January 19, 2012

Wellington's Rainy Day

Written by Carolyn Beck  
Illustrated by Brooke Kerrigan
Orca Book Publishers
32 pp.
Ages 4-7

Wellington is a hound who enjoys a good life with Master Horace.  And even though Master Horace seems to be having an exceptionally deep and long nap today, Wellington is clever enough to arrange for his needs to be met.  His bowl may be empty but he knows where there's always a deep porcelain bowl filled with water.  As for his food, Wellington can smell a delicious meatloaf on the table.  Though a short hound, he finds creative ways to reach this food, and to eat "every last gorgeous, every last worgeous, every last squorgeous bit." He even cleans up, though more to hide the evidence than for housekeeping purposes.

But, Honey, the marmalade cat (with a mouse as a sidekick), has been watching Wellington and, like any younger sibling, would delight in Wellington's downfall.  But, as every child who has every tattled knows, "telling" doesn't always work out the way one anticipates. 

Carolyn Beck must love animals and dogs especially, with three of her five picture books based on canine critters: The Waiting Dog (Kids Can Press, 2003), Dog Breath (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2011) and now Wellington's Rainy Day (Orca, 2011).  The rhyme and rhythm of Carolyn Beck's text support the sweeping nature of Wellington's day, enhancing the mundane (e.g., trash in a garbage can) to extraordinary (e.g., "The garbage was a poem").  Brooke Kerrigan's pencil and watercolour drawings are light but evocative of the important aspects of Wellington's life with Master Horace and Honey.  Although Master Horace's face is never evident, the important parts, like his legs (for walking) and finger (for pointing) and voice (for snores and calling), are definite.  The details in Kerrigan's illustrations add charm and whimsy, and children will delight in looking for small details including the little mouse.

After reading Wellington's Rainy Day, it would seem that Sir Winston Churchill was correct when he declared that, "Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us."  And for that reason, the book's ending seems a justifiable and fair one.  (By the way, the end of Churchill's quotation, "Pigs treat us as equals", offered his explanation for liking animals of the porcine variety.)

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