Picture Book Spotlight: Sally Goes to the Mountains

“Sally Goes to the Mountains” by Stephen Huneck
Published: Harry N. Abrams, 2001
Pages: 38
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As part of our move to a small town two years ago, I wanted to develop a regular library habit. I’ve always been very spotty about my library trips; I’d go for two months, then never set foot in one for years afterward, and never have a good reason why. The locations were convenient and the selections were reasonable, what was my problem? I don’t know the answer to that question, I can only say that my determination to change paid off, and had a positive influence on my daughter.

The local library also provides Legos, and that may be the real reason my daughter is so eager to go. In fact, I know it’s the reason, but at least it’s working. I struggled to convince her to tear herself away from the games and browse the books, but I persevered. She pulled a few promising books off the shelves, just to please me, as quickly as possible. It didn’t take long before I noticed they were all similar books: Sally books.

Sally is a curious Labrador—and that’s all you need to know, really. She plays, she runs, she meets new friends, and her best friend is a cat. My daughter loves animals, and the Sally books are animal-centric stories with bold illustrations in primary colors.

Sally’s adventures are described in simple sentences that stay true to how a dog might actually behave, most of the time. There are some interesting exceptions, like the time Sally ran up a tree:

I have questions…

My daughter checked out Sally books every time she found them at the library, and I suspected it wasn’t just because she needed something to appease me. She could read them herself even when she was in the early stages of learning and she pulled them out to read in the car on the way home. I asked her what made them so appealing and she said:

I like the pictures and I like Sally. Sally is cute and funny! She gets in trouble but then she’s okay.

It’s not deep, but it’s the best she could give me. When my daughter asked me over and over to tell her the name of the author, I noted the books were recent enough that the author was likely still writing, and it might be nice for her to tell him how much they mean to her. I looked up Stephen Huneck, and unfortunately, he took his own life in 2010 after a long battle with depression.

It saddened me to learn that my daughter would never get the chance to tell Huneck how wonderful his books are. As he was a woodcarver, the illustrations are actual woodcuts, and he published ten books featuring his own black Lab, Sally. His home, nicknamed Dog Mountain, is a tourist attraction in Vermont where you can see the chapel he built to celebrate our spiritual connection with dogs.

Thank you, Stephen Huneck, for encouraging my daughter’s growing love for both animals and reading.

Author of Strawberry Shortcake: Return of the Purple Pie Man, Disney’s Frozen Comic Collection, Transformers: Robots in Disguise Animated and Littlest Pet Shop: Open for Business. She’s written for IDW Publishing, Hasbro, Lion Forge, American Greetings and Scholastic, and her work has been discussed in Comics Beat and The Washington Post. Subscribe to the newsletter

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