In Les Miserables, it took Victor Hugo 1400 pages and Lord knows how many words to tell his story of cruelty, suffering, endurance, and redemption. In this masterpiece of sequential art, Gabrielle Vincent accomplishes the same thing in 60 wordless pages.
A Day, a Dog tells a simple story entirely through bold charcoal sketches that are miracles of expressiveness. It is marketed as a children’s picture book, but unless your child can handle Camus, it’s probably better to wait. The first page shocks: a dog is tossed onto a lonely road from the window of a car. What follows evokes feelings of pity and horror worthy of Greek drama. The dog races after the car as it speeds away, falling farther behind until he is no more than a speck with a tail, as seen by the uncaring people who have abandoned him. In blind hope, the pooch bounds into the road after the next car to come by, causing a terrible accident. Lost amid the chaos, the dog barks, cowers, lifts his leg against a tire, and finally slinks away. His miserable day continues in an epic journey along a deserted beach and through the alleys of an ugly city until, at last, he finds a friend in a boy who seems to be abandoned, too.
There isn’t an artist alive who can match Gabrielle Vincent’s sensitive rendering of animals. In a few confident lines, she nails the lift of a dogs’s ears, the droop of his tail, the set of his back, which are exactly those of dogs we have known and loved. Vincent, who is Belgian, also created the wonderful Ernest and Celestine books, which tell the adventures of a bluff bear who is the doting guardian (or single dad?) of an adorable, emotional mouse.
I passed a copy of A Day, a Dog around the office yesterday, and there were gasps, cries of “no!” and some tears. The last page makes me think of a line from Jane and Michael Stern’s book about dog breeders, Dog Eat Dog. A man who had just adopted a puppy asked them, “Do you know the difference between a dog and a human? A dog sees his god every day.”
Check the WRL catalog for A Day, a Dog