A BOY A BALL AND A DOG
Publisher: Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press
Copyright Date: 2016
Rights Retained: Multimedia and game; Motion Picture & Television; dramatic rights; Merch & Commercial
Audience: ages 4 to 8
There was never a ball the boy wouldn't throw. Luckily, there was never a ball that his dog couldn't catch.
When a new kind of ball (a balloon) floats into the picture, both boy and dog try to find a way to play with it, and they become separated. Will they find their way back to each other and finish their game?
Light on words and long on feeling, Marino’s story sails like a kite, an ode to shifting air and blowing wind. “There never was a ball the boy wouldn’t throw,” she writes, as a child in a baseball cap pitches a ball at a scruffy white terrier, “or one his dog couldn’t catch.” The dog, whose eyes glow with love and loyalty, catches the ball. When a red balloon blows along, the dog sets off after it. “This ball,” the faithful dog thinks, “I must catch.” It runs pell-mell across the hills of a small rural community to the end of a long dock, makes a prodigious leap, and gets the balloon’s string in its mouth. But “the boy was nowhere to be found. What good was the ball without the boy?” The dog howls, and the balloon gets loose, drifting back over waving grasses and swaying apple trees in blossom, reuniting dog and boy. Marino (Night Animals) evokes an experience that’s growing rarer—one in which child and animal share deep intimacy, and have time to share that’s all their own.
A game of catch between a boy and his dog takes an unexpected turn. A dark-brownhaired, light-skinned, barefoot boy plays with his playful pooch. Happy in their routine, they race across pastureland, with barns, cows, and blooming trees as backdrop. But when a red balloon becomes their ball, and a strong wind rises, a new challenge arises. Across their picturesque town and over the pier it flies, until the white pup saves it. Realizing his boy is not near, he lets out a mournful howl—and the fickle wind takes the balloon back to the boy, and all are reunited. Short, simple sentences narrate the characters’ physical and emotional arcs. The artwork, done in a water-based medium, feels like a folk journey, with its pastoral setting and honest interpretation of the imagery. Through it, the artist explores point of view with different angles and perspectives. With trees bending, blossoms floating, and laundry flapping with each gust of wind, the canine’s chase across spreads is cinematic. This, combined with the vitality and vibrancy of the red balloon, recalls the classic short film The Red Balloon (1956). However, here—as the boy, high in his treehouse silhouetted against the bright sun, makes a catch—loved ones return, and all is restored. A glad frolic, perfect for a windy day.