A young puppy comes to live with an older, wiser dog in a clapboard house at the top of a hill. Over the years the young dog follows the old dog around the neighborhood on his daily walks. Everything the old dog does the young dog does too. Everything the old dog shows an interest in the young dog follows suit. Eventually the younger dog matures and the older dog realizes he has taught him everything he can and that it is time to move on. Now alone, the young dog follows along the paths that the old dog had shown him. One day, some children admire his poise and determination as he takes himself for a walk. When the younger dog hears them he raises his head a little higher and smiles “in the way that dogs do.” And he continues on his way.
THE DOG WHO WALKS HIMSELF is an utterly charming picture book that functions perfectly as a book for young children but contains nuggets of truth about growing up, self-empowerment and the benefits of guidance that will resonate with readers of all ages. The simple, elegant and enigmatic text by Lara Knitter is perfectly complemented by the vibrant, expressive illustrations of Fionnuala Walsh. Walsh’s characterization of the two dogs is wonderful, the doleful wisdom of the elder black dog, the exuberant enthusiasm of the young yellow pup. As the text charts the transformative arc of their journey so too does the artwork as the young pup matures into a fully grown dog. The disappearance of the older dog part way through the story suggests, if not its literal death, then at least a permanent parting of the ways. Knitter and Walsh convey this information with the ambiguous image of the dog, with a suitcase packed, waiting at a bus stop for a ride to some undisclosed destination. The next day, a new dawn and “with it came a new beginning for the yellow dog.” Everything the dog has learned from its older friend is put into practice. The dog is now able to stand, and walk, on its own four feet.
With its playful text by Lara Knitter and elegant illustrations by Fionnuala Walsh, THE DOG WHO WALKS HIMSELF is an allegorical tale for adults who have been inspired by older mentors and a beautiful book for children and dog lovers that can also be used as a means of addressing loss.
~Kent Lane for IndieReader