Last summer while my mother was away on vacation, my dad went out and got a dog. In case you were wondering, nope – there was no prior family meeting or discussion (a.k.a. asking my mom for permission). You should have seen the look on my mother’s face when we picked her up from the airport with Bella (the dog) bouncing in the back seat. My mom ranted the whole ride home from the airport; poor Bella was not feeling the love from either my mom or our two cats. Keep reading…
Bella looks like a miniature Bambi, a cutie with big doe eyes. Ah, if only her personality matched her appearance. Bella has a Napoleonic complex and what she lacks in size, she makes up in forcefulness. She has barked at and bitten everything on four legs in our neighborhood (including the cats). Like their owners, pets can be guilty of being a few bricks shy of a load here and there.
Chowder, written and illustrated by Peter Brown, is good for a giggle. Starring a very quirky bulldog (he also has his own website at www.chowderandfriends.com ), follow along as he attempts to make friends with a group of petting zoo animals. Chowder has always been a little different, but being different can be lonely. No one wants to be friends with someone weird; his quirkiness alienates the neighborhood canines but perhaps he’ll find acceptance among the zoo animals, after all they also said the belong in the zoo.
Right off the bat, Brown sets the tone for the story on the opening page where a gruff-looking Chowder sits on a toilet doing his business. From the scene where Chowder is unearthing bones like an archaeologist instead of burying them like the other neighborhood dogs, to where Chowder is carried around in a backpack child carrier by his owners, the Wubbingtons, it’s very clear this is not your everyday pet.
Filled with glossy vibrant colours, Brown’s acrylic and pencil illustrations will captivate readers. Round and sturdy-looking in appearance, Brown’s illustrations remind me of a solidly built bulldog or a toddler’s block toys like Playmobil. Brown’s smart approach in the layouts adds to the silly and wacky appeal of the story, like on one spread when he uses the gutter as the window from one scene to the next, as Chowder leaps out the bathroom window into a tree outside. On the last page, he shows Chowder’s telescope view of his new friends by using a blacked out layout, with the exception of a circular close-up framing the petting zoo animals.
Chowder, a children’s book review by Thao Lam
Author and Illustrator Peter Brown
Peter Brown’s grandfather taught him that creating art was a great use of one’s time. Born and raised in Hopewell, New Jersey, Brown would spend hours of his childhood at the zoo or on neighboring farms drawing animals (perhaps early animal studies for Chowder?). In high school, thanks to encouragement from his art teacher Dr. O’Boyle, Brown steered cleared of trouble and worked hard to become an artist. His studies continued at the Art Center College of Design in California, where he realized how he wanted to make his living. Creating picture books was a great way for him to combine his love of writing and painting. What he couldn’t express within his paintings, he could express with words and vise versa.
To find out more about Peter Brown, please visit his website: www.peterbrownstudio.com
Publisher Little Brown Books for Young Readers; First Edition (September 6, 2006)