“The 1-Dogpower Garden Team”
Written by Alison Lohans, Illustrated by Gretchen Ehrsam
Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing
$14.95 ISBN 9-781988-783710
The 1-Dogpower Garden Team — the latest book by multi-genre author Alison Lohans — is a collaborative effort, and well worth the read. I’ve not read every book in this talented Regina writer’s veritable library of titles — 28 books, which
include young adult and adult novels and illustrated children’s books — but the several I have read demonstrate that this is a veteran writer who pays close attention to craft and delivers meaningful, heart-filled literature each time she puts her pen to page.
Lohans has teamed with illustrator Gretchen Ehrsam on an illustrated children’s story about a girl (Sophie) and her hole-digging dog (Max), and how a common canine problem transitions into a child’s brilliant solution.
What strikes me first and foremost is how different this story is. Lohans’ innovative use of language and humour and Ehrsam’s detailed, black and white prints (surrounded by a moss green border) coalesce so effectively, after I’d readthe book the first time I immediately wanted to read, and admire, it again.
Upon my second reading, I deduced that part of the magic is Lohans’ use of both simple sentences, which one might expect in a children’s book. The book begins with “Sophie loved her dog, Max.” and continues with surprises within the text — “ ... the weeds grew fast, and her family didn’t have a rototiller.” A rototiller? Mentioned on the first page of a children’s story? I say Bravo!
And it’s not just the diction here that deserves mention; the realistic characterizations, including that of credible secondary characters — Sophie’s
dad loved motors and boats, and watching sports on TV” also merit praise. Dad
finds an ad for a “90-horsepower motorboat” — a “good deal”— in the newspaper, and Sophie’s garden-loving mom responds that they need a “90-horsepower
rototiller.” The family’s laughter sets the tone: this is a happy home. The tone is replicated via the accomplished illustrations. The books on the coffee table before Dad are titled Calculus for Fun and Philately Today. The neighbour, Mrs. Magruther—awoken by Sophie and Max in the garden late at night—is shown with a babushka-type-deal on her head. “What’s going on over there?” she asks.
I also noted a heart on several pages: on Sophie’s clothing, in heart-shaped leaves, on her teddy bear, and hanging on the kitchen wall. And the portrayal of Max going through his repertoire of tricks “without even being told” warmed my dog-loving heart.
On the facing third and fourth pages we find Max in Mom’s garden, inadvertently digging up beans where he sniffs out a buried bone, and thus begins the conflict that drives the plot: a good dog has a bad habit, and Sophie must solve the problem.
This delightful book celebrates teamwork, ingenuity, and the bond between a girl and her dog. (Good boy, Max!) I expect that Lohans and Ehrsam, who are cousins, had an especially good time working on this story together: that inherently comes across.
If you wish to read more of the award-winning author’s work, see alisonlohans.wordpress.com.
This book is available at your local bookstore or from www.skbooks.com