Written and Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino
Henry Holt and Company, 2001
Alfred was unlovable. At least that’s what the cat told him every chance he got.
The plot in a nutshell: A pug is belittled by everyone around him and fears no one could ever love him, until he meets a new friend who can’t see how unlovable he is.
There’s no questioning why this book came home with me. It’s a picture book with a pug as the main character. Plus it addresses the most difficult (for me, anyway) part of owning a pug and that’s dealing with all the people who say my beautiful dog is ugly. We have a neighbor down the street who says it to him while she’s scratching his ears, in the same voice you’d use to tell a dog he’s adorable. “Aww…he’s so UGLY!” I just smile and say that he’s beautiful in my eyes, because she’s just expressing her opinion and I can’t fault her for that. I mean, clearly she needs glasses, but it would be rude of me to point that out, right?
So pug lovers will feel Alfred’s pain in this book, as he hears from all the animals around him that he’s too ugly, too short and too weird to ever be loved. When new neighbors move in next door, Alfred strikes up a conversation with the new dog, Rex, through the wooden fence. Rex can speak with him, but can’t see him…so Alfred takes the opportunity to lie about his breed, saying he’s a golden retriever. They learn that they have lots in common and become friends. One day, Rex digs under the fence and comes over to meet Alfred in person. As you may have guessed, Rex turns out to also be a pug, they become wonderful friends and Alfred never feels unloved again. Aww.
Author/illustrator Dan Yaccarino creates Alfred’s world with gouache on watercolor paper. Alfred’s character design is so adorable that it tugs at my heart for so many pictures to feature him looking sad. (Although, to be honest, my pug looks sad a good majority of the time, as well.) My first exposure to Mr. Yaccarino’s artwork was on The Backyardigans television show, where he was responsible for the designs for the main characters.
Alfred’s story will resonate with anyone who has ever felt like they didn’t measure up to those around them or those who have been tempted to lie about themselves to seem more impressive. While it would have been nice to see Alfred gaining acceptance from animals other than fellow pugs, it is still a good message to be yourself and seek out those who love you for who you are.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that everyone is lovable to someone.