“The Little Black Dog Has Puppies” by J.B. Spooner, illustrated by Terre Lamb Seeley. May 25, Arcade Publishing. 32 pp., $16.95.
“The Little Black Dog Has Puppies,” the third in a series of children’s books chronicling the orphaned dog that has become a part of Martha’s Vineyard lore, holds attention with page-turning eagerness. There is a good reason it is so compelling. It’s true.
While one-time Island resident J.B. Spooner will sometimes embellish parts of a story to make it more interesting, for the most part, the tales she tells really happened, and those kinds of stories often resonate with readers in ways pure fiction cannot.
It is those “You couldn’t make this up” moments that lay the foundation for building the best yarns.
In the book, illustrated by Terre Lamb Seeley, Ms. Spooner deftly weaves themes of friendship, kindness, and the protective instincts of the Little Black Dog.
There is a detour before the blessed event, when the little black dog returns to the Captain one afternoon, not with her usual gift of an abandoned mitten or an oak leaf, but with a wet, cold, and scraggly kitten clutched gently in her mouth. She waits patiently while the stray laps up a bowl of milk, then licks the tabby kitten clean, carries it up the stairs, and curls up on the bed to keep it warm.
When it comes time for the Little Black Dog to have her own litter, the story takes some unexpected twists, introducing elements of concern, mystery, surprise, and ultimately pride.
The illustrations give the whole saga a warm, glowing coziness. It will make a wonderful bedtime story for visitors who walk the same Vineyard Haven beaches where descendents of the Little Black Dog still romp in the Vineyard surf.