Kelly DiPucchio

Book - 2014

A proper bulldog raised in a poodle family and a tough poodle raised in a bulldog family meet one day in the park.

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Picture books
New York : Atheneum Books for Young Readers [2014]
Main Author
Kelly DiPucchio (-)
Other Authors
Christian Robinson (illustrator)
First edition
Physical Description
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 30 cm
Contents unavailable.
Review by New York Times Review

I HAD TROUBLE sitting down to write this review of three funny and appealing picture books about dogs because my cat refused to get off the keyboard. Even now she sits too close for comfort, flicking her tail resentfully across the screen. As a child I learned all sorts of things from picture books. I learned about family and friendship, losing a tooth, moving house, and of course, about cats and dogs. I learned that dogs are slobbery but loyal and can rescue children trapped in wells, and that if you somehow become separated from them they will cross thousands of miles on bleeding paws to reach you. Cats are prim, selfish and full of disdain, but soft to pet. Cats are clever, dogs are goofy. Cats eat mice. Dogs eat bones. Oh, and cats are girls and dogs are boys. Even when they're not. "Mrs. Poodle admired her new puppies," begins "Gaston," written by Kelly DiPucchio. "Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La and Gaston. Would you like to see them again?" Yes, I would, and so will readers, surely, because they are adorable. Christian Robinson's seductive illustrations are painted in acrylic with a striking palette, visible brush strokes and retro details. The mostly white dogs have expressive features using minimal marks. Of the four puppies, Gaston stands out. Unlike his dainty teacup-size sisters, he keeps growing. As their mother teaches them how to be good poodles, "to sip. Never slobber! ... To yip. Never yap!" Gaston works hard to overcome his boisterous urges and is praised for his efforts. When spring arrives, proud Mrs. Poodle takes her puppies to the park, where they encounter another family: Mrs. Bulldog, with her own puppies, Rocky, Ricky, Bruno and ... Antoinette. Both families realize there's been a mix-up and the odd ones out switch places. Once back home, however, neither pup quite fits in with the new siblings. They look alike, but they feel different. The next morning everyone is eager to return to the park to trade back. The dogs all become friends and the dainty poodles learn how to be tough from the burly bulldogs, and in turn teach the bulldogs how to be tender. And in the end, years later, Gaston and Antoinette fall in love and teach their own endearingly mismatched puppies to be "whatever they wanted to be." As an adult, I'm mildly confused by the lessons to be learned from "Gaston." The book seems to be about belonging, and about love outweighing differences. And yet it's also about assimilation, about the power of nurture over nature. If you go looking for them, there are also gender and class stereotypes at issue. (I suspect the decision to set the period as midcentury was more than just an aesthetic one.) I don't think children will have any such reservations, though. The only thing they may scratch their collective heads over - as I did - was why, on the title spread, Mrs. Poodle is being wheeled in a pram by a human doctor while Mrs. Bulldog looks out from a cardboard box. Is this the scene of the puppy switch? Are the two mothers giving birth in separate but unequal, breed-assigned beds in a human hospital? Am I overthinking this? I LAUGHED SEVERAL times and tried not to overthink David Ezra Stein's "I'm My Own Dog." The dog in question is proudly independent. Nobody owns him, he tells us. He owns himself. "I work like a dog all day. When I get home, I fetch my own slippers. I curl up at my own feet. Sometimes, if I'm not comfortable, I tell myself to roll over. And I do." It's a good life, or so he seems bent on convincing himself, except for one itchy spot in the middle of his back that he just can't reach. One day he lets a man scratch it, and "the little guy" follows him home. Our dog feels sorry for him, and in a sweet and funny role reversal, he keeps the man as a pet, getting a leash that he uses to lead him around, teaching him the stick-throwing game, and in the process becoming his best friend. It's not all wonderful; there are compromises here as in any relationship, but ultimately it's an ode to the transformative joy of companionship. The illustrations appear hastily drawn, but in a final note Stein describes a rather complicated process involving "a kids' marker hacked to dispense India ink," a photocopier and liquid watercolor. THE BRIGHT, CARTOONY, colored-pencil drawings in Chris Gall's "Dog vs. Cat" are stuffed full of visual jokes. Dog and Cat do not get along but are forced to share a bedroom, and the next 20 pages are given over to odd-couple gags as the two assert their personalities and revel in antagonism. It's an incoming freshman's dorm room nightmare: Dog's side of the room is an unruly jumble of unwashed socks, empty cans, sporting paraphernalia and chewed bones, swilling around an enormous, hideous blue recliner. Cat's side is meticulously organized with identical black suits on hangers and neatly arranged grooming products. You just know his books are alphabetized. Cat and Dog try to approach the situation maturely, but before long they're at war. There are disgusting details involving hairballs and a litter box, which will please kids no end. A barricade is built, a truce is achieved and Cat and Dog actually begin to miss each other. Cat sends Dog a peace offering, a handwritten letter folded into a paper plane and sent over the barricade, and Dog's balled-up response comes flying back. (Which pretty much describes the respective letters from summer camp I just received from my daughter and son. My daughter enclosed a drawing. My son enclosed two used Q-Tips.) A final twist involves the arrival of a baby who throws their room into chaos. Dog and Cat bond over the common enemy, working together to build a suitably elaborate new house outdoors. The entire time I've been writing this, my cat has been glaring at me and now, as I reach to pet her, she stalks off indignantly. I'm thinking of getting a dog. SOPHIE BLACKALL is the author and illustrator, most recently, of "The Baby Tree."

Copyright (c) The New York Times Company [September 7, 2014]
Review by Booklist Review

Nature or nurture? Gaston, born into a family of fancy French poodles, looks and acts different. His coiffure, bark, and demeanor need work. His ears stick up, not down; he ruffs instead of yaps, slobbers instead of sips. Mrs. Poodle and her daughters Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La love him just the same. Strolling in the park, the family meets a mostly bulldog clan: Rocky, Ricky, Bruno and Antoinette. She has learned their ways, as she races, yaps, and abhors pink. The mothers decide to switch the two pooches, since each, obviously, belongs with the other clan, but in the end, no one is happy. Puppies are reexchanged, and all works out for the best, especially when Gaston and Antoinette marry. Though readers will probably want to know how the mistake happened (and a mix-up would have been easy to show on the title page), they will mostly adore this joyous tale. The pictures, rendered in simple shapes of warm acrylic colors, are a delight, celebrating each dog's expressive personality. Kids who might feel the odd man out in their own families will take heart from this.--Gepson, Lolly Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Mrs. Poodle dotes on her four puppies, three "no bigger than teacups" and one-Gaston-"the size of a teapot." Although he strives to be dainty, Gaston stands out from his sisters. He learns why when he meets Mrs. Bulldog, herself the mother of four: three roundish bulldogs and Antoinette, a poodle. Gaston and Antoinette "could see that there had been a mix-up," so they trade places: "There. That looked right... it just didn't feel right." They longingly gaze back at their former families, and their adoptive mothers miss them. DiPucchio (Crafty Chloe) tells a poignant tale, despite implying that gendered behavior results from nurture: raised with feminine poodles, Gaston "did not like anything brutish or brawny" like his bulldog kin, and rough-and-tumble Antoinette "did not like anything proper or precious" like her fellow poodles. They grow up to marry and breed independent puppies. DiPucchio's narrative gets a brilliant boost from Robinson's (Rain!) savvy stencils and acrylics, which-like Maira Kalman's designs-simultaneously evoke fingerpaintings and elegant gallery work. Gaston's charm is a blend of sweetness and style. Ages 4-8. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by School Library Journal Review

PreS-Gr 2-Mrs. Poodle has new puppies, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston, but one of them is not like the others. Next to his petite siblings, Gaston is stocky, ungainly, and goofy looking. One day, they encounter a rough-and-tumble bulldog family, and it's immediately clear that there has been a mix-up. Gaston's short legs and broad ears look just like those of the bulldogs', while the bulldog family includes a tiny poodle named Antoinette. What starts out as a typical "Ugly Duckling" plot becomes a tender exploration of nurture vs. nature. The pups go home with their "real" families, but everyone questions the decision. The mothers are shown gazing forlornly at family portraits, and poor Gaston has no interest in anything "brutish or brawny or brown," preferring the "proper or precious or pink" home that Antoinette scorns. The next day they joyfully switch back: "There. That looked right. And it felt right too." But the story doesn't end there. Both families continue to meet and teach each other about being tough and tender, and when Gaston and Antoinette eventually fall in love and have puppies of their own, they teach them to be whatever they want to be. Robinson's expressive acrylic paintings are bright and bold, yet simple, making masterly use of negative space and contrast. This heartwarming story of family will be a welcome addition to homes and libraries of all types.-Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Horn Book Review

Bumptious Gaston looms over his elegant poodle sisters Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La; they're "no bigger than teacups," but he's "the size of a teapot." Like a good twenty-first-century parent, Mrs. Poodle praises her well-mannered daughters ("Good." Well done." "Very nice"), while Gaston gets an encouraging "Nice try" for his sloppy slurping. Out in the park, they meet a family like theirs but in reverse: bulldogs Rocky, Ricky, and Bruno and their petite sister Antoinette. Were Gaston and Antoinette switched at birth? Should they trade families? It seems like the right thing to do until they try it, only to discover that what looks right doesn't always feel right. So they trade back, to general contentment. DiPucchio's lively, occasionally direct-address text was made to be read aloud ("And they were taught to walk with grace. Never race! Tip. Toe. Tippy-toe. WHOA!"). In Robinson's elegant illustrations, the dogs' basic white forms -- on saturated acrylic painted backgrounds of cheery sky blues and grass greens -- have minimal yet wonderfully expressive facial details; with the simplest of settings, all eyes will be on the action. Excellent messages about family, differences, and friendship are implicit. But first, just share and enjoy. joanna rudge long (c) Copyright 2014. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Gaston, an adorable pup, lives with his loving and proper poodle pack, until an outing reveals there's more to family than meets the eye.Mrs. Poodle treasures her new puppies: Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La and Gaston (say them aloud, and there will be giggles!). Four white pups, so attentive and sweet. But upon second viewing, it's clear not all are the same. Gastonthe one with the eager-to-please smileis, well, different. His sisters are naturals at etiquette, while he is comical in his efforts. When a park visit establishes that puppies were mixed at birth, Gaston heads home with the bulldogs, while his counterpart, Antoinette, takes her place with the poodles. But it's clear the two truly belong with their adoptive families. Once returned to the families who nurtured them, all feels and looks right as the dogs celebrate with joy. Now fast friends, the families meet and play; much later, when Gaston and Antoinette fall in love, the two allow their broodwho are a delightful mix of their parentsto be whatever they want to be. Robinson's brilliantly designed acrylic paintings, done in an earth-tone palette, beautifully enhance DiPucchio's clever and witty text. His simple, graphic style, reminiscent of M. Sasek, is full of energy and sophistication, and the interplay among type, text and compositions leads to humorous results. Gaston will win hearts, as will his story's message of belonging and family.A perfect read aloud that will leave them begging for morean absolute delight. (Picture book. 2-7) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.