Memory is unpredictable. Not in the way that two people will remember the same event differently, but more in the way that one will person will remember an event even happened when another person won’t remember the same event even took place. Maybe because while one person was paying attention at said event, the other person was thinking about lunch. Or maybe that person was a little bit hungry then got excited about having pizza for lunch. I’m saying that I am human and I can’t possibly be expected to pay attention to every single thing occurring outside of my head all the time, especially if I’m hungry and I really want pizza for lunch.
Having an event crawl into your brain and transform itself from experience to memory can’t be forced, but it does tend to happen whenever experiencing something profound for the first time – first kiss, first pizza, the first time you fall in love with a book. In fact, one of my strongest memories is from one of my first books. It’s a vivid memory of a party that I was not invited to and didn’t attend. Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, P Diddy’s White Party, the Olsen twins’ 16th birthday? Boring crapfests compared to this legendary canine shindig, and I remember it like it actually happened.
Go, Dog. Go! is P.D. Eastman’s adorable beginning reader book that always seems to be on any bookshelf that kids hit up to find a book. It gets all kinds of things right but can I just take a moment and call attention to that perfect title? Two words, two complete sentences. Right out of the gate, Eastman is making it clear that the dogs in his book are not from any of the contemplative breeds. Go, Dog. Go! dogs are adventurous adventurers, not intimidated by the things that most of the dogs I know are intimidated by, like driving and wearing accessories and fishing.
As a new reader, I was mesmerized by this book. It’s kinetic. Excitement is happening everywhere, starting with the bold block-striped cover featuring a jaunty Italian racing dog. The book focuses on the basics, which makes perfect sense considering its target audience still considers putting on pants before leaving the house as an optional activity. The dogs go in and out and up and over things. Sometimes, to shake it up, they go under things.
I found the whole community vibe in Go, Dog Go! fascinating. The dogs all seemed to know each other and all of them seemed down for whatever. It’s one thing for ONE black and white dog to ride a bike. It’s quite another for a whole group of black and white dogs to ride bikes, roller skate, and scooter together in the same direction without it resulting in a big catastrophic pileup. At bedtime, Eastman lined up all his dogs in one giant, football-field-sized bed, apparently sourced from the So You Need A Giant Bed store. These are some motivated, unusual dogs and I loved all of them.
P.D. Eastman worked for Disney, Warner Brothers, and Theodore Geisel over the course of his career, so he was no slouch at telling an amazing story with illustration. Little humans need a starting place on figuring out how to figure it all out with books and a beautiful illustration is how it’s done. The best illustrations are equally intimate and inviting, whether it’s crawling into bed with a million dogs or sitting in the great green room with the red balloon, or keeping company with a very hungry caterpillar. Go, Dog. Go! was the first book I projected myself into. I was in there, hanging out with those dogs. They seemed welcoming enough, if not a little fixated on sitting under houses and engaging in reckless driving. (No seat belts and no helmets? Drag racing in roadsters? I don’t even want to see your insurance rates, mister.)
As much fun as all of these dogs were having, and as much fun as I had looking at them having fun, it was nothing compared to what goes down at the end of the book. So fantastic it needs a two-page spread,all the dogs attend a giant dog party at the top of a tree. There was not a corner of that tree that didn’t blow my tiny, malleable mind. There’s a dog getting ready to be blown out of a cannon. There’s an epic trapeze conga line happening. You ever see Truman Capote on a trapeze? NOPE. There’s some sort of airborne maracas playing happening that isn’t fully visible because the dog with the maracas is so airborne all you can see are the paws holding the maracas. That is a WHOLE LOT of maracas. How big is that fucking cake? Who was in charge of giving out the hats? Where did they find a ladder tall enough to get to the top of the tree? When did all those dogs find the time to learn to climb a ladder?
I stared at this picture for hours, seeing in it a grown-up, unsupervised world that looked scary and awesome all at once. I wanted to be at that party. I didn’t know how I’d get there, but P.D. Eastman was clearly had a place for me. In the middle of all that dog action, in the middle of the trapezes and the cake and the megaphones and the jump rope, there I was.
I even got to wear a hat. I remember it clearly.
Please help me understand what is happening here. Is that a trampoline? A net? There is no science that explains how this is working.