black-dog

A picture book that can help a child face fear is a thing of beauty. Last week I reviewed THE LITTLE BIT SCARY PEOPLE. This week for Picture Perfect Friday I present another book about facing fear, BLACK DOG.

(For a humungous list of links to picture book reviews, check out Susanna Leonard Hill’s site: http://susannahill.com/for-teachers-and-parents/perfect-picture-books/.)

Title: BLACK DOG

Written and illustrated by: Levi Pinfold

Templar Books, 2012, Fiction

Fun for Ages: 3 and UP

Themes/Topics: conquering fears; imagination; bravery

First line: “One day, a black dog came to visit the Hope family.”

Brief Synopsis (from publisher): “An enormous black dog and a very tiny little girl star in this offbeat tale about confronting one’s fears.

When a huge black dog appears outside the Hope family home, each member of the household sees it and hides. Only Small, the youngest Hope, has the courage to face the black dog, who might not be as frightening as everyone else thinks.”

Why I Love This Book: The cover juxtaposes a Gothic red house set alone in the snowy woods with a tiny child in a yellow snowsuit. Before we even open the book, we’re intrigued. Is this a dark fable or a flight of whimsy?

Throughout the story, Pinfold’s rich and imaginative paintings transport us to the magical world of the Hope family home and its surroundings.

The story defies our expectations in a satisfying way. We see each member of the Hope family peer outside and then cower from the enormous black dog (they even build a barricade). Only Small Hope has the courage to step outside and face the dog. We expect Small to see the dog as normal-sized. Instead, she too sees the dog as gigantic but faces him bravely anyway. She entreats him to chase her. To follow where she leads he must shrink. In the end, the dog joins the family in the house and Mrs. Hope commends Small’s courage.

“’There was nothing to be scared of, you know,’ replied Small Hope as she went to sit by the fire.

And the black dog followed.”

Ideas for Teachers: At my kid’s elementary school, COURAGE is one of the school-wide themes the students focus on for one month each year. They discuss what courage looks like, how to cultivate it, and then watch for acts of courage at the school. I think BLACK DOG would be a great addition to any teacher’s discussion of courage. Students might think back on a time that something they were afraid of turned out to be not so frightening after all once they had the courage to face it. Students might also enjoy drawing or painting what their original fear looked like in their imagination and then what it looked like once faced.

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