Heart and soul by Carol Ann Martin
Illus. by Tull Suwannakit, Scholastic 2020. ISBN: 9781742999920.
(Age: 3+) Highly recommended. This disarming tale of the relationship between a dog and his owner will thrill all readers as they follow the warmth of the bond between the old man and his rescue dog, to separation then reconnection.
When Charlie plays his trumpet, the dog, Louis, sings alongside him, the two engrossed in the heart and soul of the music and their friendship. But one day the old man becomes ill and is taken away in an ambulance. The dog is left, and wanders the streets, finding scraps to stay alive. One day he hears a familiar sound and finds a trumpeter playing on the streets. He begins to sing along with the busker, and people stop and put money in the busker's hat which they have not done before. The man is thrilled with the double act and takes Louis home with him to his share accommodation. Together they play in the town and their notoriety comes to the attention of the matron at the nursing home. She asks them to play on Christmas Eve, and in the home, Louis finds a surprise.
Martin's lovely story will connect with children on many levels - an animal story will always melt their hearts: the dog once abandoned at a rescue home finds a home only to lose it, the relationship between the old man and the dog engenders warmth and understanding, the reunification at the end a cause for celebration.
Suwannakit's delightful illustrations ground the story, showing a wonderful old man and his dog, keeping their hearts and souls together with music. Watercolour, pen and ink present a soft edged series of illustrations, never sentimental but full of feeling that readers will love. The tender relationship between the dog and Charlie is stunningly portrayed, readers will be able to feel the dog's head on their shoulders and share in their joy at reuniting. Themes: Dogs, Rescue homes, Nursing homes, Old age, Music.