________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 10 . . . . January 11, 2008


How Dog Became a Friend: An Old Arctic Tale.

Paul O’Neill, reteller. Illustrated by Cynthia Colosimo.
32 pp., pbk., $11.95.
St. John’s, NL: Pennywell Books/Flanker Press, 2007.
ISBN 978-1-894463-93-5.

Grades 1-3 / Ages 6-8.

Review by Tanya Boudreau.

*** /4


Finally, just as an early twilight fell, the children heard another creature coming their way. It was Dog, an animal many feared because it was thought to be descended from fearsome Wolf and because it sometimes raided camps in packs. Brother and Sister knew Dog’s teeth were like those of Wolf and quite awful to see when he snarled. Hoping Dog would not snarl, they whimpered, too exhausted to cry out.

“Dog…oh, Dog…”

Dog looked about in puzzlement. Where were these strange, pathetic, little sounds coming from? Could there be humans nearby? He sat on his haunches, trying to guess. Finally he looked up to the top of the starrigan, where he was amazed to see two small, red-eyed faces peering down on him.


Brother and Sister have until sunset to fill their wooden baskets with bakeapples and cloudberries. Before they leave for berry picking, Mother tells them to be home before dark and to stay close to camp. But when the children become preoccupied with thoughts of tasty fruit and the sight of an abundant berry patch, they venture into the territory of the Old Hag of the Wilderness. With a magical command, she bends the starrigan tree and leaves the children dangling from its branches. Unable to get down from the tree branches on their own, the children turn to the animals for help.
Although the animals hear Brother and Sister’s pleas, they scoff at them. They are not willing to be of assistance to a family that traps animals for food and clothing. After meeting the children, Hare runs off into the woods, Caribou disappears with a sneer, and Seal heads back to the ocean in anger. Dog wishes to help though. He understands Brother and Sister are in trouble. Dog is able to bend the tree, free the children from the branches and lead them home. Brother and Sister, who grew up learning to fear dogs, thank Dog with many hugs and kisses. And when the story of Dog is told to family and friends in the camp, Dog is seen as a hero and accepted into their homes.

     Drawn in a realistic style, How Dog Became a Friend is set in Labrador. The watercolor illustrations show Brother and Sister’s Maritime Archaic encampment and surrounding area. Mother is sorting berries in front of their tepee. Behind the tepee, animal hides are drying on homemade wooden racks. Surrounding the camp are evergreen trees and tall grasses. Further away from camp, the landscape changes to a hilly rockier terrain. The light tans, blues and greens used in the illustrations give the story a quiet feel. The illustrator made the Old Hag of the Wilderness and the starrigan tree focal points on many of the pages by using sweeping motions around the Old Hag and close-up views of the tree’s sharp branches. The clothing worn by the characters is simple in design but with stitching and decoration visible on all the outfits. The illustrations confirm Brother and Sister come from a close and loving family. It shows in the characters’ placement on the page and in the characters’ expressions. 

     Former actor and producer, Paul O’Neill is an active volunteer and the founding president of the Newfoundland Writers’ Guild. Born in St. John’s, he has been awarded the Order of Canada and an honorary degree from Memorial University. Illustrator Cynthia Colosimo, originally from Thunder Bay, ON, graduated from the University of Manitoba with a BFA in drawing and from Concordia University with an MFA in printmaking. Her illustrations can also be seen in Anguti’s Amulet.

     How Dog Became a Friend would be a nice addition to a picture book collection.


Tanya Boudreau is a librarian at the Cold Lake Public Library in Cold Lake, AB.

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

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.