Saturday, February 26, 2011

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm

It was 1935, and our nation was in the midst of the Great Depression.  Eleven year old, Turtle was shipped off to Key West, Florida when her mother landed a job as a live in housekeeper.  The housekeeper did not like children.  This is difficult for Turtle because she is not sure how her mother will survive without her.
Turtle’s mother often lived in a fantasy world, while Turtle lived in reality.  Turtle is a well developed character.  She seemed to have an old soul and was always looking out for her mother.  “Mama’s always falling in love and the fellas she picks are like dandelions.  One day they’re there bright as sunshine- charming mama, buying me presents-and the next they’re gone, scattered to the wind leaving weeds everywhere and mama crying.”
I blame Hollywood.  Mama’s watched so many pictures that she believes in happy endings.  She’s been waiting her whole life to find someone who’ll sweep her off her feet and take care of her.  Me? I think life’s more like that cartoon by Mr. Disney-  The Three Little Pigs.  Some big bad wolf’s always trying to blow down your house.”
I thought her name was quite interesting and honestly suits her character.  She has developed a hard outer shell as a result of her mother always falling in love and then the men move on.  But underneath the tough outer shell, Turtle’s character is quite soft and warm.
After she arrives in Key West, I could feel the cultural shock Turtle was facing.  Kids were walking around without shoes and they were filthy.  She learned about alligator pears (avocadoes), rum running, and sponge fishing.  Her cousins, who also had unique names, had their own business, “The Diaper Gang.”  They would take care of babies by walking them around the streets in a wagon.  They also developed a powder that would cure the worst of any diaper rash.  They were earning money to buy candy.  It was certainly a different period in time.  Parents today would never let their young kids walk around unsupervised, let alone with babies.
Turtle’s mother had told her that her grandmother, Nana Philly, was dead.  Only to find out that she is alive and well.  Why did her mother lie to her?  As Turtle begins to bring lunch to her each day she learns more about her.  She discovers that her grandmother was mean to her mother and that is why she hasn’t come back to Key West.  Turtle doesn’t give up on this mean woman though.  She continues to bring her lunch each day and begins to crack down the tough shell that the grandmother has as well.  One example from the story that I found to be humorous was when Turtle would give her grandmother food and she would knock it on the floor.  Turtle said, “You did that on purpose.  Why?  I’m your granddaughter.”  The grandmother’s mouth twitched as if that amused her.  The grandmother dumped her food on the floor again the following day.  Then Turtle put a bowl of guava duff in front of her.  The grandmother lifted her hand to smack it, but Turtle was able to save it in enough time.  Then she said, “You’re not wasting dessert.  I’ll eat it.”  I think Nana Philly came to respect Turtle because of her no-nonsense personality.  Turtle didn’t have trouble telling any adult how she felt.
This book started out slowly to really develop the characters, the time and place.  Holm’s uses many analogies throughout the book to help the reader understand the characters, as well as the setting.    For example, “Folks have always told me that I look like Mama.  My hair’s brown, same as hers, but its cut short in a bob with bangs, like a soup bowl turned upside down.  Mama keeps hers long as a good dream because that’s the way Archie likes it.”  Holm’s use of descriptive language helps me visualize what the characters look like but she also describes their character type.  I already know that Turtle’s mom is working hard to keep a man and this is just another example of what she is willing to do to keep this guy around. 
Then, at the end, I was so surprised by the turn of events.  However fortunate or unfortunate the events are, there seems to be a bigger purpose behind it all.  One might think that Turtle is in paradise because she is by the ocean.  I think she is in paradise because she has what she has been longing for all along.
This two time Newberry Honor winner and New York Times best- selling author, Jennifer Holm’s, was inspired to write this book by her Conch great grandmother Jennie Lewin Peck.  She includes an author’s note in the back along with photos, resources, and websites to further enhance the reader’s knowledge about life during this time in Key West.

Friday, February 25, 2011

January's Sparrow by Patricia Polacco

This isn’t a book that will help one regurgitate facts about dates, times, and places.  This is an unforgettable story about a real family, surviving a real time, in our American history.  Let me introduce you to January’s Sparrow  by Patricia Polacco.
This is a historical account of the hardships a slave family endured during their struggle for freedom.  It all began in Carroll County, Kentucky on the Giltner Plantation.  Sarah and Adam Crosswhite were owned by Master Francis Giltner.  They had “adopted” a young slave, January, when he was taken from his family as a young boy.  January wanted freedom.  January whittled a wooden sparrow and gave it to the youngest Crosswhite child, Sadie.  He said to her, “It’s fix’n to fly.  And so is I.” 
January does attempt to flee but he is caught.  Master Giltner ordered all of the slaves to stand on the porch and watch the merciless whipping of January.  “I want you all to see what happens to any brown-skinned devil that runs from me.” 
Later that night, eight year old Sadie is awoken in the middle of the night.  Her dad said, “We is gonna cross the water tonight.”  Her mom told her, “They was comin’ to fetch the boys in the mornin’.” So, the journey begins for the Crosswhite family on the Underground Railroad.  I could feel the terror Sadie was experiencing because she just witnessed January being beat to death.  Why on earth would her parents try to flee as well?  Sadie knew the consequences.  I was afraid the family was going to get caught as Sadie realized she left January’s sparrow and began to cry out. 
As the family crossed the Ohio River in the rowboat, I was terrified.  The illustrations portrayed the rough water and the fear on all of their faces because none of them knew how to swim.  I felt like I was right there with them watching this unfold before my very eyes.  Fear.  Suspense.  Are they going to make it?
Then, when I turned the page, it was a peaceful scene.  The water was calm, the moon shone brightly on them as the rowed across the river.  There was a distance between us and I knew they were going to be safe.  They finally made it to Marshall, Michigan where they were “free.”  Although, they lived in constant fear of being caught by slave catchers.
Patricia Polacco is a remarkable writer and illustrator.  This oversized picture book illustrates the courageous journey the Crosswhite’s embarked upon.  I couldn’t help but notice the vivid details of the characters with the exception of the slave catchers.  Their faces are vague and hidden by their hats.  The emphasis is clearly on the Crosswhite family and the people who tried to help slaves be free.  From the beginning, the title page evoked an emotional response from me as the wrists of a slave are bleeding from a rope.  The positions and angles tell about the fight and resistance, or the joy and love this family experienced.  Most of the illustrations fill two-thirds of the double page spread.  Polacco uses pencil and marker illustrations that evoke many emotions from the reader.  As the story begins, the colors were dark and I was worried that they might not make it.  As they began to live their lives as free people, the colors are bright and represent the happiness and joy in their lives.  There is a touching illustration of Sadie looking out the window with her friend, Polly.  She has her hands on the window and she is watching the snow fall for the first time.  I could feel the chill on the window pane through her hands and the warmth in her heart as she is experiencing life as a free child.
The dialect for this book is a modified dialect derived from entries in Unchanted Memories:  Readings from the Slave Narratives.  Mary McCafferty Douglas is a researcher who is credited with providing the historical information for this book.
After reading this book I was moved by the strength and courage of this family.  I began to ask myself;
What would I have done?
Would I be able to risk the lives of my family members to stay together?
Would I be willing to care for my slave owner’s son, knowing he would sell or kill my child without a second thought?
This is an unforgettable story about sorrow and joy, about courage and hope, about risk and reward.  This is the Crosswhite’s journey to freedom.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hansel and Gretel by Rika Lesser

Fear.  Anguish.  Survival.
Imagine hearing your own mother tell your father, “Early in the morning, take the two children, give them what little bread we have, and lead them to the forest.  Build a fire for them, and while it is burning, go away and leave them alone.”  In the fairy tale Hansel and Gretel Retold by Rika Lesser illustrated by Caldecott Honor medalist Paul O’Zelinsky, this is exactly what happened.  The father did not want to do this, but the mother would not stop nagging him until he agreed.
Paul O’Zelinsky’s illustrations were rich with detail.  He used a modified Renaissance painting technique.  He used watercolors, on watercolor paper, to paint an underpainting all in grays and browns.  This process is called, “grisaille.”  Then he sealed the paper so he could paint on top of it with oils, transparently.  The illustrations had a lot of dark colors to set the mood and tone, but I also noticed a lot of light which signified hope for the children.  As Hansel was gathering stones, there was a full moon for him to see.  As they are left for the first time by the fire, the sun is setting.  When they are coming out of the forest and returning home, they are running in the direction of the rising sun.  Even as they encounter the witch there is a lot of light and bright colors.
O’Zelinsky was able to make me have sympathy for the dad.  Somehow I felt like it was entirely the mother’s fault.  While the reality is that it was a decision and plan that was carried out by both of them.  On the first page the dad is portrayed as a hardworking wood cutter who feels terrible that he can’t provide for his family.  The dad’s head is down, the mom is looking on scornfully, and the children look concerned.  As the parents are walking their children out into the woods, the dad’s head is tilted down and he looks distressed.  The mother is peering over her shoulder with a stern look on her face, yet it looks like she is walking proudly, like she has had her way.
I thought the end had an interesting twist.  It was clear in the beginning that the dad did not want to abandon his children.  The mother told the dad what to do but it didn’t sound like she was going to participate and she did.  The father was overjoyed that his children had found their way home the first time.  However, in the end, it doesn’t say how the mother died.  Did she die of starvation?  Or did the dad have something to do with her disappearance?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hansel and Gretel by Cynthia Rylant Pictures by Jen Corace

Deep, dark and dreary.  This tale is not one that leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling.  Hansel and Gretel is a German tale told by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 1800’s.  Fairy tales were based on an oral tradition and passed down from one generation to the next.  Over the years, adjustments were made to the story by the storyteller to fit the time period and audience.  As I read this, I couldn’t help but wonder why such a tale was told in the first place.  As I continued to research, I learned that this could be common practice during the middle ages.  There were many disasters such as famine, war, and the plague which caused people to abandon their children.
Corrace uses the hue, tone and saturation to set the mood on the cover of the book. She uses dark greens and browns with a little yellow and red throughout the book.  There are also many noticeable lines that make us focus our attention on certain aspects.  For example, in the beginning of the story the children are running past the stepmother toward the house.  The stepmother appears very large and close to the reader.  I noticed the lines in the background and she was in the forefront of the illustration.
The version that Cynthia Rylant shares is poetic at times.  She begins her version much like an oral version.  It has been said that spirits watch over and protect small children, and that may be so.  But there are also stories of children who find the courage to protect themselves.  Such is a story of Hansel and Gretel.”  From this opening I found myself rooting for and cheering for the children.  I wanted to focus my attention on the parents and how awful they were, but I couldn’t.  Rylant and Corrace do an amazing job of capturing your emotions for the children.
After the parents decide to abandon the children, Corrace sets the stage with a full bleed illustration of the family home in the evening.  It is getting dark but one can feel the horrific events that are about to occur.  Rylant sets the reader up by saying, “There are many forms of wickedness in the world.  Sometimes it is easy to recognize who is evil. Sometimes it is not easy at all.  Wickedness can wear a smile just as goodness can.  Hansel and Gretel would soon learn this hard lesson.”
I was impressed by this work with regards to the depth of the story and impact it could have emotionally on children.  Rylant conveys the message throughout that the children will make it.  “We will be all right,” said Hansel.  “Take courage.”  That is exactly what they both do.  There are nice full bleed illustrations when the reader knows they are safe, but when there is danger and fear, the illustrations are framed.  This allows the reader to distance themselves from the events. 
This is a well crafted book.  I must admit that I honestly tried to have a better understanding and appreciation for the people who would give their children up because of the circumstances that they faced at that time.

Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal: A Worldwide Cinderella

Once upon a time, a Newberry Award-winning author, Paul Fleischman and a brilliant illustrator, Julie Paschkis decided to write about a well known folktale that has been told around the world for hundreds of years.  Many of us know her as Cinderella.  Yet others may know her has Asphet… Vasalia… Sootface… Catskin… or Cendrillon.  This story, Glass Slipper, Gold Sandal:  A Worldwide Cinderella is a remarkable piece of art that intertwines the culturally different tales into one unified tale.
Paschkis has a well thought out plan to weave the history of this tale from around the world.  The endpapers transition the exterior of the book to the interior.  On the cover there is a glass slipper and on the endpapers there is a map of the world.  The map shows the different countries that will be included in this tale. There is also a mermaid in the sea and a snake offering up the shoe.  The title page has a picture of the earth with many different shoes worn around the world with a vine that weaves them all together.  The story begins with a child sitting on her mother’s lap as she reads her this story.  The illustrations are framed around a white background.  Then, as you turn the page, you enter into another part of the world.  Paschkis is able to alert the reader to the different country by changing the background behind the framed text and illustrations.  Her gouache illustrations are color coded with folk-art and textile patterns throughout the book. For example, in Ireland there is a green background with off white Celtic like shapes.  In Zimbabwe, there is a brown background with orange lions and giraffes. Paschkis also labels each panel to inform the reader about where they are in the world.   
The tale begins with the all familiar young girl who was treated unfairly by her cruel stepmother.  She had step sisters that were hideous, and there was a handsome prince and a ball.  There is a theme of good vs. evil, rivalry and injustice, but in the end there is a happily ever after.  What Fleischman does is brilliant.  He incorporates a variety of Cinderella versions from around the world.  For example, when the girl didn’t have anything to wear to the ball.  “She looked in her mother’s sewing basket. (Laos)  Then she reached into the hole in the tree. (Russia) Then a crocodile swam up to the surface – and in its mouth was a sarong made of gold. (Indonesia) … a cloak sewn of kingfisher feathers… (China) a kimono red as sunset.” (China)  She made it to the ball.  All night she danced with the headman’s son, until the first rooster crowed.”(Indonesia)  In the end, “The magistrate looked into the girl’s eyes, took the straw sandal in his hand- and slipped it onto her foot with ease.”  (Korea)  The last full two page spread brings all the many people from the different countries together for the wedding.  They dance.  They share their food.  They share their culture. They share a classic folktale that people today are still telling.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Let's Talk About Race

Written by Julius Lester Illustrated by Karen Barbour
How far would you go to show people that we are more alike than different?  Would you be willing to take off your skin?  In the book Let’s Talk About Race Julius Lester is willing to take off his skin to show the world that, “Beneath our skin I look like you and you look like me.” 
This may be one of those books considered “risky” but well worth the risk.  It promotes the value of diversity and difference.  Lester immediately draws the reader in by asking questions causing him to reflect upon his own ethnicity and background.   For example, “I am a story.  So are you.  So is everyone.”  Lester shares how his story began and asks the reader, “How does your story begin?”  Then he cuts right to the chase about race.  He shares how we as people are always comparing ourselves to each other and in the end one thinks they are better than the other.  So, how do you drive home the point to a child that we really are all the same?  Lester has the children interact with the book by pressing their fingers softly against their skin below their eyes.  Then he asks them to do this again with someone near them.  “Beneath everyone’s skin are the same hard bones.”  Then Lester suggests that if we all took off our skin and continued with our normal lives we would see a different picture.  We may be more willing to accept everyone.  We may not judge someone; instead, we may ask to get to know them. 
There are creative illustrations painted on smooth paper that are intense and full of character.  Karen Barbour does an amazing job telling the story through her pictures.  In the beginning the first spread is all yellow and black with the exception of the butterfly covering part of a body.  The paintings continue to be bright and vibrant until the moods changes.  When the reader discovers that under our skin we are all bones, the colors are cool and soft.  Then, when you turn the page the colors are bright once again.  There is a full bleed illustration with people all together in bones.  The person with the large eye on her chest and the eyes on her legs is sending the message to look beyond the color of our skin.  See the real beauty within each of us.  At the end of the story Barbour shows Lester lying horizontally across the two page spread at the top of the page.  I think he is embracing who he is and he is free.  He is not bound by the color of his skin.
Julius Lester and Karen Barbour provide a unique book that will make the reader open one’s mind and reflect upon one’s ethnicity and background.  Through these opportunities we will begin to move closer towards acceptance of ourselves and others.


Who could possibly think that they could write a children’s book about religion and captivate the targeted audience?  Well, Maya Ajmera, Magda Nakassis, and Cynthia Pon have done just that with their work in Faith.
As I began to read this book I was skeptical.  I couldn’t imagine how they could possibly connect the variety of religious practices and make it engaging for children.  How would a child be able to understand such a cultural system?  Quite simply, the photos tell the story.  The book focuses on a facet that is common to many religions.  There is a two page spread dedicated to that facet with captivating photographs.  Each photograph has a small caption that explains how it relates to the common aspect featured on the page.  It also states where in the world the people are from.
One example shared was, “We celebrate with festivals.”  One photo shows a Native American potlatch ceremony in the United States.  Another shows children celebrating Buddha’s birthday in South Korea.  There were kids of different faiths that celebrate Diwali with fireworks in India.  There was also a full page photo of a child peeking out from under an Easter mask in Guatemala. There is no doubt that children will connect with these events.  However, the events may not look like the events celebrated here in the United States.  I am quite certain my own children would be intrigued by the child wearing a costume with the mask to celebrate Easter.  I am sure they would be asking, “Where is the Easter Bunny?”  I know children will ask, What is a potlatch ceremony?  What does Diwali mean?  There is no doubt in my mind that this book will engage children in conversation that would promote critical thinking.  It will also help us accept  and understand each other in our diverse world.  Our children will  have many questions, but in the end, I am certain that they will come away with a powerful message.  We are all different, but we are also very much alike.
This book does an excellent job of introducing content about religion.  The content includes prayer, chanting and singing, reading, listening and learning, cleansing, holy places, holidays and festivals, important events, dress, food and drink, caring for and helping others.  It includes a wide variety of religions from around the world.  It is respectful to all and it doesn’t promote any one religion over another.  The back matter provides information about each facet that was illustrated in the book with a little more depth.  There is also a glossary that helps define terms a little more clearly.
This book promotes awareness, acceptance, appreciation, and understanding about different religions. 

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Babymouse: Queen of the World

Babymouse: Queen of the World by Jennifer Holm & Matthew Holm

I must admit that the thought of reading a graphic novel did not appeal to me at all.  I remember trying to read the comics in the Sunday paper with my sister when I was little and I was frustrated because I couldn’t understand all of them.  However, this book will not turn young readers off because they will be able to understand and relate to Babymouse.  Babymouse is an imaginative character with a charming personality.  There is an endearing quality about her as she tries to make good decisions and learns lessons along the way.  Her eccentric personality shines through in the beginning of the story when her locker won’t open and she responds with, “TYPICAL.”  I think we all can connect to her character.
Babymouse thinks that in order to be Queen of the World you have to have glamour, excitement, and adventure.  She thinks that Felicia Furrypaws has it all and she is willing to do anything to be friends with her.  As Babymouse tries to make friends with Felicia she continually gets brushed aside, but her faithful friend Wilson the Weasel is always there for her, accepting her for who she is.  In the end, Babymouse learns an important life lesson.
While the moral of this story can be deep, the illustrations keep this novel light hearted.  Most of the book is black and white with a touch of pink.  However, when Babymouse goes off into her fantasy world the illustrations have a bold black border with much more pink in the background.  The illustrations add to the depth of Babymouse’s character.  Through the illustrations we know that Babymouse enjoys reading.  There is a strong message conveyed through these illustrations.  It appears that when Babymouse is trying to solve a problem she reads about it.  For example, in the beginning when she thought she wanted glamour, excitement, and adventure, those were the books she was reading.  As she was trying to become friends with Felicia Furrypaws she was reading Impress Friends, Cool You, and How to be Popular.  In the end, when she realizes she has it all, she is reading Wow, Adventure, and Yippee! 
After reading Babymouse: Queen of the World my thoughts have changed about graphic novels.  This book would certainly engage and motivate a reluctant reader.  The size and amount of pages would hook some children.  They would be able to read the whole book and feel a sense of accomplishment.  All the while, still being able to learn about narrative elements, dialogue, and character development.


There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.  ~Ana├»s Nin  Wesley took the risk to blossom in the story Weslandia by Paul Fleischman illustrations by Kevin Hawkes. 
Wesley was a brilliant child that was tired of living in a world where everyone lives in the same style house, wears the same style clothes and hair, eats the same foods and plays the same games.  Wesley is an outcast in his community.  Not only is he misunderstood by his peers, but by his parents as well.
As Wesley embarks on his summer vacation he develops a brilliant concept to help him escape by creating his own civilization.  Wesley began by turning the soil in his yard but he left the planting up to Mother Nature.  I think this is part of his quest to accept all that there is to offer; not just corn, beans, and squash.  He is different and he wants his garden to be different too.  His neighbor says, “You’ll have an almighty bedlam on your hands if you don’t get those weeds out.”  Wesley replied, “In this type of garden there are no weeds.”  Wesley is escaping into his own civilization where there is acceptance for all.  The illustrations on this page make me feel like I am right next to Wesley in the garden.  I feel the emotion that is connected with accepting these unique sprouts as flowers, not weeds. 
Wesley’s garden grew to enormous proportions.  He was able to live off the plants that grew in his garden.  He ate the fruit and drank the juice, made a hat from the woody bark, a loom from the stalks and clothes from the stalks’ soft inner fibers, suntan lotion and a mosquito repellant to keep bugs away.  Now his former tormentors are curious and interested in him and his products.  They are now paying ten dollars a bottle for the bug repellant.  I couldn’t help but feel like I was a part of this boy’s world.  Inside, I was cheering for him as he begins to transform into his own unique individual.  Hawkes creates an environment of order and tranquility as Wesley becomes comfortable in the world that he has created. 
Each day that passes, Wesley continues to be innovative and creative.  He is able to tell time by using the stalks as a sundial and he has adopted a base eight counting system.  He developed his own sports and games that are rich with strategy and have a complex scoring system.  At this point, Wesley’s peers are jealous.  Wesley continued to grow and learn about himself.  He was finally happy with who he is as a person.  His parents recognize that he is happy and realize how creative and brilliant their son really is.  He has created his own eighty-letter alphabet and his own language.  As the summer came to an end, Wesley went back to school feeling proud and confident.  He was able to share his civilization that he had recorded with his own ink.  The former tormentors are now followers, dressing like him and wishing they could be just like him.
I was able to see that this story was written from Wesley’s perspective.  The end papers show Wesley’s alphabet and language. I am assuming this is his story.   The title page has illustrations that tell his story through drawings and it looks like there is a sign that welcomes you to his world. Most of the pages have Wesley in the forefront and the other characters are smaller or are looking on from the distance.  The bright colors on shiny paper attracted my attention to the surface of the picture, Wesley, and created a distancing affect which conveyed serenity.
This book is an amazing work of art created by Fleischman and Hawkes.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant

Grief and healing.  Laughing and crying.  Despair and hope. Dog Heaven by Cynthia Rylant is a magical book that touches your soul.  Our family was blessed with a loving, gentle dog and she was called to heaven unexpectedly.  My children asked all kinds of questions trying to understand what life would be like for our dog, now that she is in heaven.  I didn’t know what to say.  So, I turned to this book.  This book was as much of a blessing for me, as it was for my children. 
After a dog dies, a dog is able to run through fields all the way to heaven.  Upon their arrival they are able to run and run.  They are able to run past lakes and bark at the geese that are teasing them.  They are able to play with all the angel children in heaven.  If ever the dogs are hungry, there are biscuits shaped like cats, squirrels and ice-cream for as far as they can see.  When they become tired and need a rest, they can fluff up a cloud and get cozy just like they did with their bed on earth.  The most touching part for me was when Rylant describes how the dog holds onto the memories of his life on earth.  When the dog is lonely and misses his family on earth, invisibly, the dog will walk back to earth with an angel to check on his old surroundings.  After the dog feels comfortable again, the angel will return the dog to heaven.  Heaven is a peaceful place where all of their needs are met.  They continue to live a wonderful happy life.  In the end, they are waiting at the door for old friends to show up. 
It has been a year since our dog has passed and this book has been pulled off the shelf many times by my five year old son.  He thinks that one of the dogs in the illustrations is our dog.  He will also make comments at times like, “I think I just saw Kaylee in the backyard.”    I can understand how he feels.  There are times when I look for our dog and almost feel her presence.   It makes me think that my little Kaylee has come back, invisibly, if only for a moment, to be with us again.
Cynthia Rylant provides comfort and healing through her writing and illustrations.  The thought of death brings dark and gloomy images to my head.   Yet, I was feeling warmth, comfort, and life as I read this book.  The acrylic illustrations were bright and colorful.  As we question what life is like for our loved ones, Rylant uses many horizontal lines throughout the book to assure us that there is order and tranquility for our pets.  We are captured into the experience with the full bleed illustrations.  We are able to experience this after life with our pet. I understand that heaven is life without pain and suffering.  All physical and emotional needs are met, yet the pet will never forget his family on earth.  In the end, the dog owner is on the left side of the page, heading toward heaven.   The dog is waiting on the right side, ready and waiting to be reunited again.  One could only be left with the feelings of hope, solace, and peace.