Ryan the Redbone Dreams He’s All Grown Up, written and illustrated by Linda R. Porter, is a picture book for very young children with a text that shows a keen and thoughtful understanding of how the best picture books for children work. Unfortunately, the illustrations diminish the creative potential of the overall project.
Ryan is an effervescent and curious puppy. He has a massive imagination, poor impulse control and a deeply unrealistic sense of his own size and power. In other words, he is an ideal stand-in for a reading audience of active, creative preschoolers. He torments the cats next door, barks at the mailman and does his best to protect his home from the imaginary lions, snakes and other beasts he sees hiding in every corner of his yard.
Ryan’s actions are conveyed with engaging rhyming text and charming visual jokes. In one sequence, Porter writes: “Ryan tracks down a lion and crosses a river. Then shakes himself dry with a quick little shiver.” The illustrations that correspond to these lines reveal that the “lion” is really a cat sitting in a chair and the “river” is a really small wading pool. As a children’s writer, Porter understands that young readers are happiest when they are invited into a story, such as being part of inside jokes like these.
It is unfortunate that Porter’s illustrations do not equal the potential of her text. The illustrations in this book are not of a professional quality, but are, instead, barely sketches. This weakness limits the appeal of this project beyond a supportive audience of friends and family. In addition, the final line of the story seems to contain a typo. Porter writes that Ryan “Then dreams he’ll all grown up.” (Should “he’ll” be “he’s”?) With this line cleaned up and more professional art to accompany the text, Porter’s book could be a winner.
Also available as an ebook.