Ah, I’ve been waiting for this day. I hope my life never depends on my choosing a single most favorite children’s chapter book, but if it ever does, Dominic will be in the running for the prestigious position.
Dominic is adventurous. He is indomitable. He is cheerful. He is dashing. He is courageous. He is kind. He is curious. He is selfless. He is wise. He is high-spirited. He is philosophical. He is the personification of joie de vivre.
He is a Renaissance
Dominic—the story—is illustrated with quirky drawings and bursting at the seams with adventure, buried treasure, and brilliant vocabulary.
He owned an assortment of hats which he liked to wear, not for warmth or for shade or to shield him from rain, but for their various effects—rakish, dashing, solemn, or martial.
“What a wonderful world!” thought Dominic. “How perfect!” Had it been up to him when things were first made, he wouldn’t have made them a whit different. Every leaf was in its proper place. Pebbles, stones, flowers, all were just as they ought to be. Water ran where water should run. They sky was properly blue. All sounds were in tune. Everything had its appropriate smell. Dominic was master of himself and in accord with the world. He was perfectly happy.
Dominic went out for a long walk and did a lot of thinking. He was still walking when the stars came out. Mournful, he lay down on the ground and looked at the stars. Life was mysterious…
He fell asleep under the vast dome of quivering stars, and just as he was falling asleep, passing over into the phase of dreams, he felt he understood the secret of life. But in the light of morning, when he woke up, his understanding of the secret had disappeared with the stars. The mystery was still there, inspiring his wonder…
Then he leaned on the shovel to rest, the wooden handle warm with his work. The moment he stopped being busy, he felt his heart quake. He had to cry. Life was suddenly too sad. And yet it was beautiful.The beauty was dimmed when the sadness welled up. And the beauty would be there again when the sadness went. So the beauty and the sadness belonged together somehow, though they were not the same at all.
If you don’t love life after reading this book, I don’t know what to do with you. [grin]
[FYI: There is a witch-alligator in this story just in case that is a deal-breaker for anyone. There is also a jackass.]
Steig uses many literary devices such as alliteration:
“But soon his legs began to weaken and wobble, and he wished that wealth didn’t weight so much.”
And the characters names are ironic: Bartholomew Badger the pig, Elijah Hogg the jackass, Lemuel Wallaby the turtle, Matilda Fox the goose, and Manfred Lyon the mouse.
Crime Scene [Setting]
Fantasy/fairytale world of talking animals
Forest, cottages, Crystal Ballroom, enchanted palace
A timeless fantasy world
Dominic—dog, adventurous, indomitable, cheerful, dashing, courageous, kind, curious, selfless, wise, high-spirited, philosophical, joyful
Witch-alligator—friendly, tells fortunes
The Doomsday Gang—fox, ferret and weasel; they rob, ravage, cheat, and attack innocent creatures and travelers; full of damaging mischief; evil villains
Bartholomew Badger—pig, 100 years old, dying, kind, appreciative
Elijah Hogg—jackass, kind, lazy, likes a simple life
Lemuel Wallaby—turtle, 158 years old, likes to exaggerate, very slow
Barney Swain—wild boar, about to be married
Matilda Fox—goose, a widow with children to look after, great cook
Manfred Lyon—mouse, artist
Rabbits—incapable of inflicting harm, somewhat cowardly
Phineas Matterhorn—sleepwalking goat
Mwana Bhomba—magic pygmy elephant
Evelyn—sleeping beauty dog