Written and Illustrated by Sebastian Meschenmoser
North South Books, 2008
One morning Pug Man woke up and the day was already half over.
The plot in a nutshell: A frustrated pug gets three wishes.
Pug Man gets up and gets ready for the day, then discovers that he has no milk, cereal or coffee in the house. When he opens the door to get his newspaper, he sees that it’s pouring rain outside and his paper is drenched. He crosses his arms and sits down, in a thoroughly grumpy mood and then a perky cheery fairy appears. She shows him all sorts of foods, lots of other animals to keep him company and a big castle with a swimming pool and then tells him he can have any three things that he wants. He wishes for breakfast, a dry newspaper and then uses his third wish to turn the fairy into a pig who sits down with him to read the paper.
It’s no secret that I am always happy to read any picture book with ‘pug’ in the title. When it also happens to be from an author/illustrator I already like, that’s even better. Sebastian Meschenmoser lives up to my expectations once again with this odd and awesome book. There’s a phrase that’s often used in association with pugs – ‘multum in parvo.’ It means ‘a lot in a little.’ Mr. Meschenmoser embodies that phrase with this book, with minimal story text and much left to the reader’s interpretation. Pug Man is a grumpy anthropomorphic dog with a face that says he is near his breaking point at just about every moment of this story. We have all had days like this.
Most of the pencil illustrations are grey and monochromatic, echoing the rainy day outside and Pug Man’s increasingly bad mood. When the fairy enters the story, bright colors come with her and they seem perfectly out of place in Pug Man’s life. As he makes his wishes, the vibrant colors fade away and his facial expression changes to a contented smile. The transformed fairy-pig is surprised at her new form, but seems to accept it quickly and she stays a much softer pink that blends well with Pug Man’s natural colors. The concepts here may be a little vague for younger readers, but I thought it was funny, thought-provoking and very enjoyable.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that sometimes the simplest wishes are the best.