TERRI SCHLICHENMEYER’S BOOKWORM: A tale of a lady and her dog kids will love
“Mister and Lady Day: Billie Holiday and the Dog Who Loved Her” by Amy Novesky, illustrations by Vanessa Brantley Newton c.2013, Harcourt $16.99 / $20.99 Canada
Nobody listens to a thing you say.
Grown-ups are always telling you to hush, be quiet, don’t yell, and always use your inside voice (even outside). You know you’re never supposed to keep secrets, but don’t be a tattle-tale. Talk louder but stop shouting. Don’t make so much noise.
Speak up, the grown-ups say, but the only people who listen – really listen to a kid like you – are your pets. And in the new book “Mister and Lady Day” by Amy Novesky, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, you’ll see that even famous people know who’ll lend an ear…
When Billie Holiday was a little girl, she dreamed of becoming a star.
And that’s just what happened: She grew up to be a famous jazz singer. People called her Lady Day and they loved to hear her voice. But even big-time stars get lonely sometimes, and they need someone to listen to their dreams and fears.
Lady Day had her dogs.
There were, in fact, lots of dogs in Lady Day’s life. There was a tiny poodle she carried in her pocket. She had a little spotted beagle, and two Chihuahuas that she fed with a baby bottle, a giant great Dane, and a medium-sized terrier named Bessie Mae Moocho. There was a wandering mutt with a sad face who ran away but always found his way back home.
But the dog that Lady Day loved the most was a boxer named Mister.
Wherever Lady Day was, Mister was there, too. She knitted sweaters for him and bought him a mink coat. She cooked for him and even sang to him. When Lady Day performed at fancy clubs in Harlem, Mister was there – and sometimes, he even had a steak. When the show was over, he guarded Lady Day in her dressing room.
Then, one day when her career seemed to be at its best, Lady Day got into trouble. She had to leave home, and Mister couldn’t come. She cried and cried, and promised him that she’d come home as soon as possible.
She wasn’t sure if she’d ever see him again. If she did, would he remember her? Would Mister be happy to see her when she returned?
So you say that your child’s BFF is a D-O-G? Then she’ll know she’s in good company when you’ve got “Mister and Lady Day” in the house.
By giving young readers a sense of Billie Holiday’s deep love of dogs, author Amy Novesky makes this true story into one that kids – especially kids with cherished pets – can completely understand. Novesky lightly glosses over the kind of trouble that Lady Day found, but curious kids will find more of an explanation on the last page. On the flipside, younger children will love looking at the colorful collage-watercolors by Vanessa Brantley Newton.
Overall, if you’ve got a young animal lover in your life, put this tale on the shelf and stick around. “Mister and Lady Day” is a book that 3-to-8-year-olds will want to listen to again and again.
Terri Schlichenmeyer has been a professional book reviewer for more than a decade. She lives in Wisconsin.