Charley's First Night
Charley's First Night
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Amy Hest, illus. by Helen Oxenbury
ISBN 9780763640552
Candlewick, 2012.
4 ½ stars
Keywords: amy-hest family first-night friendship new-pet responsibility

Charley's First Night
by Amy Hest, illus. by Helen Oxenbury

Amy Hest (Letters to Leo) and Helen Oxenbury (There's Going to Be a Baby) perfectly convey the intimate bond between child and pet, as Charley the dog woos Henry the boy (and readers) until he wins a place in his home and heart.

As Henry wraps Charley in his old blue baby blanket and holds his newfound pet in his arms, the boy resembles a parent swaddling his newborn. Charley makes unwavering eye contact while Henry shows the new furry family member around: "This is home, Charley." As Henry's parents spell out the rules ("I couldn't wait to feed Charley every day forever"), the pup naps on Henry's shoulder. Charley's fur matches Henry's hair. Henry's parents are "pretty clear" that Charley will be sleeping in the kitchen. ("I thought about Charley in the kitchen, alone every night forever.") Oxenbury's vignette image of the inevitable "accident" makes evident why his parents want the dog to remain in the kitchen, just as Hest's echo of a phrase ("every day forever") portends Henry's inevitable bending of the rule.

Henry tries not once but twice to quiet Charley's cries in the middle of the night before breaking his parents "pretty clear" rule. But a reflection of his mother in the mirror on Henry's dresser suggests all will be forgiven. This gentle tale makes the ideal gift for a new dog owner and every dog lover.

This review first appeared in Shelf Awareness for Readers.

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