Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Children's Book Review: 'Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg' by Lori Mortensen

Cowpoke Clyde and Dirty Dawg
by Lori Mortensen
illustrated by Michael Allen Austin
Clarion Books, 2013

Cowpoke Clyde is ready to relax after a long day on the ranch, when he notices that "ol' Dawg, his faithful, snorin' friend, [is] caked with mud from end to end." He fills his buckets to give Dawg a bath, but Dawg sets off on the run, creating mayhem as Clyde chases him across the ranch, splashing other animals along the way.

Michael Allen Austin's large, colorful illustrations perfectly capture the spirit of this story, portraying Clyde as a lanky, sharp-boned cowboy, and the animals as larger-than-life to emphasize the chaos that is created in the course of the chase.

Mortensen uses the time-honored folktale tradition of repetition and accumulation to convey the parade of animals that are "gettin' soaked instead of Dawg." The language is pleasingly rhythmic and peppered with the appropriate Western terms and details. And rhymes drop off with the final word in large print on the following page to encourage children to join in the telling of the story.

The first-grade students that I read this story to leaned forward in their seats as I read, and laughed aloud when the Dawg jumped into the tub with Clyde after he'd given up the chase. They loved the details in the illustrations (such as the cat, who on one page is chewing on a bone) and found the whole book to be funny and fun. This book is nearly perfect in style and execution: a rip-roaring read for children and adults alike.

Lori Mortensen is the award-winning author of more than two dozen books for children, including fiction and nonfiction picture books, easy readers, first graphic novels, and middle grade nonfiction. She lives with her husband and three children in California and reckons that - unlike Clyde - she'll never complete her chores. You can visit Lori online at www.lorimortensen.com.

Michael Allen Austin is the creative director of a medical media company and the award-winning illustrator of ten books for children. He lives in Atlanta with his wife Kim, and their sheepdog, Riley, who - unlike Dawg - likes to roll in clean laundry. Michael's website is www.michaelallenaustin.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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