Noted illustrator and author Maira Kalman’s thesis statement couldn’t be clearer:
“You, reading this book, most likely have, or had, a dog, You certainly know that your dog is, or was, the dearest, funniest, lovingest, loyalest friend you ever had.”
Oddly enough, Kalman grew up in a family without dogs, in part because her family feared the way the animals were used against Jewish people in their ancestral Belarus, and in part because her mother, and her grandmother before her, had kept a spotless home.
But when Kalman’s beloved husband, Tibor, fell ill (he died in 1999), friends suggested that she and their two children get a dog.
And they did. At first, she writes, she was reluctant to touch Pete, their Irish wheaten, “(a)nd then, little by little — or perhaps with blinding speed — I fell madly in love.”
Inspired by Pete (who lived eight years with them and is memorialized with a quote from James Joyce’s “The Dead”), Kalman’s “Beloved Dog” rounds up renderings of the dogs she’s known, loved or just drawn. Some have their own stories (Max, pet of Ida and Morris Stravinsky, who realizes his dream to travel solo to Paris) and some are companions to well-known humans, including Abraham Lincoln and family and writing style experts William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White.
Many of Kalman’s hounds have appeared in her 18 children’s books, but there’s no age limit for this book.
It probably helps, though, if readers are, like its author/artist, “besotted by dogs.”