GOOD BOY by Sergio Ruzzier

My son Jackson grew up with four furry “siblings.” Nicky and Remy greeted him when he came home from the hospital. After their sad departure years later, we adopted Sammy and Stella. Each one embraced her role as best friend, jester, team mascot, clean-up crew and comfort object.  Jackson is now 21, and the girls are getting elderly. But when he was home from college for the holiday, they leapt onto the bed to snuggle with him just as they’ve always done.

Which may explain why I’m a sucker for dog books. Especially dog-and-boy books. And GOOD BOY by Sergio Ruzzier (Atheneum, 2019) is an especially appealing one, full of humor and heart.

As a mom and dog nut, I love this book. But here are a few things that impressed me as a writer:

Smart Concept, Spare Language. 

The text is almost entirely written in one-word commands you might say to a dog. Clever, right? (Add it to the list of Great Picture Book Ideas I Wish I’d Had.) It has just 32 words in all—and yet, as you’ll see, Ruzzier manages to pull off a full story line despite the brevity.

A fanciful—yet grounded—narrative arc.

The story begins with a boy giving the usual sorts of commands to his dog: Sit. Stay. Roll over.

This continues for several spreads, with the pooch performing plenty of familiar tricks: e.g., Stand. Shake. Bow.

Then things take a turn for the (ahem) waggish:

And the adventure begins. From here, the commands become increasingly outlandish, as the two pedal to a boat, sail to an island . . .

build a rocket and blast off to the moon.

That’s the fanciful part. But even when it’s literally out of this world, the story remains grounded in the relationship between the two pals. As we see in this tender scene—one of my favorites in the book—despite all the excitement they’ve enjoyed, the two have had enough.

Now the story loops back home to the comfortingly quotidian as they get ready for bed: Wash. Brush. Dress.

The “Aww” Ending.

After the two finish their bedtime prep, Ruzzier gives us a moment of suspense. The boy is in bed, and his best buddy stands at the door, about to exit. 

WAIT! He’s leaving?? Then we notice the “Stay” command, which leads to exactly the ending we dog lovers hope for:

A boy and his dog snuggled in bed.

The short text and simple language are perfect for beginning readers (and weary parents). Last year, Sergio Ruzzier won a Geisel Honor for FOX + CHICK. I’d bet a bucket of kibble he’s a serious contender for another Geisel Award later this month.

TWO QUICK ANNOUNCEMENTS:

(1) Upcoming Writing Workshop. For folks in North Carolina (or who’d like to be in late winter): I’ll be teaching The Nuts & Bolts of Writing Picture Books—And Getting Them Published in beautiful Fearrington Village (Pittsboro, NC) on March 6th. The workshop is organized by McIntyre’s Books in conjunction with their annual Whirlikids Book Festival. Follow this link for workshop and registration info, and feel free to email me if you have questions. And please share if you know someone who might be interested.

(2) Giveaway Winner. Deb Gross was the lucky winner of Eliza Wheeler’s lovely HOME IN THE WOODS from my last post. Congrats, Deb!

Thanks for reading, and here’s to a happy, productive, and peaceful 2020—

Linda

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Linda Ashman

Linda Ashman is the author of more than 35 picture books, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a “how to” e-book for picture book writers.

52 Comments:

  1. Thanks, Linda, for sharing this book. That is a great writing strategy/tip!

  2. Boys, books, and dogs. What could be better? Great post, Linda.

  3. Sound slike a heat-filled book and so few words! Gonna add to my list. Ty, Linda.

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    Kim Pfennigwerth

    I love the picture of your son and dogs as much as I do the illustrations for this book. Looking forward to reading this one,

  5. I’m a sucker for dog books too! This one is great.

  6. I love this book. I want this book. I need this book and therefore I will buy this book.

  7. Oh – those are some sweet photos!
    Thanks for the book recommendation and the workshop announcement. Will share with friends nearer to lucky NC!

  8. I loved reading this post! AWW, moments!

  9. AWWW! So sweet. Don’t know how I missed this one, but will be on the lookout to read it to my two pups!

  10. Looks like a perfect book. And love those boy/dog photos, too!

  11. Michelle Meadows
    Michelle Meadows

    Fantastic ending – so clever. And those photos of your son are sweet!

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    Janet Frenck Sheets

    A complete story in 32 words? Wow. I look forward to reading this.

  13. Huge fan of dog books too, and this one was very sweet.

    LOVE the photos of your boy and your girls, Linda. That last one brought tears of joy & sadness to my eyes. Just lost my old girl in November, and I’m still reeling.

  14. What a great post. Thanks!

  15. Dog books are my favorite too. Thanks for sharing!

  16. This book look amazing and sweet. I love Surgio’s quirky style.

  17. I loved this book. Talk about a mentor text for sparse text, action-packed verbs, and special friendships.

  18. Amazing! N O book is really ever about the words… It is about the emotion! Well done!

  19. Simply brilliant. I love it!

  20. Thanks for reading, Lenora!

  21. Oh, I love this already. And the picture of your dogs and son! Thanks for sharing. I’m off to put this book on reserve at the library.

  22. Jackson and his doggy pals: awwwwww. Heart-melting. I can see why this sweet book resonated for you, Linda!

  23. You had me at boy and dog story! Love the pics of your son and your sweet dogs, Linda. Thanks for sharing this adorable book.

  24. So sweet. I love it. Thanks for the great post!

  25. Such a heart warming story, GOOD BOY by Sergio Ruzzier.

    Thank you, Linda..

  26. Oh, my heart. Sweet, beautiful photos, Linda…and this book looks like another winner. Thank you for this post!

  27. I love dog books, too! This one is super cute!

  28. Linda, this is so lovely! Thank you.

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