Worth the Candle
David Milgrim has done a lot of work in the kidbook arena so small that might be called children's littler-ture: the beginning reader. They are the training wheels of children's literacy, subject to the opinion that the sooner they're gone the better. They often contain maybe 250 words, an overreliance on the verb "see", and the interest level of a Kleenex. And while Dr. Seuss certified himself as a genius by writing one (Green Eggs and Ham was written on a dare), this is not a field in which authors typically get any notice, affection or wealth.
Which is why we come to praise My Dog, Buddy, a beginning reader that manages to be an intricate character study in only 188 words. Starting in a very typical fashion--the declaration "This is Buddy." next to a dog sitting on a chair--Milgrim draws and writes not only the portrait of a family and its mischievous pooch, but also a small primer on behavior studies. The parents and big brother, Pete, in this story cannot get Buddy to do what they want him to do, but the narrator (and younger brother) knows exactly how to transact with Buddy at all times. "You just need to know how to ask," the boy explains. If that means luring Buddy with ice cream cone licks or extra hugs, it still means that boy and Buddy have an ideal relationship--the one depicted in the book's final drawing when boy and Buddy are tucked in bed, dreaming the same dreams.
The first time the Candlepicker noticed David Milgrim, it was with a book that was about to be returned to the publisher because the title had never sold. The book was great; it was just unnoticed. We're happy that Milgrim is now reaping the rewards of a bestseller he wrote under the pseudonym of Ann Droyd. With luck, the wild popularity of the parody, Goodnight iPad, will give him time to write lots more books like My Dog, Buddy, which give little learners the richest experiences they can have with the sparest of texts.