Spunky Tells All

Spunky Tells All

by Ann Cameron, Lauren Castillo

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781429995351
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date: 10/11/2011
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 112
Lexile: 610L (what's this?)
File size: 701 KB
Age Range: 8 - 11 Years

About the Author

Ann Cameron is the author of many books for young readers, including The Stories Julian Tells and the National Book Award finalist The Secret Life of Amanda K. Woods. She lives in Portland, Oregon.
Lauren Castillo is the illustrator of many books for young readers, including Alfie Runs Away by Kenneth Cadow. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Ann Cameron was born in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, in 1943 in the middle of an October blizzard. She grew up on a farm on the outskirts of that small town, and from the time she could walk she loved exploring it -- picking wild violets, staring into the eyes of cows and horses and chickens, puzzling over where the sun went when it set and wanting to follow it. She says: "When I was a child I fell in love with nature, imagination, and freedom. Later my childhood friends and I made up our own games. We spent lots of time outside, skiing, hiking, biking, and fishing. Our world seemed to us almost separate from the world of adults. I think the independence my childhood friends and I enjoyed is disappearing from the life of American children today, and I want them to feel it through my books."
In third grade, Ann decided that when she grew up she wanted to be a writer."I loved to read," she says, "but I didn't know anyone who was an author. I wasn't sure I could be one. I was afraid I couldn't. Every story I wrote as a child had behind it that terrible, troubling question: was it the story of someone who could become an author? If I could advise children who want to be authors and who perhaps worry as I did, I'd tell them to read a lot, learn all they can about what makes stories beautiful, powerful, and exciting, and not worry about the future."

Ann graduated from Radcliffe College, where she studied with the poet Robert Lowell. He called one of her poems "magical" and encouraged her to keep writing. After graduating from college she worked in publishing in New York City, and studied at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she received an M.F.A. in English in 1972.

Her first book for children, The Seed, was published in 1974. The book was inspired by a seed growing on her windowsill: transformed into a story, it became a young seed in the ground afraid to grow because it had heard a terrible storm in the unknown world above it.

Ann's books about Julian Bates and his family found their beginning in stories told her by a South African friend, Julian DeWette. "I wanted to write stories that would include the emotions all children feel," Ann says. "Now that I've heard from children around the world who like my books, I'm delighted to find that I've really done it!"

In 1983, Ann visited Guatemala and decided to divide her time between New York City and Guatemala. "I'd always felt that if I lived in another culture I'd learn other ways of seeing things and become a broader person than if I knew only one culture's outlook. Now I have years of living among Guatemalan people, some of whom are living on or over the edge of poverty. This is not a good thing, and it's not right. Yet the difficulties of living in Guatemala often teach people to recognize the impermanence of life and to value each day and each other more than material things. I try to do that, too."

Ann now lives most of the year in Panajachel, Guatemala, the small town she calls San Pablo in her short novel The Most Beautiful Place in the World. She has worked to improve the Panajachel library so that Guatemalan children will have the same opportunity to read, learn, and dream that American children have. She is married to Bill Cherry, a former sailor, newspaper reporter, and editor, and retired staff director of a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives. They live in view of three volcanoes, a beautiful lake, and a waterfall, in a small house with flowers growing over the roof and a lemon tree in the garden.

I grew up in a little blue house near the water, on the North Shore of Long Island, New York. Living around the corner from the beach, I am told I learned to swim well before I began to walk. Most days were spent outdoors, and most weekends spent visiting my relatives that all lived nearby. Raised in an Armenian-Italian, Spanish-Irish family, I was exposed to a potpourri of cultural traditions. We celebrated a patchwork of holidays, foods, and music. I was surrounded by Spanish paintings, patterned walls and tapestries, old Armenian textiles, ornate furniture, beautiful ceramics, and, of course, lots and lots and lots of books—so many rich visuals that helped to expand and mold my visual vocabulary. I looked forward to weekend trips to my grandparents’ houses. Those trips always meant storytelling—storytelling, which stretched my imagination toward the entire world.

When I was five, my parents packed up my younger brother and me and we said goodbye to our little blue house, our beach, and our grandparents, as we headed south to make our new home in the faraway countryside of Maryland. Moving away from the family was hard, but my brother and I found plenty to entertain us. We had big imaginations and were always creating—games, plays, stories, pictures, and settings, we did it all. We discovered a local pool to replace our old beach, and spent the rest of our time exploring, hiking, fishing, photographing, and drawing. My parents encouraged my love for drawing, and kept a stock of sketchbooks to hold my daily doodles and stories.

By the time I entered middle school, drawing was my biggest pasttime. I drew on just about everything—even corners of test papers and handouts, which sometimes got me in trouble with teachers! And it was my high school art teacher, also a freelance illustrator, who introduced me to the world of illustration. He challenged and encouraged my talents, and helped me prepare my application for the Maryland Institute College of Art. Accepted and thrilled, I packed my bags for Baltimore in the fall of 1999.

As an illustration major I studied many different aspects of the field, but it was a children’s book class during my junior year that made very clear which path I would take. The following summer I had the opportunity to study abroad in Southern Italy – an invaluable experience that opened my eyes to the world of visual journalism. I spent the entire trip exploring, recording my encounters and locations through drawings in my sketchbook. And I used my final college year to create a children’s book based on my summer abroad. It was that trip and that book which inspired me to apply to the master’s program in Illustration as Visual Essay at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

I moved back to my New York roots in fall 2003, attending the School of Visual Arts while persistently bothering many editors and art directors with portfolio drop-offs and meetings. I graduated in spring 2005 and was offered an internship with Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, where I learned a great deal about the publishing industry. Shortly thereafter, I received my first children’s book deal!

I have been very fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with wonderful, talented editors who have paired me with equally wonderful, talented authors I’ve admired over the years. It is important for me to be able to relate the stories I illustrate to my own life experiences. I have the most fun incorporating bits and pieces of my own world into my illustrations—an occasional pattern from my grandparents’ wall, an old lamp from my parents’ living room, or a hilarious canine family member. I’ve even had the opportunity to travel back to that little blue house on Long Island, exploring and sketching for a story that takes place by the water!

I am currently illustrating full-time for children’s literature in Brooklyn, New York, and continue to collect inspiration through a visual journal of my own responses to the ethnicities of New York City.

Lauren Castillo is the author-illustrator of many books for young children, including the Caldecott Honor–winning Nana in the City, Melvin and the Boy and The Reader, written by Amy Hest.

Read an Excerpt

Spunky Tells All

By Ann Cameron, Lauren Castillo

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Copyright © 2011 Ann Cameron
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-9535-1



I could tell you everything about the Bates family — things you'll never hear from anybody else. Then this book could be titled "Spunky Tells Everything." But it's not fair for a Dog to tell everything about his family. A family deserves at least some privacy and loyalty.

So I will only tell all. Almost all.

The most important thing is this: they love me, and I love them. That's the best thing. Then there's the sad part, the sometimes tragic misunderstandings. My language is Dog. They don't understand my language. And so they don't really understand me, even though I have lived with them for so long! Two years in Human time, which is fourteen years in Dog time. A very long time, I would say.

It's true that I can't speak Human, but I understand it — they have taught me Sit and Stay, Come and Shake hands, and Good Dog. Also Bad Dog. Besides those words, from listening carefully I have learned almost all the rest, even words they say only to each other. Although I prefer my own Dog names for some things, I know their language.

But have they learned one word in Dog? No. Have they learned any Dog customs? Very few.

Yes, they feed me, and yes, they love me. But no, they don't understand me. Only my boy, Huey, understands me. We're so close that sometimes I can read his thoughts, even though he doesn't think in Dog.

But there have been times when even Huey completely misunderstood me, as he did after I chased squirrels. (Squirrel-chasing is an ancient Dog custom I have since renounced.)

For a Dog, giving up any Dog custom is hard. Quitting squirrel-chasing was very painful for me. The day I gave it up, I grieved.

That evening, the Bates family sat around their Food Board eating hot dogs, a Human food name I don't approve of. Julian, Huey's big brother, was talking about me.

"So," he said, "there we were in the park, with Spunky going top speed after that squirrel, his legs churning up the grass, and he and the squirrel both headed straight for the river. At the last possible second, that squirrel swerved, but Spunky — he went flying over the bank and hit the river like a rock. Kerplash!"

"And he came out," Huey said, "looking so cold and so wet, and sooo funny!"

"Whee!" Mr. Bates said, slapping his knee. "I sure wish I'd seen that!"

They all started chuckling about my mishap in the river. I did not appreciate it!

I sat up tall. I gave them a talk — the best talk I ever gave in my life.

I said: "Listen! I am a Dog. I will always be a Dog, so don't laugh. You, Mr. Bates, Mrs. Bates, Julian, and Huey, you are Humans and will always be who you are, too. Sometimes other Humans will laugh at you. That, I have noticed, is one thing Humans do: they laugh at each other.

"But a Dog will never laugh at a Human for being Human. That is why you love us. That's why you trust us. That is why you call us Man's Best Friend. Still, when we behave like Dogs because we are Dogs and cannot help being Dogs, you laugh.

"Is that fair????????????"

That was the end of my speech. I put a lot of question marks on the last word, with both my ears and my tail.

They only understood the question marks.

"Spunky's very talkative tonight," Mrs. Bates said. "As if he's asking us something."

"Maybe he wants to go out," Huey said.

"Maybe he wants a bone," Julian said.

"It might have something to do with the way that squirrel humiliated him down by the river," Mr. Bates said.

I didn't know that word, "humiliated." It had a terrible sound to it — the sound you would hear from a snake's tongue if it flicked you inside your nose and you couldn't stop it, or from a Human throwing a whole pan of water on your head, humidiating you for a joke.

"I was not 'humiliated'!" I told them.

Huey bent down and rubbed my neck. "Spunky's saying 'Yerf!' so much I'm afraid he'll get a sore throat."

From my whole speech, the greatest I ever made in my life, they didn't even understand the question marks. All they heard was "Yerf!"

That's how Humans are. Even a wonderful family like the Bates family.

They can't help it, and I forgive them.


My Age

The Bateses think I am a young Dog. But they don't really know. I came to them without a birth certificate or any papers whatsoever. Yes, I arrived at the Bates home as poor as a Dog can be, just looking for a place to belong.

The good thing is they don't care. I never once heard them say, "If only he'd been a Pomeranian," or "Purebreds are better," or "You can't trust Dogs without papers." They love me for who I am. Because of that (even though I sometimes complain about them) I think they are the greatest and most wonderful family in the world, and I love them with all my heart.

But I do think about the dignity of age. The dignity of my age.

I am five years old. That may not seem very old to you, but, if you were a Dog, you would know the math by heart: five Human years equals thirty-five Dog years. In Dog terms, I am thirty-five years old.

I am older than Mr. Bates.

I am older than Mrs. Bates.

I live in their house. They feed me. I do what they say. Mostly. But I know very well, from what their Human adult friends call them, that they have first names. From now on I have decided to think of them as "Ralph" and "Michelle," because they are younger than I am.

That, I believe, will help me to see us as equals.


Huey Nose

Every Dog needs a boy or a girl. Huey is my boy, and I love him. I protect him. I think about him even in my dreams.

I used to believe he had a special understanding of life — that, like me, he knew the truth: the deep meaning of life comes from smells.

I overheard his silent thoughts, often the same ones: "Julian nose," "Mom nose," or "Dad nose."

I thought, My boy truly understands the world! He understands how much smell matters!

And that made me very happy. But I felt bad for him because I never once heard him say "Huey nose."

"Huey nose" is what he should have been saying most often. But he never did. I thought it was because in the Bates family, he is the youngest.

Being the youngest, he always thought everybody else had a better nose than he did, instead of realizing his nose was just fine, even if a little bit different from everyone else's. That's what I supposed.

I thought I was understanding Human as usual. Later I realized that I was misunderstanding it. Huey was really thinking: Julian knows, Mom knows, Dad knows. He didn't have a clue about noses!

He still doesn't. One day I will find a way to teach him.


Spunky Smells All

That's what I really should have called this book. Because it's true: I have an excellent nose. There has never been a smell that escaped me.

When I say I know the Bates family, I mean I really know them. I know their smells.

Julian smells of broccoli. That's not because he eats it. It's because he hides it in his pockets when Michelle serves it for dinner. It goes through his pants pockets onto his skin. And there it is. Even after baths, which he takes no more often than he has to, he always has a special bitter green scent of broccoli. Humans don't notice it, but I can smell Julian coming when he's a mile away.

I can smell Huey coming from two miles away. He smells of chocolate. He likes to cook, and Michelle has taught him how to make brownies. He makes them at least twice a week. Humans can't smell Huey's chocolate smell, I guess, but I can. If he goes somewhere without me, the chocolate smell of him coming home is the smell of happiness.

Michelle smells of ginger and lemon because of certain things she cooks. I like to lick her because of that, but usually she won't let me. She says I have Dog breath.

There is nothing the matter with that! However, you have to get Humans and train them young, for them ever to appreciate Dog breath. If you don't get a Human trained early, he or she will never learn to like it. Luckily I trained Huey when he was still young, and he does like it.

Ralph smells of cars because he fixes them. Car is a very exciting smell. It reminds me of riding in my family's car and sticking my head out the window and feeling the wind lift my ears and whirl around in my open mouth, taking my scent down the highway so thousands of noses can enjoy it.

From that same fragrant wind I get knowledge of strangers I'll never meet, scents that feather their way into my nose and flutter on to my dancing brain. Smell music, that's what it's like!

One happy, fragrant afternoon Michelle and I were in the Eating Room together. She was cooking and listening to music and had a big wooden spoon in her hand. She started stirring the air in the Eating Room with big loops of the spoon until she must have had it mixed enough — because she dropped the spoon and took me by my front paws and danced with me all around the room.

"Oh, Spunky, I love this Smellody!" she said.

So of course I thought she was fully living it — the whirl of it, the swirl of it, the joyous chocolate and ginger and lemon and broccoli and car smell she had mixed up so well.

Later, I realized she wasn't living it, not even partially. In fact, Michelle is mostly smell-deaf.

That day, she was only in love with sound. She doesn't even know the word "Smellody." It was an altogether different word that she was saying. She knows nothing about Smellody!

I am very sorry for Humans, really. Not only because they cannot speak Dog. Even worse: they have such big noses and yet get such little use out of them. Why? What really is the point?

You will say, Who is Spunky to question the way the universe is arranged? Who is Spunky to criticize?

I don't criticize. I don't. I just wonder. I humbly contemplate. I reflect. Sometimes I ask my departed ancestors about this, trying to reach their Sky Spirits with these questions:

Why are Humans and Dogs so different? Why are things as they are?

So far, I have received no answers.



In spring I feel frisky, like a young pup. I want to romp. I want to play with my boy. Often he will not go outside. He won't throw a ball to me. He won't throw a stick so I can chase it. He won't pet me. I lick him. He says, "Spunky, go away. I have homework."

What is homework? Why is homework? I do not know. For thousands of years, we Dogs have passed on to new generations the knowledge of how to survive and enjoy life. We overcame many difficult times and have populated the entire world with the great race of Dogs.

In all our many thousand years, not one of us has ever needed homework. What use is it?

Homework involves paper. Paper sport — smelling, chasing, licking, or occasionally eating paper — can be good. I know that from experience. But homework is different. Homework is doing dull things with paper.

So I reflected, one tedious spring evening, as Huey chewed on his pencil, staring at the many words he had written on a paper.

He put his chewed black pencil down by his unchewed red one. He picked up his big square eraser. (Erasing is a very important part of homework, probably the most important and serious part.)

But from a Dog's perspective, erasing, too, is very boring.

Pencil sport could be much more interesting than the way Humans play it, I thought.

That evening I asked myself: is it possible to break a pencil and make two pencils out of one?

Little in life is learned without experiment.

I reached out with tongue and teeth and took the black pencil.

Snap! Crunch! Zlizz!

Now Huey had two black pencils instead of just one. I dropped them at his feet. I showed him that he could make even more pencils of the two I had given him. If he would only try, he could have a strong jaw, like me, and many pencils.

I picked up his red pencil. He pulled it from my teeth. "No! Bad! Bad, Spunky! Bad Dog!"

I only wanted to teach him.

Maybe Huey thinks I am a bad teacher? He is wrong.

When a boy is young, it is easy to teach him the important things in life. But a Dog must teach his boy early. As our wise Dog saying goes: "You can't teach an old boy new tricks."

That is the problem. Huey is already old. If only I had raised him from puppyhood! It is no fun to be called "Bad!" for doing what is natural and right! And what Julian called me next — "Bad Bad Bad Bad!" — was even worse.

What could I do?

I left the Boy Sleeping Room, where I was not wanted. I went to the Family Lie-Around Room. Michelle was lying around in there. Newspaper was spread across her face.

If she was trying to hide, she should have used more paper. She should have covered her entire body with paper — or something more fragrant, like mud. I asked her with just a few words why she hadn't.

She said, "Aargh!" and didn't move.

I went to find Ralph.

He was in his Thinking Room. His shoes and socks were lying on the floor. He was sitting in his big lean-back chair. His eyes were shut. His legs were stretched out. His feet were high in the air. He was wiggling his toes.

I sniffed deeply, pleasurably. Ralph had another smell besides car! An interesting smell, a delicious smell — the best smell of anyone in the Bates family. The smell was strong near his toes. But mostly, it came from his socks.

I loved Ralph. Yet he was a mystery to me.

I had always wished to know him better, but I had never found a way.

His socks could be the answer.


The Gateway

I lay on my belly and pulled myself forward, creeping toward Ralph's socks. My fur caught loudly on the rough places of the rug.

Ralph couldn't hear that sound. His ears were not good enough. This is another question I must put to the ancestors. Why do Humans have such big ears when they can hardly hear anything? What exactly is the point?

But right then I had work. I had reached the socks.

I dropped my head. I sniffed deeply. A sweet, ripe scent filled my nostrils. I opened my jaws. The socks went into my mouth! Thousands of tiny lights in my brain flashed in spangled colors!

I sensed Ralph in a deep new way. But I couldn't concentrate on my strange knowledge. Ralph had opened his eyes.

Surely he would understand. Surely he would be happy for me.

He made strange gurgling sounds. They turned into words.

"My-y-y-y so-o-o-cks!

"Spunky! What in tarnation? What in tarnation has gotten into you?"

Nothing so far.

The socks were in my mouth, with part of one sticking out like a long black tongue. Ralph leaped out of his chair and grabbed that tongue.

"Drop 'em!" he said.

He pulled. I knew what "Drop 'em!" meant. He wanted his socks back.

But their taste was so rich! I was learning so much!

The first of the two great Dog laws: Smell everything and learn!

I had to obey the second law as well. When you get hold of something and are learning, NEVER LET GO!

I wouldn't let go. I shouldn't let go. I was learning Ralph.

Ralph wanted me to stop learning. He very, very much wanted me to stop learning.

"Doggone it, Spunky! Drop 'em!"

He pulled me into the air. I was swinging from the socks, which were swinging from his enormous hands.

We Dogs do not have homework, but we do have tests. That situation was a scary test. A test of devotion to the great Dog laws. Also, a jaw test.

My jaw is very, very good.

"Open!" Ralph roared. "Bad Dog! Open!"

I could have explained everything. But, to explain, I would have had to open. Then I would have lost the socks. Also the bright lights shining in my brain and the special knowledge I was getting. And I would have failed the test.

My jaws were clenched. Ralph lifted me high. I swung rapidly past the bookcase and the basketball trophies. I made deep sounds in my throat, talking as fast as I could:

"The nose is the gateway to life and knowledge, Ralph. The nose takes one across the universe. With it, Dogs will one day guide Humans to the stars. Especially to the Dog star. The best place to go.

"I know how you feel, Ralph. I understand your pain. But my nose, Ralph, told me I must take your socks."

This, I sincerely believe, was my second-greatest talk ever. Delivered under difficult, nearly impossible conditions.

Ralph was swinging me in circles, around and around and around. I was dizzy. Fear had me by the stomach. Yet my brain was lit! I was in nose paradise! I was nosing things I had never nosed before. I was understanding Ralph! Through the rich, boggy, swampy smell of Ralph's socks, his ideas, which come from the depths of the universe, bubbled up in small translucent spheres of light.


Excerpted from Spunky Tells All by Ann Cameron, Lauren Castillo. Copyright © 2011 Ann Cameron. Excerpted by permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Title Page,
My Age,
Huey Nose,
Spunky Smells All,
The Gateway,
The Bateses Discuss Me,
Fiona Rules,
A Dog's Way,
I Learn That I Am Irish,
The Joining,

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