________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 20 . . . . June 6, 2002

cover Madlenka's Dog.

Peter Sis.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books/Douglas & McIntyre, 2002.
32 pp., cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 0-88899-462-1.

Subject Headings:
Imaginary playmates-Fiction.
Toy and movable books.

Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.

Review by Alison Mews.

*** /4


Despite Madlenka's persistent efforts to obtain a dog, her parents remain unmoved, and she remains dogless. There is only one thing to do - pretend! So Madlenka takes her imaginary dog for a walk, encountering sympathetic adult neighbours who cheerfully respond to the charade as each is reminded of her/his own childhood dogs. These memories (the children they were and the dogs they loved) are depicted visually in cleverly concealed lift-up flaps. When Madlenka meets her friend, Cleopatra, who is walking her imaginary horse, they retreat to the courtyard where their combined fantasies know no bounds. Readers are then treated to several double-page spreads of various exotic landscapes in which the girls' faces are visible through peek-through holes, and the apartment complex gradually recedes from view. Reality intrudes, the girls head home and everything is back to normal, almost. This deceptively simple storyline has a surprise ending, but it is the stylistic artwork that will evoke an intuitive response from perceptive readers.

     Peter Sis, creator of many sophisticated award-winning books, here provides a unique perspective on city life. Beginning with earth on the end-papers, he zooms in gradually to show the city block's geographical place in the world, ending with a child's view of the block and its tall buildings stretching to the sky. As Madlenka travels around her block in the story, her encounters with her neighbours span the globe as a variety of nationalities of people and canines are included. Sis tracks her progress around the block with a inset map in which Madlenka is represented by a red dot. (This feature may require explanation for very young children who haven't yet acquired map skills.) Sis also employs colour in a representational manner. Mundane reality, such as the neighbourhood, Madlenka's parents and, to some extent the other adults, are depicted in black pen-and-ink sketches reminiscent of Edward Gorey. However, Madlenka, Cleopatra and the imaginative aspects of the story are all drawn in full-colour. As Madlenka returns home, she is followed by a growing assortment of colourful dogs, all of whom crowd behind her in the doorway as she announces happily, "I'm home!" It's up to the reader to decide if these dogs are actually there or are an extension of Madlenka's rich fantasy life. Pair this book with Dayal Kaur Khalsa's I Want a Dog for another offbeat treatment of a child's unrequited dreams for a pet.


Alison Mews is the head of the Curriculum Materials Centre at the Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland in St. John's NF.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364