CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 16 . . . . December 22, 2017
Every day, a dog waits for a boy. When the boy arrives, the two go to the beach, paddling through the water and surfing on the waves. They don't belong to each other, and the boy doesn't even know where the dog calls home. But they're friends, which means they play together, look out for one another, and share in the joy of the surf and the sand.
Surfer Dog tells the story of a boy and a dog enjoying a day of surf together. The boy does not own the dog, but he meets him after school and takes him to the beach. The two play in the water, first sharing a surfboard and then keeping an eye on each other as the boy catches bigger waves and the dog splashes near the shore with his other canine chums. At the end of the day, the two return to the boy's house and share a meal before the dog leaves.
Surfer Dog is a quiet story that focuses less on the action of surfing and more on the unique bond the boy has with the dog. The friendship shown between the two is sweet, as is the routine they share as they make their way to the beach each afternoon. Some readers may wonder why the boy isn't interested in discovering more about the dog, such as whether he has a home and if his owner is okay with him paddling out on the surf each day. However, there seems to be a strong sense of community in this story—everyone recognizes the two as they ride together on the scooter, and the beach is full of friendly surfers and other playful dogs, all suggesting the boy is familiar with the people around him and is thus assured of the dog's well being. The dog is a capable character, and it's easy to believe the boy understands he is only in need of a caring friend to watch out for him as he plays at the beach.
The illustrations by Eugenie Fernandes are full of movement and colour, highlighting the story's bright, tropical setting. Lush green plants and turquoise waters are abundant, as are the birds, fish, and other wildlife that stalk, swim, and play alongside the boy and the dog. While the location is not directly stated in the tale, itself, Walters' dedication for this story mentions the country of Costa Rica, and the illustrations are quite effective at invoking the varied climates of the region (one image, for example, shows a calm beach at sunset framed by the dark trees and plants of a dense jungle).
With its vibrant illustrations and loving message about the joy and trust shared between friends, Surfer Dog is a charming tale that shows how the pull of the surf can bring people—and dogs—together.
Meredith Cleversey, a librarian in Cambridge, ON, loves to read, write, and live in a world of pure imagination.