I picked up Black Dog from the New Books section at the library, enticed by the eery cover. After a quick flip through at home, I set it aside thinking it was too scary for the boys (4 and 7). In fact, the big black dog made me a bit uneasy myself. Days later, when we had read, and reread, the rest of our weekly library loot, I picked Black Dog up again, reluctantly. The book had become the epitome of itself.
Black Dog is a book about fear. About how we see it. How we let it grow. Bigger than us. Paralyzing sometimes. Until we force it back down.
One by one each member of the Hope family sees the big black dog out the window. Each panics worse than the last, in amusing literary similarity.
Until Small, the littlest family member, reacts with brazen courage and marches outside to face the beast. In her little sing-songy voice she dares the giant to follow her along, this way and that, forcing the dog to grow smaller and smaller to mimic her path, until he follows her through her home's small cat door. No longer a thing to be feared.
“You can’t follow where I go,
unless you shrink,
or don’t you know?”
When I told my kids I thought the book would be too scary for them, they laughed at me. The storytelling was brilliant and the illustrations were eery perfection. I could have loved Black Dog on those merits alone. But the metaphor, oh how I love thee, metaphor. What are your black dogs?