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The Waiting Dog

by Carolyn Beck, Andrea Beck, illus.

The cover illustration for The Waiting Dog issues a tongue-in-cheek caution: “Warning!” it says, “Do you have the guts to read this book?” The joke is that the book is awash in guts – specifically, those of a mailman who gets eviscerated by a dog. And although the savagery takes place only in the imagination of the canine narrator, it’s depicted in such excruciating detail that a genuine warning is in order. So here it is: this book is inappropriate for squeamish kids and those afraid of dogs. On the other hand, if you’re on for some exuberant grotesquerie, it’s a very fine specimen of its kind.

The dog narrates its fantasy in rhyming verse, starting with the capture of the mailman’s hand through the slot in the door. The verse charges forward breathlessly, its rhythm marked by sharp consonants and howling exclamations. The vocabulary is expansive, particularly in the disembowelment section, which is strewn with lesser-known anatomical terms. The words and pictures are remarkably well matched, seeming to urge one another on to the frenzied crescendo. It could be in the blood, since the author and illustrator are sisters, both based in Ontario. Andrea Beck, creator of the Elliot the Moose books, has painted scenes full of dark colours and shadows, and has incorporated humorous touches such as jagged-tooth page outlines and dog wallpaper motifs. Even the typesetting in the book contributes to the mood: the font is called House of Death. Overall, this is a nicely produced book, and whether it elicits belly laughs or turns stomachs is, as I’m sure the rhyming dog would agree, largely a matter of taste.