I chose Levi Pinfold’s Black Dog for this Winner’s Wednesday. This Kate Greenaway winner is about a black dog that visits the Hope family one morning. First seen outside “the size of a tiger,” the dog grows with each turn of the page, eventually becoming the size of the home. This terrifies everyone inside. One by one, every member of the Hope family wakes up, sees the dog outside, and hides from it. Finally, the youngest child, nicknamed Small, sees the family cowering in fear and decides to handle the situation herself. Small determinedly braves the cold and leads the dog on an adventure through the forest.
Small sings, “You can’t follow where I go, unless you shrink, or don’t you know?” as the dog follows her. Mysteriously, the dog begins to grow smaller as it follows her through the woods, over a frozen pond, down the slide at the playground. After their adventure, Small leads the now normal-sized dog into the house, showing her family that he is not scary after all.
The text itself is playful and whimsical, reading like a fable or storybook. The mystery of the plot is supported by the fable-style of writing. The typography supports this connection in genres, with the first letter on each page written in a larger, bolded font. Pinfold writes Small’s taunts to the dogs in a rhyming pattern, giving the book its playful tone.
The book won the Kate Greenaway Award in 2013 for good reason. Its illustrations are incredibly creative, lifelike and detailed. Pinfold’s illustrations support the whimsical feeling of the text, with light pastel colors and soft shading. Pinfold is able to capture the chaos of the Hope household, with drawings created by the children throughout the home (and even on cabinets) and toys scattered on the floor and in the bathtub. Intricate details from the wallpaper to the family’s patterned pajamas work to give readers a feel for the Hope family and support the quirkiness of the book as a whole.
The illustrations are greatly supportive, also, in the creativity of their layout. On the beginning pages describing the family, Pinfold draws sepia-toned boxes filled with images that support and summarize the action in the text. On the following page, Pinfold draws a full color image of the individual person reacting to the dog’s size. This creates a sharp contrast when Small Hope is introduced, as the panels on this page depict her putting on her winter clothes with determination.
As the text continues and Small ventures out to confront the dog, Pinfold begins using two pages to highlight the dog’s changing size. This gives the readers a better sense of the comparison between Small and the dog, and further immerses readers into the text. Pinfold continues to use the sepia-toned boxes as the story unfolds, supporting the older feel of the book, despite its 2012 publication date.
The quality of the book was heavily supported by its beautiful illustrations and whimsical text. Pinfold emphasizes the importance of bravery in the face of fear in the character of Small Hope. Through his illustrations and text, Pinfold reminds readers that all they need to shrink their fears is a little bit of hope and a whole lot of bravery.
– Olivia Horne