The Big Little Book of Happy Sadness by Colin Thompson
George lived alone with his grandmother. He spent his Friday afternoons at the dog shelter. He felt most at home in the dark of the last cage where the dogs spent their final days before being euthanized. George was surprised to find a small dog looking back at him rather than cowering in the back of the cage. The two stared at one another and a connection was made. The pound was about to close, but George ran home to tell his grandmother about the dog. The hairy dog had three legs so George carries him home. As they tried to figure out a solution for the three legs, the dog began to change George’s attitude and his grandmother’s.
Both the text and illustrations are quirky in such a wonderful way. The text laments that dogs can’t smile, emphasizes the hopelessness of George and the dogs at the pound, and explains the ugliness of the dog in a vivid way:
"Why would you want him? We’ve got 87 other dogs here. They’ve all got four legs and bright eyes and a coat that doesn’t look like it’s covered in lard."
The illustrations have depth, character and their own style. There are so many small touches that surprise but offer a new take on life. The grandmother’s face has some wrinkles, but the best part is that her skin is done in a crackled glaze so she looks like her paint is about to chip off. The wallpaper at their home is not dingy, the counter at the pound covered in a lifetime of paw prints, and small pieces of newspaper go everywhere during a papier-mache project.
Because of the question of a dog in a pound being euthanized, adults may not want to use this with sensitive kids. But those children who veer toward the dark and depressed with find a kindred spirit here as well as hope galore.