By Elisha Cooper
Greenwillow. $16.99. Ages 4-7.
Although the setting is a beach house instead of a bull ring, Homer, a large yellow lab, is to dogs what Ferdinand was to bulls: Benign in the midst of bedlam, contemplative in the face of chaos. Homer, in fact, is a porch potato. When the three other family dogs burst through the door inviting him to “chase and race around the yard,” he simply answers, “No, thanks.” When his mistress suggests that they “walk to the beach and play in the sand,” Homer responds with a quiet, “No, you go.” How about a “swim in the waves” or a “run to the market”? All invitations are quietly rejected. “No, no. I’m fine right here.” And when, one by one, the members of his world return at day’s end bearing balls and shells and bags of groceries, Homer is happy to see them and to share their treasures. Elisha Cooper, who always seems to favor long, low, calming layouts, uses this design again to great advantage: The flat line of the far-off horizon where sky and sea meet, the inviting sweep of golden sand in almost every scene, and the level porch railing all echo Homer’s supine spine. It’s not melancholy or age that tethers Homer to his home, it’s contentment. He is the world’s observer, and when the final page is turned, when dinner is done and bedtime is here, Homer’s take on life becomes clear: “I have everything I want,” he says. “I have you.”