustrated many other books, including Last Song, based on a poem by James Guthrie, and has created book jackets for a number of novels, including His Dark Materials, by Philip Pullman.
Rohmann was born in Riverside, Illinois in 1957. He grew up in Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago. As a boy, he played Little League baseball, read comic books, and collected rocks and minerals, insects, leaves, and animal skulls.
Rohmann has his BS in Art and an MS in Studio Art from Illinois State University, and an MFA in Printmaking/Fine Bookmaking from Arizona State University. He also studied Anthropology and Biology. He taught printmaking, painting, and fine bookmaking at Belvoir Terrace in Massachusettes and introductory drawing, fine bookmaking, and printmaking at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.
He lives in a suburb of Chicago.

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