Illustration Books

The picture book I selected for this assignment is Stay: a girl, a dog, a bucket list, written by Kate Klise and illustrated by Sarah Klise. This book was on the ALSC award list and I chose it because the title sounded like something I would enjoy. Who doesn’t love picture books with animals?

I noticed that the writer of this book and illustrator had the same last name and researched them a little bit. I found that these two are sisters- Kate writes, Sarah draws. They have a website that includes information about them, a blog, their books and awards, etc. I found on this website that they wrote and illustrated their first book at age 10 and 11, and that this specific book has received three awards (Klise, n.d.).

It’s interesting to know this information because not only is the text important, but the pictures are great as well in understanding the story because each can bring their own ideas to the book from her own different perspective. I wonder what the book would have looked like if they switched roles?

This picture book was very simple and sweet for young readers. Something that hit me as the big message while reading this book for the first time was how fast life goes- especially for “man’s best friend”! You need to make it great while you have time and before you “get too old”, such as Eli, the dog in the book.

Another message (I already knew) displayed in this book is how important dogs are and how they can be like a best friend to us. The last sentence on the first page of this book is “He was Astrid’s first friend”. This stuck with me because your first friend (particularly the young girl, Astrid, in this book) is important in developing relationships throughout life. Even if it is a pet, as long as one makes you happy, he/she is great to have in your life.

With this being a children’s book, it’s normal for it to have had some far-fetched things, such as Astrid and Eli having a nice dinner by themselves at a nice restaurant and eating spaghetti with meatballs (as pictured below). I was impressed, though, when the author incorporated a true fact regarding the aging of dogs.

As stated in Stay: a girl, a dog, a bucketlist, “for every birthday Astrid celebrated, Eli had the equivalent of six or seven birthdays”. It’s important to include these types of learning pieces into children’s books so they are enjoyable and informational. Besides the few instances in the book that were fictional, I feel this could be contemporary realistic fiction.

As talked about in class, this is a genre that contains realistic elements. The realistic elements in this book include the girl and the dog getting older, Eli getting weaker as he ages, and Astrid having a close bond with her pet. All these happen realistically in peoples’ lives and it is okay to acknowledge the fact of getting older.

I noticed that this book didn’t have page numbers on any of the pages. It made me wonder if this is normal or unusual for a children’s book to not have numbered pages? I know I have only read books, that I remember, that have them. This makes it easier for students to refer to it if the teacher asks them to go to a certain area in the book. With this being said, I’d rather have books in my classroom that have page numbers.

I connected to this book on a personal level because my family had a pet dog for twelve years! Since I was seven years old, we had our dog Cooper. Therefore, when we put him to sleep this past November, it was a super tough thing to do since he was a part of our family for so long. It made me realize how unfair it is that dogs’ lives are shorter than ours when they have such a positive, loving impact on humans.

Because of this, I knew when I picked up this book I would have a deeper connection than someone who has not lost a pet that meant a lot to him/her. I was a little emotional by the end because it reminded me of our dog, Cooper. It was super sweet that Astrid, the main character, made Eli a bucket list before he “got too old”.

This touching book’s story line includes a girl (Astrid) and her family’s dog (Eli) that had been in her life since her parents brought her home from the hospital after she was born. As the dog gets older, Astrid realizes he is too. Since she wants them to have great memories before he gets too old, she creates a bucket list for them to do together.

Towards the end of the story, Eli and Astrid grow older and Eli can’t walk as fast or far as he used to. The last page ends with him “telling” the reader that all he wanted on his bucket list was to be with Astrid.

The only “conflict” I received from this story is just the fact that Astrid wanted to finish things on Eli’s bucket list before they ran out of time and he got too old. He eventually couldn’t go to the park with her anymore so she stayed at home with him. With this said, she never was upset about anything. Instead, she cherished every moment with the dog and made every moment happy!

This book was overall a happy story but is more emotional when thinking about what actually happens at the end when Eli is “too old”.

It was pretty easy to understand the lesson of the book is to not take life for granted. It also is important to love the people around you before they are gone. Everyone should try to be this way in life in that it’s important to appreciate the happy moments and to create them. I think that young kids being read this wouldn’t understand the concept of Eli dying, since Astrid understood he was simply getting old.

It could be emotional and more touching, though, for someone to connect to this as I did that has experienced a pet being put to sleep after spending so much time together.

“Picture books are woven together in a complex interplay of text and image to communicate multiple meanings that invite various interpretations from readers of different ages” (Tunnell, Jacobs 2016). If a reader was to read this book without the images, the words could stand alone but I think it wouldn’t be as meaningful without the pictures.

The images establish the mood in the story. It starts off happy and lively and ends with being sad and less active because Eli becomes old.

The images could tell the story because it starts out with Astrid coming home as a baby, to her measuring their heights getting taller, to Eli getting weaker, to the sunset picture of them together at the end. You couldn’t visualize what Eli or Astrid looks like and how Astrid gets bigger than him as the story goes on.

There’s a picture towards the end of Eli laying on the couch looking old and sick, Astrid is laying on the top of the couch stroking Eli’s head. This is a special moment in that Astrid can tell Eli is getting very old and realizes the end of his bucket list is coming to an end (this picture is below).

The last page and picture is meaningful as it shows Astrid and Eli sitting on a blanket observing a sunset, her arm around him. It made me wonder if this was their last moment together? If the setting sunset symbolized Eli’s life? This picture is shown below. This last page was a sad but happy ending to the story. It was special that if this was their last moment together, it was a beautiful one!

As I read this story, I noticed that the sentences were not all on one page. One sentence would be on the left side of the page and two sentences would be on the top and bottom of the second page. You can see this in the first picture below. This way of placing words could be confusing for young readers since it all isn’t in the same spot down the page.

There were some conversation texts when dialogue moves back and forth between Astrid and Eli, and the conversation tells the story (Ray, 1999). When Astrid talks to Eli, instead of Eli responding back verbally, we know what he is thinking. For example, in the book Astrid asks Eli, “have you ever been down a slide? You really should before you get too old.”

After they slid down the slide, Eli thinks in his mind “that was fun. Who knew?” It’s helpful for readers to know what Eli is thinking since he can’t verbally express words like Astrid. This is more realistic than a dog and girl having a real conversation back and forth in a book.

There was no rhyming in this book or repetition of phrases or sounds. There was a repetition of the word “old”. It was used more than once throughout the book since the whole reason for Eli’s bucket list was because Astrid knew he was getting to be too old. She wanted them to accomplish this before he couldn’t do these activities anymore. As she was young, she didn’t truly understand that Eli was going to die.

Since this is a children’s book towards a younger audience, the writer kept the words and sentences very simple besides a few. Words that kids may not understand quite yet could include “handsome”, “permission”, “equivalent”. If reading this book in class, the teacher could explain to students what the words mean and/or write the definition on the board.

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