Saturday, April 24, 2010

Book Review ~ The Stanley Picture Books

I'm nearing the end of my journey to read and review 13 Canadian books about dogs within a year, for John Mutford's Great Canadian Book Challenge. I've been saving these books in case I needed help crossing the finish line. The help was not needed, but I can't resist reviewing these two, coming in together at lucky number 13.

I first heard about Linda Bailey and Bill Slavin's children's book, Stanley's Party, from my friend Colin. He remarked that Archie seemed a lot like Stanley, so I set out to find out just who Stanley was. Along the way, I also heard about Stanley from my friend Heather, who lent me her copy of the book for a looksee. By time I've gotten to this review, Stanley has become a bit of a franchise, the hero of 4 books, including Stanley's Wild Ride, which I'm also reviewing here.

First published in 2003, Stanley's Party is a lavishly-illustrated ode to Stanley, who looks very much like a Lab (albeit a rotund one with short legs). Stanley is a bit of a monkey, knowing very well what he is not supposed to do, but finding temptation too hard to resist. The end result is a packed canine house party while his people are out. Predictably, he gets caught, but not so predictably he gets the last laugh, and there is a lesson here for us dog guardians: keep your poochies busy and tuckered out so that they don't get into mischief; failing that, take them everywhere with yourself (which is really what they most want anyway, or so I would assume from Archie's mournful howling each time I pull out of the driveway).

Stanley's Wild Ride is the second book in the Stanley franchise, published in 2006. Bill Slavin continues with his detailed and expansive watercolour illustrations. Once again, Stanley is up to something he is not supposed to be doing - leaving his fenced yard (something Archie used to be keen to do as well). Escaping his yard, Stanley meets up with his usual sidekicks and they stay out until all hours. The night culminates with a wild ride when Stanley discovers a skateboard at the top of the hill. Once again, Stanley gets in trouble, but also once again, he has the last laugh.

The books are aimed at children ages 4-8. The stories are actually quite long for picture books but should keep most children, even those on the younger side, engaged. Bill Slavin is highly regarded for his illustrations in this series and they are certainly imaginative and they perfectly capture Stanley's spirit. Either or both of these would make an excellent gift for the children in your life - or for those dog guardians who live with and love an irrepressible spirit.