Friday, January 28, 2011

Good-bye Sheepie by Robert Burleigh

Cover of "Hoops"
Cover of Hoops
I'm a huge fan of Robert Burleigh.  His poetic picture book, Hoops may be one of my all time favorites.  So, when I was checking out another book title by illustrator Peter Catalanotto, and discovered that he and Burleigh had a new picture book out, I ordered it right away.  Their beautiful new book, Good-bye Sheepie, arrived yesterday morning.  I dropped what I was doing and sat back with a cup of tea to enjoy it.
Despite the lack of pitter pattering feet, I still buy picture books, although these days I tend to read them and donate them to a needy day-care, school or organization that supports family literacy.

Good-bye Sheepie is a poignant goodbye to a boy's best friend, his dog.  Sheepie is getting too old to fetch a stick.  Sometimes Owen even has to help him climb the stairs.   A few pages into the story, Owen finds Sheepie lying very still under a big oak tree.  When Sheepie doesn't respond to Owen's pat, he gets his dad.  Sheepie has died.  The scene is understated but powerful.  Owen's dad gets his shovel and proceeds to dig a whole for Owen's beloved dog, as if death were as natural as life...
Tears are shed, past exploits are remembered, and Sheepie is lovingly laid into the soft earth.  Owen is sad and his sadness is acknowledged respectfully by his dad who helps him to understand that Sheepie will continue to have a place in their family's memories.

I like that Burleigh doesn't pull any punches or gloss over difficult scenes.  His straight forward text is complemented by Catalanotto's warm palate.  As the reader turns each page, the images become increasingly blurred, as if by tears.  But, by the time we arrive at the end of the story, Catalanotto sharpen's his illustrative lens suggesting Owen's acceptance. Wrapped in the comfort of his father's arms, Owen is able to say good-bye to his beloved friend.

Good-bye Sheepie is a treasure that is destined to be become a classic.  It deals simply and honestly with one of the issues that we must all face ...the loss of someone dear.
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