Some Slow-Down-Why-Don’t-You Before Breakfast

h1 September 1st, 2020 by jules

“Old dog and small girl walk side by side.”


Oh, the beautiful places Martha Brockenbrough goes in her newest picture book. This Old Dog (September 2020), illustrated by Gabriel Alborozo, is one of the first releases from Arthur Levine’s new independent publishing house, Levine Querido. And it’s a story about not letting life pass you by.

Old dog is always happy to see a new day, but lately “the speed of life” has been fast. The grown-ups he lives with—and we never see their faces, à la Peanuts (this is a story, thanks very much, from the point of view of those lower to the ground)—are busy with a new baby. Old dog misses the big joys — sniffing “each blade of grass,” finding the perfect rock, and (my favorite line in the book) hearing “the leaves tell what it’s like to live in a tree.”

But suddenly that new baby has learned how to use legs and is toddling about. And this child hasn’t yet learned the world’s rules about being busy busy busy, and this child knows the value of rolling down hills, finding the perfect rock (and maybe even a leaf), and smelling the grass.

Such a well-crafted text, this one. Brockenbrough communicates a great deal with brief sentences: “His bones are sore but his heart is strong.” The use of repetition (which includes an onomatopoeic “thump-thump”) also connects moments in the narrative in seamless and lovely ways. The pacing is also spot-on—our hearts break for a wee brief moment when the dog nearly gives up on the people in his life (his heart thumps but his “tail does not”)—but then, right when we need it, the girl starts to walk. Old dog’s face brightens. She even walks right to him. Let the joy begin again. Also, the final spread (which I won’t ruin for you here) is evocative and touching and may have made me misty-eyed.

Alborozo brings textured layers to these warm, energetic, light-infused illustrations. (The copyright-page art note even says he used “layers of watercolors.”) Take just the dustjacket art (you can see it below): Look at that grass! Such detail. There are also detailed moments of subtle humor for those not hurrying through the book. (And don’t hurry through the book. You will disappoint old dog.) See the “just-right rock” spread below. Is the dog winking at the girl on the verso? Or is he flinching, because a toddler’s rock is poised over his head? Either way, it’s a funny moment.

The girl and the dog make an indelible pair. You won’t soon forget this duo. Here, as always, are some spreads so that the art and text can do the talking.


“As the sun fills the sky with light, old dog wakes. His bones are sore
but his heart is strong. It thumps, and so does his tail. Thump-thump. Thump-thump.
Old dog’s glad to see a new day.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“It’s time for a walk. Oh, how his old hips ache. His old knees yip. His old back whines. But it’s not just that. The speed of life since the girl was born is fast fast fast,
and old dog
likes to take things slow.”
(Click spread to enlarge)



(Two images above: Click second image to see spread in its entirety)


“His heart thumps.
His tail does not.”

(Click spread to enlarge)


“She stops to smell the grass.”
(Click spread to enlarge)



(Two images above: Click first image to see spread in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

THIS OLD DOG. Text copyright © 2020 by Martha Brockenbrough. Illustrations copyright © 2020 by Gabriel Alborozo and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Levine Querido, New York.

One comment to “Some Slow-Down-Why-Don’t-You Before Breakfast”

  1. Aw, sweet dog! Hi Martha and Gabriel! Congrats on the new book! 🙂

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.