In Ippen’s sweet, compassionate picture book for children, a little boy learns the meaning of love, trust, and family alongside his rescue dog, Argo. Coming from an animal shelter, Argo has passed through many homes— and some were cruel or neglectful, which makes it hard for the animal to trust people and also causes him to be afraid of thunderstorms and boots. As a foster child with a heartbreaking history of his own, the young narrator relates to Argo’s plight. “Some people I lived with before had big problems and didn’t always take good care of me,” he says. “Sometimes I worried about new people and new places. Sometimes I felt scared and didn’t know why.”
Ultimately Argo and the boy both come to understand that they are safe and loved, even when times are tough. Perhaps the most valuable aspect of this lesson involves the healthy expression of anger. When Argo chews up one of the boy’s favorite toys, the boy initially gets upset and yells at his pet – but then he realizes Argo looks scared as a result of his outburst. “I’m mad, but I still love you,” he tells the dog. The boy’s empathy and self-awareness will help children and their parents consider their own reactions when they get mad, as well as how to handle strong emotions in the future.
Erich Ippen Jr.’s colorful, soft-edged illustrations give depth to the story by offering hints to the characters’ pasts. Argo, for instance, was born in an alley and spent part of his life chained up in a barren backyard, and the boy is shown sitting alone in a crib while two adults argue in the next room. These emotional illustrations will give kids plenty of chances to ask questions and reflect on their own experiences and fears. Ultimately this touching tale speaks volumes about overcoming trauma and the value of family—in all its many forms.
Takeaway: A little boy learns the meaning of love, trust, and family alongside his rescue dog, Argo.
Great for fans of: Simon James’s Mr. Scruff, Lisa Papp’s Madeline Finn and the Shelter Dog.
Production grades Cover: A Design and typography: A Illustrations: A Editing: A Marketing copy: A
A child and a dog with troubled pasts bond in this picture book.
Canine Argo and a young, unnamed human narrator both love playing, running, and cuddling on the couch. They also both lived in many other places before they got together. Argo once resided in an animal shelter, where he was very frightened until two employees made him feel safe. Although it’s not overtly stated, the child appears to have been in foster care; in one scene, the character is shown as a baby while two faceless adults argue in the background. The text is informative without being scary: “Some people I lived with before had big problems and didn’t always take good care of me.” When Argo chews up a beloved toy, the narrator explodes with anger until his family member (an unnamed adult) talks about the effects of Argo’s past. The child apologizes and the pair make amends: “He feels safe and loved,” the child says. “Just like me.” In less skilled hands, this story could have treacly undertones (or worse, be upsetting to kids), but Chandra Ghosh Ippen’s gentle, accessible text, paired with Erich Ippen Jr.’s expressive, full-color pen-and-watercolor illustrations, perfectly conveys the transformative power of patience, kindness, and love for those who’ve experienced trauma. The narrator is depicted as Black; adult characters have varying skin tones.
A touching tale flawlessly told.