Good Boy Fergus!
Book Focus - March 2006
Written and Illustrated by David Shannon
0-439-49027-8 $15.99; The Blue Sky Press; Ages 3-6
GOOD BOY, FERGUS! is a picture book not only about David Shannon’s
West Highland terrier but also about the relationship between Dave
and his pet. Dave has captured Fergus’s spirited personality
perfectly, and his voice as the narrating dog owner is irresistible.
More than anything else, we see that no matter how Fergus behaves,
he is always a good boy. That’s a wonderfully reassuring message
for children—to know that no matter how many mistakes they make,
like Fergus, they are loved absolutely and unconditionally.
Fergus is a very focused dog. As they say in our local dog park,
“Inside every terrier is a terror.” If Fergus is tracking
an interesting smell, you can call, command, beg, cajole, and even
offer biscuits without any response. One of my favorite spreads
is “Okay, Fergie, time to go in…” which escalates
into “FERGUS MACLAGGAN! YOU COME HERE RIGHT NOW!” I
love the increasing impatience of the dog owner’s voice contrasted
with the serene painting of Fergus, as oblivious as if he were deaf,
sniffing a tree.
I laugh every time I turn the page and see that the narrator, in
plaid pajamas, has finally given up calling. He’s had to come
out and physically pick the dog up to get him inside. The pajamas
give us a clue that this wasn’t the narrator’s first
choice of activity. The accuracy of the language and the event,
rendered with such deceptive simplicity, are pure genius. Once again,
David Shannon has flawlessly woven together text and art to create
a seamless, utterly believable scene—with characters we somehow
feel we already know and would recognize anywhere.
I also love the spread “Time for a walk?” where Dave
(who else?) is flat out on the floor, holding a leash, and happy,
excited Fergus is standing on his chest. Dave always manages to
present the hilarity of a situation with an understated one-liner
that says it all.
More than anything in the world, I love to laugh with my son. A
book that sparks so much genuine laughter is a rare and special
gift. Dave has used white space, line, layers of color, shadow,
and perspective to create a feeling of hospitality that engages
readers and invites us into a world filled with warmth and humor.
GOOD BOY, FERGUS! provides a delicious opportunity for children
and their grown-ups to share a time of joy, laughter, and fun.
Publishing GOOD BOY, FERGUS! was easy as pie. The concept was great,
the sketch dummy was hilarious, and the finishes were flawless.
Every step of bookmaking was a pleasure. I didn’t have to
do any research at all. After spending time with Fergus, my son
and I bought a Westie of our own a few years back. Her name is Southpaw,
and she is as stubborn as the day is long. She sometimes comes when
we call, and when she doesn’t, our neighbors see me outside
in my bathrobe early on Saturday mornings. She chases cats, she
won’t roll over, and she’s knocked over a flowerpot
or two. But no matter what she does, she’s always a good girl.
David Shannon is absolutely right.