charleys first night

Charley’s First Night by Amy Hest, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Pure bliss, that’s what this book is.  This is the story of Henry who brings Charley, a new puppy, home.  When they get home, Henry makes sure to show Charley all around his new home, even showing him where his mother hides the birthday presents.  Henry’s parents inform him that he’s the one in charge of walking Charley and feeding Charley.  Henry is thrilled and can’t wait to do those things forever.  Then there’s the discussion of where Charley is going to sleep.  Henry knows that Charley wants to sleep in his room, but his parents want Charley to sleep in the kitchen.  Henry worries about Charley alone in the kitchen, but goes about setting up a pillow, a bear to keep him company, and a ticking clock for a heartbeat sound.  Henry stays with Charley until he falls asleep, but Charley doesn’t stay asleep for long.

Hest’s writing here is so dazzling.  She captures perfectly the swooning adoration of a child with a new puppy.  She shows the instant connection, the small memorable moments together, and the communication and understanding that flows.  Henry loves Charley with a purity that is piercing and Hest’s text makes it all the more real and true.  She uses quiet repetition and brings the reader into the intimacy of this new relationship, allowing them to notice the small things that Henry is seeing and feeling.

Oxenbury’s illustrations are classic and lovely.  They lift the story up, making it feel all the more timeless.  There is a beautiful warmth to her art that works particularly well for this subject.  The small images of Charley eating, romping and even making a mess will be sure to charm.

Two master picture book creators have come together to give readers a radiant book about the first love of child and puppy.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.