“Life can be painless, provided that there is sufficient peacefulness for a dozen or so rituals to be repeated simply endlessly.” ~Kurt Vonnegut (Slapstick, 1976)

A very fine philosophy indeed, one shared by this blogger and a very particular mutt named Mister Bud, the star of the new Carter Goodrich book, Say Hello to Zorro! Wrapped in a warm blanket of habit and contentment, Mister Bud is blissfully unaware that his life is about to be turned upside down by the arrival of…well, I’ll save that for later.

As the youngest child in a large family, I have not personally experienced the trauma of being usurped from an established position within the family hierarchy, but I’ve certainly heard all about it from my older siblings. Or should I say, my next oldest sibling. Apparently, I was referred to as ‘it’ before my parents (eventually) intervened. I get it. Change sucks, and who wants to share the spotlight? Enter Mister Bud, a dog who has it figured out. Everything in the house, including the house, belongs to him, and governing all is the schedule, rigorously adhered to, comprising frequent meals, walks, ‘greet and make a fuss time’, cuddling, movies, backyard time, and of course, naps. Things are pretty good for this pampered pooch, until the day Zorro arrives; a tiny pug with a big personality, a pronounced underbite, and just a tinge of bossiness. Life in Budville will never be the same.

In spite of the command to ‘get along’, the human caretakers are largely out of sight in Say Hello to Zorro, save for a dog’s eye view of legs and shoes and the occasional comment drifting down from the top of the page. Mister Bud and Zorro are left on their own to work our their differences. At first, Mister Bud is terribly offended by the arrival of the pug, and is especially grumpy about the disruption to his routine. However, as in most ‘forced’ relationships, canine or otherwise, common ground eventually presents itself, and the two dogs discover something remarkable about one another: they share the same schedule, and they both enjoy tormenting the cat. If that’s not the basis for a friendship, I don’t know what is.

Say Hello to Zorro is a very simple, humourous book with fantastically endearing characters. The cylindrically schnozzed Mister Bud, whose nose is always just a little moist, has got to be one of the most charming canines to grace the pages of a picture book since Peter McCarty’s Hondo, even when he’s snarling at Zorro. Anyone who owns a pet will recognize the napping shape of dog-on-couch and dog-on-rug, and the particularly sweet illustration of Mister Bud leaning up against the leg of his owner at dinnertime.

That’s my chair…and my bunny!

Even Zorro, whose flat-faced mug sports a five-o’clock shadow, is adorable in a kind of he’s so ugly he’s cute way. Sort of like, oh I don’t know, a pug. The watercolours are gently applied, with subtle hits of non-traditional colour, like the blue in Mister Bud’s smooth coat, and just the right amount of detail in the wonderfully expressive faces of the quarrelsome canines. The true charm of Say Hello to Zorro is in the visual characterizations of Mister Bud and Zorro. This, as they say, is the beginning of a beautiful, if mischievous, relationship.

As someone who buys the New Yorker for the cover art, I am far more familiar with Carter Goodrich-magazine illustrator than Carter Goodrich-book illustrator. In fact, he only has a few books under his belt (A Creature Was Stirring, The Hermit Crab), but many credits as a cover artist, and as a character designer for such films as Finding

Nemo, Shrek, Ratatouille, and most recently, Despicable Me. He is a two-time gold medal recipient from the Society of Illustrators in New York and a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design. His work has also appeared in Newsweek, Forbes, and Time. According to his website, Say Hello To Zorro is the first of a series. Excellent news! As a long-time fan of Carter Goodrich, and as someone who has recently acquired a deep & abiding fondness for a certain doggy duo, I can state unequivocally that following this incredibly talented storyteller and illustrator can be rather habit-forming.

Guess who’s Coming to Dinner?

Mister Bud would approve.

Say Hello To Zorro! by Carter Goodrich, Simon & Schuster, 2011 ISBN: 9781416938934