Old Fellow by Christopher Cheng and illustrated by Liz Anelli is a glorious, heart-warming tale that reflects on and celebrates companionship, the power of community, connection and the positive and affirming role parks play in a local area.
This tender story deftly explores the unconditional bond a man and dog share. Together they traverse their days. In each other they find a purpose and reason to go outside; to take a walk to their local bustling park, a lush green space which is a wonderful opportunity for social interaction.
The endpapers are stunning, full of rich nuanced details about the daily lives and interests of the two main characters – the old man and old dog. Each of the items included on these pages tell their own small story, reveal clues about them and contain information to unpack. The front endpaper depicts an early morning scene at their home and the back endpaper shows what life looks and feels like for these two best friends at the end of the day.
This story begins with the old man and dog preparing for their day ahead. Then colour bursts from the pages as they leave their home for what seems to be a routine walk, but it comes to light that it is so much more. Their destination is a beautiful park lined with established trees, pops of colour, teeming with animals that call the park their home as well as people – lots of people, each with different reasons for being at the park as some are exercising, others are playing, a few seem content to relax and unwind, there are dogs being walked and children making memories.
Together the old man and dog explore as well as take in all the sights and spectacles the park has to offer on this particular day. The dog helps break down barriers and this leads to social interaction. They meet old and new friends in the park. They are happy to linger, appreciate the delights and relax while enjoying the rich sensory experiences the park has to offer. The immense joy and gratitude they feel for this little piece of paradise is palpable.
They make their way home again. The old man arrives home with his hands full of gifts and mementos collected from their day out and about. It’s apparent that his hands are not the only thing that is full. The final page is a beautiful representation of all that it means to be content, grateful and blissfully happy.
Throughout this story there is not a specific mention of who exactly the old fellow (as the title suggests) is. This story could be interpreted as being told from the man’s perspective or the dog could very well be the narrator.
Liz Anelli’s highly expressive, richly detailed and boldly coloured warm illustrations enrich the narrative providing further clues about the relationship between the old man and dog. Children and adults alike will delight in the brilliant detail in the illustrations which offer something new to discover each time this book is revisited.