Taking a less temporal approach to the subject of death than did Viorst in her homey tale The Tenth Good Thing about Barney (1971), Rylant sweeps beyond the here and now into a brightly colored place she calls Dog Heaven. In this joyfully imagined place, God is a smiling, white-haired gentleman who watches the goings-on as dogs run and bark, play with kids, eat dog biscuits in cat shapes, and sleep on fluffy clouds. It’s also a place where dogs patiently wait for old friends: “They will be there at the door. Angel dogs.” Rylant’s kindergarten concept of the hereafter is cheerful but not humorous or glib. The story seems quietly and deeply rooted in faith, but it is neither sober nor sentimental, and the notion of a higher being is blended naturally into the text in an unpretentious, comforting way. The bright acrylic paintings are Rylant’s debut as a picture-book painter; reminiscent of the artwork of very young children, they mesh beautifully with the innocence of the text (which is actually less a story than a series of descriptions), with their vivid rainbow colors turning the sometimes scary mystery of dying into an adventure spent with happy, welcoming four-footed friends. A book for parent-child sharing and discussion. Stephanie Zvirin – From Booklist
“Pure, tender, lyrical without being overearnest, and deeply felt.” – Kirkus – pointer review
“The reassuring story might comfort a child after the loss of a pet, but this pleasent, imaginary paradise will have a broader appeal to all animal lovers.” – SLJ
“The bright acrylic paintings are Rylant’s debut as a picture-book painter… they mesh beautifully with the innocence of the text a book for parent-child sharing.” – Booklist
About the Author
As a child in West Virginia, Cynthia Rylant never dreamed of becoming a writer. In her free time, she devoured Archie comic books and paperback romances and enjoyed the outdoors. But after taking one college English class, she was, “hooked on great writing… I didn’t know about this part of me until I went to college-didn’t know I loved beautiful stories.” And one night, inspired by the Southern writer James Agee, she sat down and wrote When I Was Young in the Mountains. Named a Caldecott Honor Book and an ALA Notable Book, it was an instant success.
Since that night, Rylant hasn’t stopped creating wonderful books. Her stories explore friendship, love, grief, and other mysteries, and often draw on her memories of growing up in Appalachia. “I get a lot of personal gratification thinking of those people who don’t get any attention in the world and making them really valuable in my fiction-making them absolutely shine with their beauty.”
She lives with her many pets in the Pacific Northwest.