THE ROUGH PATCH by Brian Lies (and last month’s Giveaway Winner!)

Hello! In today’s post I am writing about THE ROUGH PATCH by NYT bestselling author Brian Lies. This is a beautiful book about friendship, loss, and grief, and sort of unpacking how we go through that process to find what’s on the other end. It’s not the normal subject matter most people think (or used to think) of for children, and yet I think it’s something that is really important to help allow younger generations to understand. Today I want to talk about how Brian Lies uses this picture book to communicate and tackle these difficult subject matters.

As I almost always say, the book cover and title really is important. Here Brian Lies uses the “The Rough Patch” to seemingly indicate that this book might be about a fox with an unruly brush.

And as the story starts, we see Evan the fox and his dog working in the yard. This slight misdirection (another great use that I’ve talked about before!) seems to confirm what we’re thinking from the cover. Brian uses very short but straight to the point sentences that really lean on what his artwork is showing while really building a relationship between Evan and his dog.

As we read on, we see just how close this relationship is. We see the joy and happiness they have with each other. How meaningful a close friend is.

And then we’re hit with the something we didn’t see coming at all. The death of Evan’s pet dog. His best friend. This page is so well executed. It has that simple line of text, and just the right amount of artwork to match it perfectly. We’ve been drawn into the loss of what has happened, and it’s extremely clear even though Brian doesn’t outright say Evan’s dog died. Brian has perfectly built up this friendship and bond for us, so not only do we see Evan’s loss, we can clearly relate and feel it ourselves.

On the following spread, we see the stark contrast on the left, the serene finality at a grave site, with the right, what could be Evan’s state of emotion – a mess. It’s a visually powerful page. Brian doesn’t worry about having to explain the feelings Evan is going through in that moment. We’re seeing it.

Brian ends up taking this fox, Evan, through an entire gambit of emotions.

And he doesn’t make these emotions wrong. They’re natural. They’re a part of the process. Brian does a really fantastic job to make sure we see this grieving process in it’s entirety and I really appreciated that about this book.

Now it’s tempting for me to spoil the ending, as there is a wonderful end to this story, but I’m not going to do that. I will say how much I love that the initial use of “The rough patch”, and how that slight misdirection of the garden is used throughout this story as the vehicle that takes Evan through to the other side of his grief. It’s so brilliant and I hope that this is incentive for you to go and find it at your local bookstore or library.

Brian Lies is a NYT Bestselling author for a reason (and this post is selling his artwork exceptionally short!!!).. His talent is on full display and he has a real special book here. A book that’s good for everyone to read and see. Brian’s short but clear statements are so well matched with his illustration’s colors and layouts, really allowing us to go through the loss, grief, anger, and hope along side this fox, Evan.

My takeaway here is how important it is to match my communication with my story’s subject matter, and how powerful a tool it can be when done right!


Special bonus:

First, I’d like to thank all of you who entered and commented. I do normally like to reply, but I didn’t want to mess up the random selector and make your odds at winning worse. So using the random comment selector here is our winner:


Congratulations Mary Worley! I’ll be reaching out shortly to let you know you’ve won!
Thanks again to everyone and I hope you’ll stop by again in October, as there’s a very good chance I’ll have another giveaway for a certain 4th FROG book being released…


Until next time!


Mike Boldt

Mike Boldt is an author and illustrator from Alberta, Canada. With more than 18 books in the wild, he's authored titles such as A TIGER TAIL and ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT FLUFFY (Simon and Schuster). He's also the illustrator of Dev Petty's I DON'T WANT TO BE A FROG & I DON'T WANT TO BE BIG & THERE'S NOTHING TO DO (Doubleday). You can learn more about Mike at


  1. What a great post. Thanks for sharing, Mike! Can’t wait to check out this beautiful book.

  2. Wow, what a beautiful story. It brought tears to my eyes just looking at the pictures. Thanks for sharing, Mike!

  3. I checked this book out of the library last week. It was so well done and, as you said, the loss of his dog was a complete surprise. He does a great job showing what grief can look like and offers up a hopeful ending. Thanks for the great post.

  4. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book. I must read it. Thank you!

  5. Thank you! Looking forward to reading this wonderful book.

  6. This looks like a wonderful, emotional book. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity!

  7. Looks like a book we will want to read over and over and finding something new each time.

  8. Kathleen Mazurowski

    This book sounds like a treasure.

  9. I’ll definitely get this one, Mike. Reminds me of Ida Always and After the Fall. Tough subjects, artfully (and heartfully) brought to kids.

  10. I’ll have to make sure my local indie bookstore is carrying this book. Thanks.

  11. This looks gorgeous. And this preview makes my heart ache already. Excuse me while I go hug my dogs.

  12. You nailed it! This book is a treasure. For all ages.

  13. Just picked this up from the library. Can’t wait to read it, especially after this review!

  14. A timeless issue beautifully crafted. Thank you for bringing this book to our attention.

  15. Wow. What a wonderful, understated way to convey a very sensitive and emotional subject. I will definitely look for this book.

  16. Now that I’m healing from the loss of my golden retriever, I just placed a hold on this book at my library. It already has made me sad, but I want to study this as mentor text too.

  17. Oh, this one looks great! And very sad! Congratulations!

  18. I read this book a few weeks back and actually cried. All I wanted to do was to go home and hold my corgis. I can’t stand the thought that they will not be with me someday and I loved how this book bravely deals with the subject of loss and grief. We often want to shelter our children from the harsh realities of this world rather than teaching them how to go through them. I thought this book was beautiful. It truly goes full circle and at the end you just bask in a cathartic glow. How precious life is. Hold your puppies (and humans) tight.

  19. Thank you for sharing this book! It is so hard to lose a loved one pet or person. I am looking forward to reading and buying this book!

  20. Definitely adding it to my list. The fox having a pet dog is interesting. Thanks for sharing it. And thank you for the book giveaway. A bit of an emotional rollercoaster reading the blog today.

  21. What fabulous illustrations! Your commentary makes me wonder if this kind of marriage of text and art is possible when the author and illustrator are 2 different people. And how can an author craft the text to approach this? Very interesting! Looking forward to reading this book!

    • I think it is possible, Beth. I have to admit that one of the most natural illustrating experiences came with the first Frog book I did with Dev Petty. Maybe you’re right and it less common, but I believe it’s still possible.

  22. Great pairing of words and illustrations to show what grief is in all it’s forms. Sad and hopeful at the same time. I can’t wait to read the ending.

  23. Gerk! Where’s my kleenex! Great post! What a powerful book. Even without the book in hand I feel it!

  24. Such a beautiful book and message to share. Can’t wait to get a copy. Thank you.

  25. I LOVED The Rough Patch–so poignant and brilliantly done. Don’t read it without tissues nearby–you will need them! Bravo, Brian!!!

  26. I envision this book being categorized as bibliotherapy because it can help kids understand and deal with death.

  27. Thanks for the comments everyone! I sure appreciate you all stopping by again!

  28. Looks like a beautiful book, thanks for introducing me to this one.

  29. I’ve had this one on my to read list for some time but your post has me wanting to check it out sooner rather than later.

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