Sunday, June 18, 2017

Dog Book Review: Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing) (girl, St. Bernard, Minneapolis)

Julia Gillian (and the Art of Knowing), by Alison McGhee (Scholastic Press, 2010, 304 pages, $16.99, grades 3-7, ages 8-12)

Dog Book or Not? Or the Best Kind of Dog Book?

Julia Gillian is not a dog book even though there is a dog on the cover.

However, a dog plays a major role in the story. The St. Bernard, Bigfoot, is so much a part of Julia Gillian’s life (note: Julia Gillian, not Julia) that you will fall in love with him as he follows her around. They talk long walks together. They think thoughts to each other. Bigfoot sleeps in Julia Gillian’s bedroom on a magenta pillow on the floor beside Julia Gillian’s bed. They are almost one.

Julia Gillian is almost an adult. Her two adult parents, both teachers, are almost hippie-like. They all live in Minneapolis and Minnesotans will love the references to Lake Harriet and Hennepin Avenue and all the other landmarks.*

Dogs! Please Help Yourselves!

Julia Gillian is nine years old so she can walk Bigfoot in a nine-block square if she is gone less than one hour and behaves according to the parameters (or else, the police are called – but that has never happened).

Bigfoot is kind and gentle and everyone knows him. Julia Gillian has known him all her life: they are the same age. In their walks around Minneapolis, they always stop at the house with the water bowl for dogs in front of it. (A couple of books later, they find out who lives there, loves dogs and keeps refilling the water bowl.)

This book is about Julia Gillian, the girl who does not like to read. She has tried reading a green book with a dog on the cover but the book is sad so, instead of finishing it, she hides it.

Pen and Ink Illustrations Make Julia Gillian Come to Life

Artist Drazen Kozjan the Magnificent penned the drawings and make Julia Gillian come to life (remember Pippi Longstocking?).

A More than Excellent Series

If the Wimpy books are for boys, then the Julia Gillian books are for girls – girls who love dogs. Follow Julia Gillian through the summer and meet her neighbors: 19 year old Enzo who lives with her older brother in the apartment downstairs. Follow Julia Gillian as she adds to her list of accomplishments that she keeps under her mattress.

If Julia Gillian isn’t simply the best role model for young girls, I don’t know who is. Adults reading the series will relive their school days, too.

*Sudden thought: in this day and age, why can’t the Julia Gillian series be printed with the location in Seattle for readers in Seattle, and Chicago to Chicagoans, and Miami for Miamians. I think a lot more girls interested in dogs would become more interested in reading!

Tomorrow: Julia Gillian (and the Dream of a Dog)

Next in the series
Caveat: This title was first found in a bookstore and then checked out from the county library. Then DogEvals also checked out Julia Gillian (and the Dream of the Dog)!

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