Reviews of children’s books normally appear on this site on Saturdays, but I couldn’t post last weekend because of technical problems, so I’m catching up.
Catie Copley. By Deborah Kovacs. Pictures by Jared T. Williams. Godine, 32 pp., $17.95. Ages 3 and up.
By Janice Harayda
Anyone who enjoyed Robert McCloskey’s classic Make Way for Ducklings will find an interesting bit literary cross-referencing in this picture-book inspired by the real-life black Labrador retriever who greets guests at the Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. Catie Copley became the “Canine Ambassador” for the hotel after eye problems kept her from her intended work as a guide for the blind. In this book, she performs a different service when her excellent sense of smell helps her find a teddy bear lost by Tess, a young female guest. Before the missing Milo turns up, Catie and Tess visit the Public Garden – the spot McCloskey’s ducklings were trying to reach when a policeman stopped traffic for them.
Deborah Kovacs tells a fast-paced story from Catie’s point of view in serviceable prose with some weak spots. Kovacs says, for example, that “all the hard work in the hotel” goes on in downstairs rooms such as the kitchen and laundry – as though the upstairs maids, valets, and concierges don’t work hard, too. But Jared Williams offsets some of her lapses with engaging watercolors that invest both human and animal characters with warmth. And his dynamic endpapers draw you in to the book with dozens of images of Catie holding a teddy bear in her mouth in different positions.
Best line/picture: Williams’s pictures of Catie are expressive and realistic without anthropomorphizing her, especially the full-face images on the cover and elsewhere.
Worst line/picture: Kovacs’s workmanlike prose runs to lines such this one that might have appeared in a Zagat guide: “The food is great and my bed is comfy.”
Recommendation: Catie Copley or its sequel could be a good gift for a preschooler who has a labrador or plans to visit Boston. It could also help to prepare children for a visit to a fancy hotel.
Furthermore: Children who enjoy Catie Copley can e-mail Catie at an address listed on the dust jacket.