Gimlet: Been a while, hasn't it?
We've kept busy: reading, canvassing, painting, ratting, patrolling for errant cats, walking and riding in cars ... it's a full life when you're involved in puppy punditry. Yet, some excellent books have crossed our paws, and one in particular struck me as particularly relevant in this political season.
Nigel: I know the book you're referring to. It's an excellent and uplifting read, and the illustrations are top-notch.
Gimlet: Presidential year, candidates, surprises, disappointments ... time to sit down, readjust our collars and harnesses, turn on the Canem Lie Down! Detectors and recall a time of wise leadership and wise dogs. What better book to grab when you're headed for that comfy chair with foot stool than "First Dog Fala," written by Elizabeth Van Steenwyk, with illustrations by Michael G. Montgomery.
Nigel: Can you say "grand"?
Fala being none other than the most famous canine occupant of the White House, Fala Roosevelt, his master being the most famous of Good and New Dealers, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I sense a Rooseveltian theme here...
Gimlet: That's pronounced "Roaz-uh-velt" at least by Franklin's branch of the family. Fala, a black Scottie, is Roosevelt's Puck, his pal, his Dutch Courage ... Ok, maybe not Dutch Courage, although the libations flowed freely in that White House. Fala was short for Murray the Outlaw of Fala Hill, after one of FDR's Scottish ancestors. Van Steenwyk deals out the facts and the lore about the Fala/FDR partnership in a most amiable way... You know that expression "don't let the facts get in the way?" well, she lets the facts pave the way. That's a throwback to the good old days, isn't it? Facts!
Nigel: Here's another: the Secret Service had a code name for Fala ... the Informer. That's because wherever FDR was, Fala was sure to be in the vicinity. Talk about "transparent government."
Gimlet: One of the book's strengths is the artful way in which the facts don't get in the way. They're there for young minds. Did we mention this would be considered a "children's book"? Dogs will enjoy it, too. The dog audience is usually forgotten ... but we're fond of this Fala tale because it does put one in 1940s Washington, in the White House, with FDR ... aside from the rationing of dog biscuits, what a place to be!
Nigel: On a WPA note, the Michael G. Montgomery's oils remind me just a tad of Thomas Hart Benton. And his depiction of Fala is more influenced by history and fable than by actual likeness... I think he caught more of Fala's nature than his likeness. You'd appreciate that, Gimlet, since you're a bit of an expressionist.
Gimlet: Sometimes, I'm Ab-Ex. Benton was a ... Regionalist, which jibes with this book's Fala rendition. There's a lot of fluidity here.
Nigel: Flowing right into our comfortable chairs, and digging right into our awaiting books, Gimlet and I suggest you pick up this book for the terriers and children on your list. FDR buffs will find a soft spot for it, too.