CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 7. . . .October 16, 2009
Michael Mazo. Illustrated by Michael Soloviov.
Toronto, ON: Tundra Books, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $18.99.
Grades 3-7 / Ages 8-12.
Review by Chris Laurie.
The Empire vs. The Republic—These are challenging times. William has a rebellious streak and does not accept that I am the supreme power. I have always been (and will remain) the first to receive treats, tennis balls, and behind-the-ear scratches. As a result, our den has become a place of constant tension. Negotiations often stall. William refuses to acknowledge me as sovereign; I refuse to believe in his right to exist. Most often we snarl viciously, but sometimes we form a temporary truce in order to regroup-and chew the sofa.
Michael Mazo and illustrator Michael Soliviov have collaborated to create an engaging and insightful picture-book for older children depicting the relationship between two young dogs.
The book begins with Julius (the Elder) and his younger brother William (the Upstart) waving goodbye to their mother as she departs on an airplane, leaving the two young dogs in care of a sitter. Each subsequent spread reveals a scene which illustrates the dynamics between the two brothers.
Narrator Julius explains that, as Alpha dog, he is responsible for the education of his younger brother. He insists that William quietly practice his meditation while Julius enjoys his daily nap. Other humorous exploits include Julius observing William trying to run through a set of glass doors, and William deciding to practice his attack skills on the garden hose. But when William repeatedly goes berserk when he hears the sound of the can opener, Julius is tempted to tell him that he had been left on the family's doorstep by the puppy fairy.
With references in both text and illustrations to human politics and history, we are given glimpses of such daily routines as the dogs' feeding schedule ("A bone-my kingdom for a bone!"). Of course, tensions do occasionally occur. In a scene inside UN Headquarters, William does not always accept Julius's position as 'supreme leader,' and Julius refuses to believe in William's right to exist. When situations threaten to get out of control, the sitter separates the two, and we see them engaged in cold-war espionage tactics.
Eventually mother returns, bringing surprises for her 'Good Little Lambies,' and we readers are left to ruminate over the animated and loving relationship between these two puppies.
Soliviov's energetic and colourful computer graphics utilise bold colour, and, set against the jet black background of each page, they contain extra dramatic punch.
Brothers, which will appeal to younger readers who are drawn in by the action and illustrations, will also appeal to older readers who may recognise themselves and their brothers.
Chris Laurie is a Youth Services Librarian at Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.
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