Written by Kelly DiPucchio, Illustrated by Christian Robinson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
Mrs. Poodle admired her new puppies.
Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston.
The plot in a nutshell: Two dogs discover the real nature of family.
Gaston grows bigger than all of his sisters and looks a little different, too. He tries to learn all the right ways of doing things, but seems naturally inclined to being messier, barking louder and running faster than the girls. One day, they meet a family of French bulldogs at the park. Their puppies are named Rocky, Ricky, Bruno and Antoinette, who looks suspiciously like a poodle. The two mothers realize that there’s been a mistake and the puppies switch families. It seems like it should be a perfect fit, but Antoinette doesn’t like things prim and proper and Gaston struggles to be rough and tumble like his new brothers. The next morning, the families meet up again and the two dogs switch back, realizing that they belong with the families they love, not the ones they resemble. The families meet up to play together frequently. Gaston and Antoinette fall in love years later and encourage their puppies to be whatever they want to be.
Author Kelly DiPucchio takes a traditional nature vs. nurture plot and takes it up a notch by essentially saying that they are both important. We see that Gaston has embraced the gentler nature of his poodle sisters while still retaining some of the rough and tumble attitude of his bulldog breed. And when we meet Antoinette, we see that her life is very similar. I was really saddened to see a lot of online reviewers finding political messages in this really positive and sweet book that not only fosters each person’s desire to be who they really are, but encourages them to make the choice to surround themselves with people who feel right to them.
Christian Robinson’s artwork is done in acrylic, sometimes leaving brush strokes that give the illustrations an elementary school feeling. I love the way that the dogs are drawn, with body shapes to differentiate their breeds and with cute little smiling facial features that make them all lovable. It’s so cute that these families support the two dogs’ decisions and continue to play together. And having Gaston and Antoinette end up together is a perfect ending.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that when it comes to family, what’s in your heart is more important than what’s in your genes.