CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 15. . . .December 11, 2009
Fred and Pete at the Beach.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $19.95.
Preschool-grade-5 / Ages 4–10.
Review by Kimberley Siwak & Gregory Bryan.
Pete flopped down on the grass. "I want to go to the beach. Why, oh why, can't we go too?"
"Because you dragged the garbage all over the kitchen floor," said Fred.
"Did I?" Pete looked confused. Then he groaned and put his head on his paws. "I did, didn't I. What was I thinking?"
"Do now, think later – that's you," said Fred.
When Fred and Pete are punished for Pete's bad behaviour, their owner, Ron, decides to leave them behind when he goes to enjoy a day at the beach. The two strong-willed dogs refuse to stay home and subsequently determine to make their own way to the beach. What follows is their journey from one humorous situation to the next. From hopping rides with strangers, squeezing into a baby carriage, and sneaking on board a beach-bound bus, Fred and Pete's perseverance is eventually rewarded when they reunite with their owner.
A strength of the book is the identifiably distinct personality depictions of the two story protagonists. Fred is the responsible, cautious, and disciplined dog who dreads the potential for trouble that Pete represents. Pete, on the other hand, is a dog of action rather than thought. His lack of foresight inevitably places him and his friend in problematic situations.
Fred and Pete at the Beach is written and illustrated by Cynthia Nugent. Nugent's playful text and humorous artwork combine well to create a fun-filled, enjoyable book. Although we do not claim to be dog psychologists, Nugent's writing style seems reflective of the way that dogs think. While Fred appears more thoughtful than Pete, even Fred's ability to analyze and identify problems seems sometimes to be misled by his doggy impulses. Fred worries, but not so much that he allows Pete to leave him behind.
Embedded within Nugent's vibrant acrylic paintings are photographs of the two dogs. This mixed media style enables the dogs to appear to almost literally leap from the page. The inclusion of the photographic character depictions adds life to the characters. They emerge as individual entities – one small and anxious, the other plump and carefree.
Other than the final few pages at the beach, Nugent's choice of colours does not evoke the heat of a summer beach day. The heat might better have been represented by warmer tones throughout the book. We recognize the cool colours and shadows might be reflective of a Vancouver summer's day; however, for a book with this title, we think a warmer palate would have worked better. That said, the artwork is attractive and visually interesting. Nugent's strong brushstrokes add texture to match that of the dogs' coats in the photographs. This effect unifies the two mediums and creates unique illustrations.
We find Fred and Pete at the Beach to be an enjoyable, funny, and engaging read. Despite our young age recommendation, this book is likely to appeal to dog lovers of all ages.
Kimberley Siwak and Gregory Bryan are both dog lovers. Siwak is a graduate student in literacy education and is currently teaching grade one. Bryan teaches literacy classes in the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba.
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