Is it human nature to belong? To feel as if we're part of something or some group? Even for those actively standing out, artists, writers, or geeks, we often seek out a group, or community, that we belong to. Though, since we are all unique individuals, it stands to reason that we would each be different in our likes, clothing, activities, and desires. And yet, even in small ways, we all still try to fit in. And others try to fit us into known, acceptable boxes. Perhaps a whole world full of total individuals is too chaotic.
To this conundrum, we add the holidays. Times when we're told we're supposed to want to be with others, to want to attend parties and gatherings, and to be "home." The message surrounds us in the songs, the stores, and the media. The holidays can be a blessing or stark reminder of our differences.
I was recently introduced to a book, reminiscent of Peter Brown's Mr. Tiger Goes Wild, which celebrates the uniqueness of us all. Although not specifically a Christmas book, this book is definitely applicable to the holiday season; where it is easy to feel like the "odd one out," the little boy in the back of the Polar Express.
Odd Dog Out
Author/Illustrator: Rob Biddulph
Publisher: Harper Collins (2019)
Self-esteem, individuality, and finding home.
Synopsis (from Barnes & Noble):
It’s a dog’s life in the big, busy city, but there's one lonely pup who doesn’t quite fit in. She behaves differently from the rest, sports rainbow in a sea of gray, and marches to the beat of her own drum.
She’s one Odd Dog.
Join Odd Dog as she journeys to the other side of the world to find her place in it, only for her to discover that maybe she’s meant to be right where she started.
For busy dogs
a busy day
of busy work
and busy play.
Swimmer . . .
soldier . . .
sailor . . .
scout . . .
they all blend in. No dog stands out.
What I liked about this book:
Set in New Bark City, a proper town filled with identical dachshunds wearing matching business, swimming, sailing, and camping attire, and even driving the same car, comes Odd Dog. A dachshund sporting a long rainbow scarf and tasseled hat, riding a bike, and playing a guitar (in a violin ensemble).
© Rob Biddulph, 2019.
Sadly, determining that she's "not made like all the rest," she packs her bags and sets out to find where she belongs. It is interesting to note (foreshadowing?) that in the background, a dachshund calls, "don't go." When Odd Dog arrives in Doggywood, she finds an entire city just like her. Except . . . for one dachshund in a sweater and beret.
© Rob Biddulph, 2019.
Attempting to commiserate with the "odd dog out," she discovers that this dachshund likes "stand[ing] put in a crowd." On quick reflection, she realizes: "That dog is right. It’s plain to see there’s nothing wrong with being me." She heads back home, to find she's been missed. Though the ending is a bit sudden and expected, it is a satisfying affirmation of the joy of being yourself.
Written in rhyme, which except for a few places (see/differently, appreciate/great, superstar/are) where it's off, the text flows smoothly and avoids being sing-songy. There are even a couple of less expected rhymes (mind/behind, day/hooray). Rob's bright, colorful illustrations have a lot of fun playing with the humor of long dachshund dogs, especially on the last couple of pages.
"So blaze a trail, BE WHO YOU ARE."
- list the ways, or draw a picture showing how, you are different from your family, friends, or classmates; or
- describe, or draw, a unique costume for one or more dachshund dogs. (Dog pattern -https://static1.squarespace.com/static/57eba3a4ebbd1a8cb0aab74f/t/581b12f1be6594f54cc6c3a4/1478169331240/Odd+Dog+Out+-+Dog+template.pdf);
- make your own dachshund dog and make an outfit for it (https://www.easypeasyandfun.com/toilet-paper-roll-dogs/); or
- read another book about individuality, like HOʻONANI: Hula Warrior by Heather Gale, illustrated by Mika Song, and compare the endings.