Let's get it right out in the open: The Puli is inarguably adorable, perhaps amongst the most adorable breeds to ever charm a dog lover. The prideful breed boasts a beautiful, fluffy, thick coat of curls and locks, sometimes being described as looking like a Rastafarian (if you take a look through a book of dog photos or check around online, you're liable to find an image or two where someone has put a baggy, rainbow colored, wool-knit cap on a Puli). Given their delightful appearance, it's no surprise that the breed has been featured in a children's book or two.
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Not many of these examples have risen above having a cult following, in fact the most well known may be Disney's Fluppy Dogs, the unfortunately short lived (though no less endearing) book, toy and cartoon franchise, but the Puli also served as the basis for the delightful children's novella, Philos, by J.G. Messervy-Norman.
Unlike the colorful adventure stories of Fluppies, Messervy-Norman's Philos is a realistic, somewhat whimsical take on the subject of a dog's day to day life, told in first person from the point of view of the title character, Philos, a normal female Puli living with a normal, loving family. Seemingly mundane affairs like a walk down the street or daily grooming are given a rare sense of wonder and drama when described from Puli's point of view. A passage involving a trip downtown is awe inspiring, even breath taking, evoking the feeling of a child visiting a theme park for the first time. Another is tragic and heartbreaking in its description of Puli's feelings as her beautiful locks have to be shorn, leaving her buzz cut and naked to the elements. The way the title dog is presented feels truthful and real. Rather than a more firm, plot driven approach to the narrative, Puli, like a real dog, seems to float along in a stream of consciousness, going from one situation to the next, speaking entirely of her feelings. The book never feels forced or false, it seems rather that if a dog wrote a book, it would read something like this.
If there's a lesson to be learned, it is that a person should really take time and appreciate the world around them. It may sound cliche, but "stop and smell the roses" is good advice. Showing impressive restraint, the book doesn't preach or get on its soapbox about this moral. It never breaks character or becomes predictable. Philos is admirable in that it does what so few books in the children's market do; it respects the young reader's intelligence. Things aren't spelled out in bold melodrama, but rather, left in a natural state in hopes that the child is clever enough to detect the story's subtle, implied meaning. The book is unique and never panders to its audience and is likely to encourage young readers to more fully explore the world of literature.
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