By Jules Feiffer
Bark, George is one of my favorite picture books ever. It’s funny, clever, simple and satisfying. In short, it’s perfect.
Jules Feiffer is an author (he’s written several books for children and adults), an artist (in addition to illustrating Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, he also illustrates all of his own writing), a screenwriter (most notably, Robert Altman’s Popeye) and a cartoonist (he had his own strip in The Village Voice for forty-two years).
Feiffer’s simple line drawings are tight but also fluid. There’s a perceived action in his precise style. Unwavering black lines contain lavish hues; the comically endearing characters are set against solid, pastel backgrounds. The no-frills text says only exactly what is necessary and moves quickly. It all comes together to produce a flawless and hilarious story.
George, a puppy, is instructed by his mother to bark but her commands are met with unexpected results.
‘“Bark, George.” George went: “Meow.”’
George’s mother calmly explains that cats meow and dogs bark. Once again, she directs George to bark. George quacks.
Following her various pleas for George to bark, he emits a new and different animal sound, but never a bark.
Clearly frustrated, George’s mother brings him to the vet. The vet’s appeals for George to bark are met with the same results.
“Please bark, George.” George went: “Meow.”’
So the vet dons a glove, reaches deep inside of George, and pulls out a cat.
Each request is met with a misplaced animal sound and each time the doctor reaches inside George and retrieves the relevant animal. There’s a cat, a duck, a pig, and a cow. Then finally, after George has been unburdened of all these creatures, he barks!
Both the vet and George’s mother are ecstatic.
George’s mother is so pleased that she decides to show off his newly learned skill on the way home.
“So she said, “Bark, George.” And George went:
Children find great humor in attributing incorrect characteristics to, well, most anything. For children who have mastered proper animal sounds there’s a seemingly endless amount of laughter to be achieved by mixing and matching their noises. Bark, George is the reverse of The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and a guaranteed “read it again.”
Buy the book!