Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Ball' by Mary Sullivan

Ball by Mary Sullivan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Children, 2013

We all know that we shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I have to admit that I let out a little squeal of delight when I saw the cover illustration of Ball by Mary Sullivan. The combination of the vintage color scheme with the modern cartoon-dog and his timeless look of fixation on the ball won me over before I even opened this book.

In flipping through it, I discovered that it is basically a clever variation on the wordless picture book. While not entirely wordless, there is only one word, repeated throughout the book (as reflected in the witty byline: Word and pictures by Mary Sullivan).

The cartoon-like illustrations tell the story of a dog, eager for his girl to wake up and throw the ball for him. The girl does so, several times, while getting ready for school, and then leaves for the day. The dog, alone with his ball, seeks out the meditating mother, the infant in a baby seat, and even the family cat, but no one wants to play ball with him. The dog makes a few attempts to play with the ball by himself before drifting off to sleep (and dreams, of course, of playing with the ball). He awakens to the anticipation of his girl returning from school to play ball with him again.

Words cannot describe how entertaining this story is. I read it with my six and nine year old daughters and we laughed aloud at how well the author/illustrator captures the dog's recognizable obsession with his favorite toy. When I was finished reading the book, the girls took turns reading it aloud to each other (which was great practice with punctuation for the first grader, who is just learning to read). Then the third grader went off to write a one-word story of her own.

I loved this book. Buy it. Read it to your kids. I guarantee you'll have a ball!

Mary Sullivan has been drawing for as long as she can remember. Her childhood home was full of music, art, and poetry. Mary lives in Austin, Texas. She spends her days drawing, writing, and searching for places in the sun to dream. You can find her online at www.marysullivan.com.

Renée Vaillancourt McGrath has worked at Montana Public Radio as a program host since 2002. Her background is in librarianship and she currently works as a freelance editor, blogger, and website developer. Check out more of her book reviews at reneesreads.com.

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