Friday, December 7, 2012

Lulu Walks the Dog by Judith Viorst; illustrated by Lane Smith

Move over Lucy Van Pelt, there's a new kid on the block and she's just as selfish and bratty as you. Meet Lulu. Big head, big mouth, big ideas. She doesn't run a psychiatry booth like Lucy of Peanuts fame, but she does run a dog walking business and I haven't loved a character this much since ...well, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang. So many things reminded me of Peanuts from the pictures to the characters. The running gag on the poodle called, Pookie, doing "what she's supposed to do" to Lulu informing the reader she's going to call it "poop" reminded me of my younger sister who carried around a stuffed Snoopy dog that turned from pearly white to pukey gray and that she adoringly called, "Poopy." Lulu is spoiled, bossy, loud, in-your-face, irreverent; yet likable, because she says and does things that all of us have wanted to do at one time or another (okay, maybe you haven't but my nasty side has) and she is contrasted by the practically-perfect Fleischman who does everything right and everyone loves. 

Lulu demands her parents to give her some unknown thing at the start of the story. She claims that she is growing up and won't throw temper tantrums anymore to get what she wants, instead she manipulates her parents by making them feel guilty and tries negotiating with them. The latter works and she says she will work to save money for the outrageous item that she wants (and no, I'm not going to natter what it is - that would be like pulling the football away before you kick it through the goal posts). 

Lulu decides to walk 3 dogs for a fee. The bull dog, Brutus, is a hoot and the pictures Lane Smith draws are delicious with Brutus slobbing the face of a pinned-down Lulu, refusing to walk with its square bulk tanked to the ground, or Lulu being lassoed to a tree with Brutus giving her the who's-the-boss-now Miss Smarty-pants look, (there's more pics - look for yourself - lazy me doesn't want to name them all. Are you wondering why I keep inserting myself into this review? Well, I really don't feel like discussing it right now.) Smith's illustrations remind me of a cross between Charles Schultz and Salvador Dali. He has a surreal look and atmosphere that reminds me of a mix between cartoons and abstract art. Smith explains how Schultz influenced his artwork in Dily Evan's book called, "Show & Tell: Exploring the Fine Art of Children's Illustration," and it is evidenced in his simply drawn characters that show tremendous expression in a small shift of a line on the face. The cover shows Lulu looking at the viewer with no mouth or eyebrows; yet the shape of her head and pointed nose suggest pursed lips and a girl who is not happy as well as surprised that she's been outwitted by a dog (eh-hum... don't go by the blurry picture attached to this review - you have to see the actual book to truly see her eyeballing the reader). 

Lulu has problems with the other two dogs as well and only Fleischman seems to have the knack for controlling them. Not that Lulu wants his help. Not that Lulu is even thankful for his help. Lulu doesn't like the  practically-perfect Fleischman because she knows she doesn't want to be that way. How boring, she says with an exclamation mark! That's for sure. When she sings her money song throughout the story and has time-out sections I laughed every time (okay adult reader... I see you smiling - you have sung the money song too). But Lulu needs Fleischman's help and he is always there to unfuddle her muddles. At the end, Lulu does show Fleischman respect but they don't go so far as to become best friends. Lulu sarcastically tells the reader this isn't Cinderella with a happy ending. It's just sort of happy.

The author's asides are not intrusive to the plot; they are hysterical, sarcastic, and aid the reader by answering questions that occur while reading the story (errr... yes, I have been trying to imitate the author in this review. Did it work or did I annoy you? I think when author asides don't work they are annoying, don't you?) Depending on the age of the reader some of the humor might go over their heads, but there is still plenty to laugh at. The book is a fast read (took me longer to scratch out this review than read the book) and I am going to  have to try it with different ages as a read aloud.  Lulu is one character I can read overtime and over time. Hope there are more books to come.

Reading Level 5.3

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