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Good Boy Fergus!
Good Boy Fergus!

Book Focus - March 2006

Good Boy Fergus!
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.