Thursday, 3 May 2012

Big Dog ... Little Dog by P.D. Eastman

I think the time has come to highlight P.D. Eastman's popular canine duo, Fred and Ted. This cover image is as familiar to me as the back of my hand so it was with some trepidation that I slipped it into E's book pile.  I would have been a bit crushed had he tossed it aside, but E patiently accompanied me on my trip down memory lane and became fast friends with both the big dog and the little dog.

Fred and Ted's adventures are often referred to as stories about opposites but I think of them as stories about differences. Fred is big and Ted is little. One plays the flute and the other the tuba. One likes beets and one likes spinach.

Eastman plays on these differences to form the theme of the story and it all comes to a head when Fred and Ted take a  trip together - one in a red car and one in a green car. They arrive in the mountains and all goes along swimmingly until they check into a small hotel for a night.  Fred sleeps in a little bed and Ted sleeps in a big bed.  Neither bed fits correctly and both dogs toss and turn all night.  Eastman's illustrations take on a comic strip quality here and the pictures are a flurry of dog legs, blankets and tangled sheets.  E loves this page and normally shouts and points 'oh no, bed' at this stage (read last week's post for the origin of that phrasing).

The next day both dogs sit to discuss their predicament.  Slowly, at a gentle childlike pace and with the help of an all knowing bird, they realize that the big one should be in the big bed and the little one in the little bed.  They zoom back to their new rooms in true cartoon fashion and sleep peacefully. This problem solving moment is perhaps my most favorite part.  Rather than dwell on the issue they communicate to one another, come up with a solution and then action it.  Two dogs sitting on a log put their little world to right - it's a lesson for us all.

Big Dog ... Little Dog was published in 1973 by Random House, Inc. P.D. Eastman wrote a number of books about Fred and Ted in addition to numerous other titles for children. I find it particularly interesting that during his military service he crossed paths with Ted Geisel, known to most of us as Dr. Seuss. For more details about P.D. Eastman, Fred or Ted visit

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