Friday, July 8, 2011

Keeping an Open Mind

At its core, Say Hello to Zorro! by Carter Goodrich is a heartwarming and funny story about staying open-minded. It stars a dog, but that just makes it easier for a child to laugh (in recognition) from a safe distance. Mister Bud, the hero of Goodrich’s picture book, has been the master of his house. We can tell by the way he meets his owner at the door, and by the way she shapes her day around his needs and his rigid schedule that he rules the roost. So on the day his owner brings home Zorro to meet Mister Bud, he is not pleased—at least, not initially.

Carter Goodrich comes out of a film background. He designs characters (for Finding Nemo and Despicable Me, just to name two). When we had a chance to talk about his work on this book, he said it was important to stay true to a dog’s nature: “They can’t lie. It’s all out there. I think that’s why people like [dogs] so much. It’s not all rosy, but Mister Bud and Zorro accept each other and learn how to cohabitate.” They look different and seem different in every way, except that Mister Bud and Zorro both love schedules! As soon as they embrace this commonality, they make peace.

And isn’t that what siblings do? They unite over the shared experience of living in their family and abiding by or railing against the household rules. Kids at school are attracted to others with common views or interests. This book is very funny because it capitalizes on the quirks of a canine pair that lives to eat and sleep. But in truth, a child adjusting to a new baby in the house, a new kid horning in on his or her best friend, or a new school, is, at the root of it, simply trying to get used to a disruption to his or her routine--a new set of rules, a “new normal.” By showing us how Mister Bud and Zorro make the best of their situation (and even improve upon it), Carter Goodrich shows young people that they can, too. They just have to keep an open mind.

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