A Dog Is a Dog

Stephen Shaskan. Chronicle, $14.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8118-7896-8
Shaskan’s debut looks simple, but it’s in fact a polished and controlled piece of work. “A dog is a dog,/ whether it’s naughty... or nice,/ Whether it suns on the beach,/ or glides on the ice.” There’s no beach; instead, the snub-nosed, spotted dog relaxes in a plastic wading pool, sunglasses turned up to a mustard-yellow sky. After more information about the essential dogness of the dog comes the punch line: “A dog is a dog, unless it’s a... cat!” Shaskan doesn’t just substitute a cat for a dog; instead, a bit disconcertingly, he shows the cat emerging from inside the spotted pup, now revealed to be an empty-eyed, zip-up costume. As the verse repeats, each new animal (“A squid is a squid, unless it’s a... moose!”) throws off the empty costume of the animal before and emerges from it until, inevitably, the original pup resurfaces. There’s a chunky, woodcut feel to Shaskan’s hip and cheery art, and he gives each of the animals abundant personality. Children attracted to Escher-like paradoxes will appreciate the endless loop of animal costumes and low-key surprises. Ages 2–6. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/10/2011
Release date: 10/01/2011
Open Ebook - 40 pages - 978-1-4521-0482-9
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