By September 20, 2008 2 Comments Read More →

Best of Show #2: Two Bobbies

Yesterday I punched a dear friend in the arm.

I mean, I slugged him. Why? Because in our conversation with a fellow bookseller he gave away the surprise in Two Bobbies.

Two Bobbies  He stared at me, aghast, clutching his arm, and said, “Nick, it’s just a children’s book!” So, you see, he deserved it. He was underestimating the power of a children’s book, a particularly powerful one at that. Still, I feel pretty bad about it and hope he doesn’t bruise. I didn’t mean to. I’m not a violent man. I never hit people. It was instinctual. You don’t give away surprises in books. Stand warned, and never give away a surprise within striking range, because I didn’t realize what I’d done until he wailed, “Ouch!”

How can I rationalize the fact that my two favorite books at the Pacific Northwest Bookseller Association’s annual tradeshow this week were both children’s books? Really, I go to Portland looking for new international fiction. Instead Madeline and the Cats of Rome and Two Bobbies both broadsided me without warning.

Two Bobbies: A True Story of Hurricane Katrina, Friendship, and Survival is the picture book account (co-authored by Kirby Larson, who wrote Hattie Big Sky) of two abandoned female pets, Bobbi the dog and Bob Cat, who refuse to be separated when abandoned and manage to stay together and escape alive from flooded New Orleans. Though the gorgeous art work is very circumspect in what it shows and not too frightening for children, the opening pictures of the dog chained to her porch with the cat cowering beside her as the waters rise in the streets caused one bookseller after another to go red-eyed. And that’s just for starters. Get ready for when the rescue team try to separate the two. I’m getting wet-eyed just trying to write this.

Two Bobbies illustration  Listen, I brought that book back to my little bookstore, and one by one had the staff go off by themselves and read it, and male and female alike, the result was unanimous. One look at the reader’s face, and you knew. I accidentally stepped into the office while my boss was reading it. He didn’t even see me. I backed out.

What is the power of the book? Well, there’s a surprise emotional punch in the middle of Two Bobbies that somewhat resembles the punch I gave my gabby, plot-spoiling pal, but above and beyond that, there’s a subterranean ache that rises up and overcomes you as you go through the pictures, following the two pets, that comes from the knowledge lurking in the back of your mind of all the pets that didn’t make it, all the Bob Cats that didn’t have brave, stubborn Bobbi to help them survive. Pitted against that knowledge is the never completely-exhausted human belief in the stubborn power of friendship. Put that together with a cross-species friendship story, two adorable pals, and the lingering horrors of Katrina and you’ve got yourself one knockout book for readers of all ages.

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About the Author:

Nick DiMartino is a university bookseller in Seattle, WA. He was a Booklist contributor from 2007 to 2009 and is the author of Seattle Ghost Story (1998) as well as numerous plays.

2 Comments on "Best of Show #2: Two Bobbies"

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  1. bookluver321@gmail.com' Becky says:

    I have been seeing this book around the internet a lot. I just read a great book that centered around Hurricane Katrina, called “Recovering Charles,” by Jason Wright. I am now completely enthralled with the events that took place during Hurricane Katrina and can’t wait to check out “The Two Bobbies.” I hadn’t thought about the animals and what they had to go through. Puts a whole new angle on the tragic event.

  2. loewe483@cs.com' Dot Loewe says:

    This is an outstanding book! I sure hope it will be nominated for awards. It certainly deserves it.

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