Friday, January 9, 2015

Best Children's Dog Book, 2014: Sally Goes to Heaven

Sally Goes to Heaven, by Stephen Huneck (Abrams, 2014, 48 pages, $18.95, ages 5-8)

The Best of The Great Sally Books

Sally Goes to Heaven is brilliantly written and illustrated with infinite care. Where have I been not to have read The Sally Books before this? They are actually books with children as the main character, in the form of a lovable canine – Sally. So easy for even parents to identify with!

Sally Loves and Lives in Vermont 

Who hasn’t heard of The Dog Chapel in Vermont? Built by Stephen Huneck (1948-2010) on the 150-acre Dog Mountain, The Dog Chapel is a tribute to man’s best friend. Huneck was an artist depicting man’s best friend in numerous ways: one of which was to write and illustrate books for children - The Sally Books, starring Huneck’s black lab Sally, America’s favorite dog. No humans appear, not even children – only parts of humans, like hands for petting dogs and arms for driving them around. Because, after all, these are dog books (for all children who understand dogs).

The Illustrations

For each of the Sally books, Huneck first drew the illustrations in crayon; then, for each color, he carved a different block of wood. After each block was inked with its one color, the blocks were stamped onto paper and allowed to dry. Painstakingly finished and filled with love, these illustrations are a national treasure.

Lovely Lessons for Children. . . .

Who does Sally meet and what new things does she experience? Each book is an adventure with Sally teaching her young readers how much fun it is to meet new friends and try new things in new places like on the farm, at the vet’s, at the beach, in the mountains, at a snow lodge – Sally even considers getting a job.

. . . and Adults

Charming and whimsical with a twist or two to keep the giggles coming, even from the adults, The Sally Books are books to keep. They are intensely child-centric and personal, told from a dog’s point of view so children understand.

Definitely My Dog Book of the Year for Children, 2014*

Simply the best of the series of seven Sally books, Sally Goes to Heaven is warm and friendly, a safe and delightful story of a dog’s next life and her wish for those she leaves behind, temporarily. I simply cannot get over how warm and wonderful Huneck’s books are. And to think I passed up the opportunity to meet him (I also did not take the time to speak with Roger Caras a few years ago – but given a similar opportunity again, I will have learned my lesson!)

This is my Children’s Choice Best Book of the Year, 2014, for holding a special place in your child’s heart for his dog in heaven. A warm, friendly, fun book to have, to hold, to read over and over again. And smile. With an incredible story and fun digressions as well as illustrations that are a perfect fit yet can be filled in with the imagination of a child, Sally Goes to Heaven will stay on your bookshelf for a generation until it is time to pass it down to the next child. The only time it will leave your bookshelf is when it is read by a child.

Sally’s Story

Sally rises slowly, with aching joints. She realizes she is not hungry and spends her day lying in the sun. The next morning she wakes up in heaven and goes exploring, meeting new friends. She doesn’t see any animal shelters because every dog has a home. All the animals play together as friends and there are always hands eager to throw a stick or toss a ball. When she lies on her back, children form a line to rub her tummy. Her only wish is for her family to adopt another dog to take care of them. And, you know what? That is another book. . . . .but, in the meantime, Sally’s book contains a picture frame for your child’ favorite pet photo.

Get the entire series. Sally’s worth it!

Next: Sally Goes to the Beach

*Because not every child may be ready for Sally Goes to Heaven, DogEvals has also selected another Children’s Choice of 2014: Ivan, The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla – read that review in about a week, here, after The Sally Book reviews.

The Sally Books:
Sally Goes to the Beach, Sally Goes to the Mountains, Sally Goes to the Farm, Sally Goes to the Vet , Sally’s Snow Adventure, Sally Gets a Job and Sally Goes to Heaven
Sally’s Great Balloon Adventure
Sally at the Farm, Sally in the Sand
My Dog’s Brain, The Dog Chapel, and Even Bad Dogs Go to Heaven

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