In Andy Allen’s Stormin’ Norman, the Soggy Doggy, a quiet walk on a warm summer day leads to near-disastrous results when Norman falls into a fast-moving creek while fetching a stick. Unable to swim back to shore, he is quickly swept downstream and his owner, Andy must dive in to save his best friend.
This gentle story about a boy’s bond with his beloved dog is complemented by vibrant, eye-catching illustrations by Brian Barber. Effective picture books are marriages between the text and illustrations, and some of the artwork in this book reveals why. When Andy grabs what he thinks is a stick in the water, the picture shows what the text doesn’t say, that the stick is attached to a big log under the surface, and as the log floats away from shore, its weight carries the hapless pooch with it. Children with pets at home will certainly relate to the tale of Andy’s heroic efforts to rescue his dog and recognize the loyalty that is borne out of unconditional love.
Although rhymes can be fun to read for little ones, and if done well, kids get caught up in the musical cadence, it is an extremely difficult thing to accomplish. Rhymed verses and poems are a different ball of wax altogether. But trying to fit an entire story into rhyming meter takes tremendous skill and a highly attuned ear. Few writers can make it sound natural. Dr. Seuss and, more recently, Alice Schertle (her rhyming book, Little Blue Truck, is a big favorite in our house) are two that come to mind when I think of great rhyming books.
There are moments when the rhyming in Stormin’ Norman rolls off the tongue, “But this day was sunny, the weather was grand. Andy called Norm with a leash in his hand.” The next two, though, illustrates the unevenness of the rhyming that can occur when you try to force the rhyme to fit the story: “Then Andy set off with his dog by his side, And his puppy excitement, Norm just could not hide.” and shouldn’t it really be “Then Andy sets off...?” to make the verb match the personal pronoun?
The story also begins with a man (we presume it’s an older Andy) telling a young boy a story; the ending would have been a little more satisfying if it had ended with (or “come back to the beginning”) the man wrapping up the story for the boy. As it is, readers are left wondering who that little boy was in the beginning and what happened to him?
Apart from the distraction of the uneven rhyming, the book’s humor will appeal to kids, from Norman’s tug-of-war with the stick to a fish donning the glasses Andy lost in his rescue attempt. And what kid who’s ever owned a dog, can’t take a big sigh of relief when Norman is safe on dry land, and back with his loving owner Andy?
Book Reviewer for BookPleasures.com