This week, Jackie Friedman Mighdoll reviews two books about loveable older dogs, touching on friendship, ageing, death and memories of a life well lived…
By Jackie Friedman Mighdoll
Paws and Edward celebrates the life and death of a big dog and the deep friendship between boy and dog. The story starts from Paws’ perspective. “Paws is glad that Edward is reading. That means he doesn’t have to go out. They go out twice a day. That’s more than enough for Paws.” The gentle dog thinks of his young friend, and says he’ll go outside for the sake of the boy.
They take a short walk together where Paws is happier resting while Edward visits with friends. The illustrations are saturated and lively – the big dog spreads across the fold. They also show us that Paws is old. The text, from Paw’s perspective, says that there are no rabbits or smells at the park. But a close look at the illustrations reveals a park full of life and color and rabbits.
When they make it inside, Paws wants to rest. In one heartfelt and subtle page, Paws feels Edward’s heart beating and his tears. He licks Edward’s hand. “Edward needed that.” And then he falls asleep – a sleep without dreams.
The word death is not mentioned. But from this point, we transition to Edward’s perspective. Paws is no longer there. The pages are dark blue and black – but still there’s life. The illustrations show the rabbits again and ten bright yellow ducklings. The book ends with another dream. This time it’s Edward who is dreaming – dreaming about a happy, energetic Paws finding sticks and chasing rabbits.
This Old Dog is also the story of a beloved old dog who wants to go slower, who likes to dream. It, too, is told from the perspective of the dog and centers on a friendship with a child. But it is the beginning of a friendship with a toddler. An optimistic new beginning for an old dog now finding an unexpected partner in the slow-moving, happy-to-explore tot.
Both books are bright, loving odes to older dogs. Both books capture in the language and the pictures the feeling of an older dog – both the joy of living and the tired bones. The American book reminds us of the joys an older dog still feels and ways to bond with young kids at home. The Norwegian book dares to take us all the way through death back to joyful memories.
This Old Dog by Martha Brockenbrough, illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo (Levine Querido, 2020)