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Two Bobbies: Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery

NonfictionmondayBook: Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival
Author: Kirby Larson (blog) and Mary Nethery
Illustrator: Jean Cassels
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4 to 8

Two BobbiesTwo Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival (written by Kirby Larson and Nethery, illustrated by Jean Cassels) is the story of a dog named Bobbie and a cat named Bob Cat, so named because neither has a tail. Bobbie and Bob Cat survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005. They spent the next four months wandering the hard streets of post-flood New Orleans, together and inseparable, until a construction worker named Rich noticed them, and noticed their devotion to one another. With help from Rich and the Best Friends Animal Society, a secret about Bob Cat was discovered and Bobbie and Bob Cat found a happy home.

The writing in Two Bobbies is straightforward, and will be easy for kids to follow. The authors lend an understated poetry to Bobbie and Bob Cat's plight, with sentences like "Together, in the silent heat, they waited for help to come." And "After the waters receded, they traveled the buckled streets, with no place to call home." They do a nice job of filling in the presumed details of Bobbie and Bob Cat's story, and of telling the truth about Hurricane Katrina, without letting the misery, or any message beyond the power of friendship, overwhelm the story. I think it helps that authors Kirby Larson (of Hattie Big Sky fame) and Mary Nethery are real-life best friends. Their reverence for friendship comes through in the text.

Jean Cassels's watercolor (gouache) illustrations are phenomenal. Every page is a work of art, with detailed brushstrokes to lend texture, and evocative color palettes to lend mood. Some of the illustrations are bleak, but things cheer up by the end of the book. Cassels includes sufficient detail to make it clear that she has really seen post-Katrina New Orleans (the jacket copy said that lives there), down to the paint markings on the cleared houses and the debris on the streets. After looking at these illustrations, I feel like I have a better sense of what New Orleans was like in those months after Katrina than I ever did from looking at news coverage. And Bobbie's protectiveness of Bob Cat is revealed on every page.

My favorite illustration is one of Bobbie and Bob Cat nestling together, in close-up view, near the end of the book. Their fur is practically three-dimensional, and their expressions radiate contentment. It's worth the price of the book for the picture alone (and, if it makes a difference to you, a portion of the proceeds from Two Bobbies will be donated by the authors to Best Friends Animal Society).

Unless you have a heart of stone, this book will bring tears to your eyes. I'm not an animal person, and I was still rooting for Bobbie and Bob Cat all the way. The fact that Bobbie and Bob Cat's story is true makes it that much more poignant. For the tender heart of a young dog or cat lover, I think that Two Bobbies will be irresistible. This book was just released in early August. Don't miss your chance to pick up a copy. It's a very special book.

Publisher: Walker Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: August 5, 2008
Source of Book: Advance review copy from the publisher
Other Blog Reviews: Kiss the Book
Author Interviews: Kirby on Tales from the Rushmore Kid

© 2009 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved.