Saying Goodbye to Barkley by Devon Sillett

Saying Goodbye to Barkley

Devon Sillett, Author

Nicky Johnston, Ilustrator

EK Books, Fiction, 2020/Translated into Spanish 2021

Suitable for ages: 4-8

Themes: Pet, Death, Feelings, Grief, Sharing memories, Rescue animals

Opening: Super Olivia and her amazing sidekick Barkley did everything together. Good deeds. Sniffing out clues. Catching the bad guys!

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Olivia and her dog Barkley are inseparable. He’s her first sidekick, her partner in crime-fighting. When Barkley dies Olivia is heartbroken. Olivia realizes however that Barkley would want her to share her love with a new pet. She hatches a plan to adopt a dog in need of a home. So Spud — who is very different from Barkley — joins the family. Olivia learns that loves comes in all shapes, sizes and personalities. Spud may be a hopeless sidekick, but the niche she carves in Olivia’s heart will be entirely and uniquely her own.

Why I like Saying Goodbye to Barkley:

Devon Sillett’s Saying Goodbye to Barkley is a sensitive, uplifting and heartwarming first book about death. Both children and adults will relate to the love and unbreakable bond between Barkley and his owner, Olivia. Sillett’s storytelling is compelling and her pacing keeps readers fully engaged.

Losing a pet to death may be a child’s first experience with loss and grief. Saying Goodbye to Barkley acknowledges Olivia’s feelings of sadness when she loses her best crime-fighting partner. She’s too sad to eat and sleep. She dreads waking up because her best friend isn’t snuggling by her side. 

Olivia takes her time to work through her grief and share her feelings of loss. She holds tight to her memories and realizes that Barkley wouldn’t want her to stop doing good deeds. That’s when she comes up with a plan to adopt a from the rescue shelter — not her mother’s idea — but Olivia’s. A signal to readers that Olivia is healing and ready to move on.  After all, Barkley loved rescuing people. Now it’s Olivia’s turn to rescue a dog.

Nicky Johnston’s colorful, large illustrations compliment the story showing Olivia’s journey through sadness to joy. Make sure you check out the end papers for a sweet surprise.

Resources/Activities: This is an opportunity for the children and family to share their feelings of loss and their joyful memories of their beloved pet. Encourage kids share their favorite memories of their pet, collect pictures of their pet and make a collage, draw pictures, and make a memory box. 

Devon Sillett is a former radio producer, turned writer and reviewer. She is the author of The Scaredy Book, The Leaky Book and Tabitha and the Raincloud.  Born in the US, Devon now lives in Australia. She loves books so much so that she got married in a library! Currently she teaches in the writing department at the University of Canberra, where she is also a PhD student, researching children’s picture books. If she isn’t writing or reading, you’ll find her playing with Legos or hide-an-seek with her two sons.

Every Friday, authors and KidLit bloggers post a favorite picture book. To see a complete listing of all the Perfect Picture Books (PPB) with resources, please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

*Review copy provided by EK Books in exchange for a review. 

 

The Dog Who Lost His Bark by Eoin Colfer

The Dog Who Lost His Bark

Eoin Colfer, Author

P.J. Lynch, Illustrator

Candlewick Press, Fiction, Sep. 10, 2019

Pages: 144

Suitable for Ages: 7-10 years

Themes: Boy, Dog, Rescue shelter, Divorce, Music, Multigenerational family

Opening: “The LOUD MAN called him DOG. Or PUP. Or MONGREL. But mostly DOG.”

Synopsis: Patrick Coin’s dad is a musician and in Australia, while Patrick and his mother are spending their summer vacation at Grandad’s house. Patrick is puzzled by his father’s absence and isn’t satisfied with his mother’s answers. She suggests Patrick get a dog.

Patrick has longed for a dog of his own forever. With his father away, he could use a best friend more than ever. Grandad suggests they visit the local rescue shelter. Patrick chooses a small, sad dog in the last cage. He names him Oz.

In his short doggy life, Oz has suffered at the hands of bad people. Somewhere out there, he believes, is an awesome boy — his boy. And maybe, when they find each other, Oz will learn to bark again.

Why I like this book:

The cover shouts “read me.” Dog’s face is so sad and lonely.  Nearly every page is accompanied by P.J. Lynch’s realistic and expressive pencil illustrations that illuminate  Eoin Colfer’s heartwarming story and makes it sing.

Readers first meet Dog, who is mistreated and discarded in a dump by previous owners. Dog stops barking because he knows barking means no food and trouble. He’s rescued and taken to a shelter. When Patrick meets Dog, he sees the pup as a “potential soul mate.” Patrick names him Oz. Dog is cautious and afraid, but Patrick is patient and loving.

The story also follows Patrick who has to cope with an absentee father, his parents’ separation and new partners, and some tough choices to make. Foturnately Patrick has a strong bond with his grandfather and a devoted dog who loves him. I enjoy reading stories about multigenerational relationships.

I love how Colfer uses the power of music to heal the mistreated dog, and later, Patrick.  When Grandad plays a melody on a tin whistle, Oz whines most of the tune back to him. Patrick pulls out his violin and starts to play a tune and Oz howls it back to him. Oz finds music soothing and the two create a bond of trust, that carries through to the end of the story, when Patrick discovers the truth of his parents’ separation. Oz knows what Patrick needs to heal.

This inspiring story by Eoin Colfer, internationally best-selling author of the Artemis Fowl fantasy series, is certain to enchant many readers, who will undoubtedly relate to Patrick’s sitution.

Greg Pattridge hosts Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

*Copy provided by the publisher.