CM . . .
. Volume XXIII Number 30. . . .April 14, 2017
According to promotional material provided by the publisher, “This hilarious narrative poem was inspired by a true story; the run-in between a helicopter pilot on a Labrador run and [five dogs].” The publisher goes on to explain: “In 2008, [Dave Paddon] began writing and performing recitations, wonderfully comic poems in the tall-tale tradition, inspired by everyday life in Newfoundland and Labrador and by recitations he heard as a child” growing up in Northwest River, Labrador.
In Ralph, Flying Hound, Paddon begins by introducing readers to Greg, “an old chopper pilot”, who flies out of Goose Bay, Labrador. How “old” is Greg? It’s rumoured that he knew Igor Sikorsky who, back in 1939, “designed and flew the Vought Sikorsky VS 300, the first viable American helicopter, which pioneered the rotor configuration used by most helicopters today.” [Wikipedia]. Paddon then goes on to briefly explain the significance of helicopters in this rugged part of Canada where aircraft play a significant role in land and sea search and rescues. The other players in this tale are five dogs, led by Ralph, that run wild in Williams Harbour, Labrador. As the above except reveals, Ralph will chase virtually anything that moves, but his goal is to catch “the big orange duck”, the one that “made quite the racket” and would “spit humans, then eat them again”. Of all the places to which Greg must fly, Williams Harbour is Greg’s least favourite? Why? During landing and lifting off, Greg fears that one of the dogs will accidentally leap into the chopper’s tail rotor, thereby causing a crash.
On the day of this story, the barking, jumping canine quintet once again greet Greg as his helicopter sets down. Later, as Greg prepares to leave, he realizes that the dogs have located themselves between the copter and “a nice drop” from the land to the sea. “Suddenly sens[ing} a chance for vengeance”, Greg directs the rising chopper towards the dogs and has the satisfaction of seeing four of them falling into the salt water. But where is the fifth? As the craft rises, a passenger points out that a dog (Ralph, of course) is stretched out on one of the helicopter’s pontoons. Momentarily, Greg considers permanently relieving himself of this annoying dog by “dump[ing] poor old Ralph in the sea”. However, Greg’s a softhearted guy, and so he instead returns to Williams Harbour where he “put off his new friend”. In some ways, it was just another day in a chopper pilot’s life. But not so for Ralph:
Alex Kolano’s cartoon-like illustration superbly complement the humour found in Paddon’s poetry. End material indicates that Ralph, Flying Hound is both Paddon and Kolano’s first picture book. Hopefully, it marks just the beginning of a winning collaboration.
Dave Jenkinson, CM’s editor, lives in Winnipeg, MB.
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