On the road to self-awareness, do we always need to fail a little before we succeed? How many times does a tree have to fall in the woods with no one else around before we hear it, or a cake disappear behind closed doors, or a lie go unchecked and unpunished, before a lifetime of heedless depravity looks suddenly not as rewarding as we’d hoped?
Those are maybe some of the questions getting asked in Chris Haughton’s Oh No, George! or maybe this is just another dumb book about mischievous pets accessible to even the youngest and least discriminating of humans. Because it looks great, so whatever your, or your child’s, literary motivations, you are likely to be returning here many, many times. Kick back and compose grocery lists then, or reflect on past glories – lose yourself here in the comfortable rhythms of will George, or won’t he, go chasing after the cat, dig up plants, root through garbage – all this while the backgrounds rotate between whitewashed expanses of thoughtfulness when George is considering his options to fiery orange when there doesn’t really seem to be any choice. Do dogs see in colors? I bet they sort of do. Not that you need to be considering heady questions like that. You probably have enough on your mind.
Though for anyone inclined to go looking, I think this book finds that increasingly elusive crossroads between suspense aimed at toddlers and dramas still unfolding many years, and many crossroads, down the line. How mysterious we all are – even the most experienced – when it comes it to knowing, resisting, surrendering to temptation. And then trying to make it right: there’s a page in the middle of this book after George has serially lost himself to doggy desires where he presents his prodigal master with a rubber ducky – “I want to give you my favorite toy,” he says, stricken – and it is left to reader, both young and old, to wonder if this completely misses the point.
I didn’t think so. We are blessed, if no wiser perhaps, when the world affords us such opportunities at redemption where people are looking – the cake on the picnic blanket, the cat up a tree in the park – though for everything else there’s a rubber ducky.