Ivan the Terrier – Peter Catalanotto

I picked this book up because of the title, and then nearly put it right back down for the same reason.  Ivan the Terrier?  Groan, groan.  But then I flipped through the first few pages and bust out laughing, so took the book home to have a real read.  And what can I say?  I like it.

Ivan the Terrier is about the poor narrator being interrupted by Ivan each time she tries to tell a story.  Our tale begins in a quiet scene where there are three billy goats named Gruff.  Out in the distance are rolling hills, trees, a fiery sunset sky, and a tiny little running speck of a dog…who (on page two) jumps in with his ARF! arf! Arf! Arf!, and chases the goats into the (pastoral) distance while the poor narrator tries to stop him (Ivan! Get back here!  IVAN!).  The narrator gamely tries again – this time with the Three Bears handing out their morning porridge in a brown-toned dining room before a warm glowing hearth.  Through their window it seems like there is another brown and white speck…and on the next page: chaos!  The three bears leap away, spilling coffee, milk, and (is that…yes it is!) vitamins in their haste to escape Ivan, while the narrator protests in vain (Sit!  Ivan!  Sit!  BAD DOG!).

The three little pigs, the gingerbread boy, no one is safe as Ivan roams from page to page barking away, trying to get the reader’s attention, and generally being a nuisance, until – finally…

Ugh.

All right.  I give up.

There once was a little dog named Ivan.

…and of course, just at that moment, Ivan wanders away to take a nap.

This book is funny, cute, and guaranteed to elicit hilarity and attention from even younger squirmy children who don’t like to sit still for books.  And after all that laughing and giggling – it ends with a nap!  Which is, of course, the best way to convince little readers/listeners that it is time for their nap…just like Ivan.  The only danger is that you’ll bark yourself hoarse reading it out loud.

Reading Ages: Pre-school.

Illustrations note:  The illustrations are big, bright, boldly coloured watercolour and gouache.  What I like about them is that each picture has its own “feel” (the peace of the meadow, the cozy Bear’s home).  I also like the subtle little details that children will be delighted to discover or to have pointed out to them.

Favourite detail: I like how the fish on the Gingerbread boy’s “mom” is also surprised and scared by Ivan.  It’s a cute touch.

Rating: B.  Not a classic must-have, but very good.

An aside: My apologies to readers for not posting much lately.  I have been going a bit nuts at work in the last few weeks, but am back in the saddle and ready to review!

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