Universal Truths. We all need food, clean water and shelter to survive. Most of us want to be seen, most want to be valued. The mass populace should not have access to assault weapons. Getting enough sleep is critical for everyone’s emotional and physical health. You can superimpose all religions, one on top of the other until it all says the same thing, because somewhere along the line the branches of humanity’s tree crossed. That should be a comfort, not a reason to get upset. It means the other tribes aren’t wrong; just pick a story. Spirit uses language we’ll understand. If you believe that, and I do, that’s fine but you don’t have to. If you’ve already got religion, don’t force it on anyone else. We all need each other to survive. We don’t all like the same things. That’s good, it would be boring if we did.
This brings me to my first book review of the month. Odd Dog Out, written and illustrated by Rob Biddulph, published by HarperCollins, 2016. A perfectly packaged, cuter than cute tale about non-conformity, penned from the perspective of a dolled-up Dachshund. Our heroine finds herself at odds in a world filled with others who are seemingly in sync. They look the same, work the same and play the same. Draped in a darling knitwear gumdrop palette ensemble, she high tails it out of town, determined to find her pack. Only by braving mountains and roaming molehills does she finally understand; it’s great to be different. Most dogs are, if only they’d let other dogs know it. Five stars, two thumbs and four paws up for this one.
As a junior high school kid, I was inspired by Sandra Boynton’s greeting cards. While hanging at the Sunrise Mall, Spencers was the store to stock up on bean bag chairs or shag rugs, and you could check out some compelling lava lamp inventory while waiting for an afternoon matinee. It was the next best thing to Sam Goody’s. We would drift in, never presuming the merchandise was meant for purchase, and leaf through greeting cards for an hour; that’s where I found her. With the wit and delicacy of William Steig or Quentin Blake applied to simple lines, she made the personification of hippos, dancing chickens, and elephants come to life in one sentence. I’ve been a fan ever since.
Happy Hippo, Angry Duck; A Book of Moods, is one in the series of Boynton Board Books published by Simon and Schuster 2011, 2019. We’re introduced to a menagerie of friends in this charmer, including a sweet pig, a contented frog, and, as the title suggests, an angry duck. My favorite in this book is the confused cow. These characters offer an emotional safety net for children (and parents) trying to navigate an ocean of feelings. What we’ve come to understand from Boyton’s art and writing is learning through exemplary kindness, and we’ve been lucky to have her.
Don’t be like this grump! Learn from the Dachshund. Embrace your pack, whomever they may be, and trust that the world will accept you if you let it in. Remember the confused cow, as she will not be confused forever. Be jolly. Stay safe. Peace on Earth. Good will to everyone.