Written by Arthur Yorinks, Illustrated by Richard Egielski
Children’s Picture Book: K-4
Stars: 3.5 (out of 5)
Summary: In this story, Al, a janitor, and his dog, Eddie, leave their difficult world behind and are transported into a life full of relaxation and enjoyment. In the end, they realize that this life of ecstasy comes with a price.
This story has wonderful illustrations, as makes sense since it is a Caldecott winner. The illustrations add a great deal of depth to this story. Without such elaborate and informative illustrations, the story would be bare and minimal. In general, there is not a lot of text in this story. While a story is told through the presented text, a great deal of the wonder and enjoyment comes from the rich illustrations. I personally wish the story had more of a story line. I think it is a great idea for a story, but it felt incomplete to me, as the reader. There was a very positive overall message, that the grass always seems greener on the other side but in reality what we have might just be enough. I think that this message gets lost along the travels of Al and Eddie. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what about this story does not work, but something is off, for me, as a reader. I think that I was expecting more than I ended up getting from the story. The literary elements didn’t seem to work well together. They may have functioned independently, but the combination did not produce a story that I would want to read again.
This story would be a great one to use when practicing predicting with students. A great stopping point would be before the bird arrives to take Al and Eddie on their journey. It would be a place to pause and reflect with the class, coming up with individual, group, or whole class predictions. It would provide an opportunity for students to use their imaginations as they create the places that Al and Eddie might be taken to. This predicting and creation of an ending location might be something that could also be explored through art. Students could use artistic mediums to create the place that they predict or infer Al and Eddied might be going. Another means to incorporate such an activity would be to have students use rich language and write about where they might be going. These would be various instructional means to use this text, and would vary depending on the age level. With younger children, an artistic representation might be best, while with older students, writing might be an interesting means to accomplish the predicting.