Dee Ann Grand

Since the 1960s, artist William Wegman has captured his beloved Weimaraners in iconic poses that have appeared in books for adults and children, postcards, calendars and posters, to name a few. But it has been a decade since Wegman released a new children’s book, and he does so now with a twist on his familiar approach.

In his new picture book, Flo & Wendell, Wegman goes back to his roots as an artist, adding colorful splashes of paint to his photos of the expressive dogs.

Speaking by phone from his home in Maine, Wegman explains that the concept for the book developed not just from the idea of adding illustrations, but also from the spot-on, very human-like rivalry of two of his own Weimaraner puppies, who are also siblings.  

“It really came about because of Flo’s character with her actual half-brother, who is a year younger,” he says. “Their relationship was both nurturing and competitive—or combative—as dogs. I also have my own children, so I had a chance to witness that, but really, it’s what everybody knows about big sisters or little brothers or visa versa. It’s something you see whether it’s your own children or someone else’s.”

As the story unfolds in Flo & Wendell, Flo is revealed as something of a dramatic ham, a quality shared by the real Flo. “She loves the camera! She absolutely does, the same way that my dog Fay did. Topper [who appears in the book as Wendell] likes it, too, but Flo’s much more competitive. She wants it, and she’ll knock the other dogs off to get up on the modeling stand.”

As with all the Wegman dogs, modeling becomes a fun, positive experience and that was no exception for Flo, the camera queen. “When I started working with her, I had a dog named Penny who I was working on for a National Geographic cover every day practically. And so, when Flo was very young, I would set her next to Penny, so she’d think she was having her picture taken. And I think that made her really like it. She got to see her hero Penny pose, and then when it was her turn she thought it was something.”

That kind of excitement in Wegman’s studio seems to be rewarding for his dogs, who don’t receive doggie treats or canine cookies for posing. “Big strobe lights go off, and it’s a pleasant experience for them. It’s like God talking—a big ‘stay’ and a big flash of light. If you pet them, it becomes a positive. I don’t give them treats because I don’t want them drooling all over, and that is exactly what they would do.” A bit unsightly for the camera, of course.

Wegman, who took a lot of pictures of both Flo and Topper (aka Wendell) when they were seven or eight weeks old, points out that the photos of each dog in the book are kept in character. In choosing the head shots of Flo in the story, Wegman explains, “There’s just a finite number of pictures of Flo when she was eight weeks old which I used in this book. We had to recycle through those heads of expression if I wanted to keep that character legitimate, which I do. That’s one thing that I do that’s different probably from the Lassie situation is that I don’t have many dogs playing other characters. So Flo is Flo. I don’t have some other random Weimaraner becoming Flo.”

Selecting just the right photos with the exact expressions, then mixing those with Wegman’s painted additions, is an exciting combination that helps the story unfold naturally. For the artist/photographer, the emphasis was on getting all the layers perfectly balanced on each page. “The first images I did of this type of character were kind of electrifying. I did one that is actually one of the pages introducing Wendell. That was the first time I made a painted figure that was flushed out like that. And it was so exciting and funny that I then developed a personality around that—then all the words started to fall in place.”

Appealing to the youngest readers (and listeners) with simple, loose form and bright colors, Wegman purposely downplays the details of clothing and body features, amplifying the dog’s vivid expressions. “It just comes alive before my eyes as I’m sitting there. It usually starts with a certain color—for instance with Flo, who always wears that pinkish kind of shirt—and I just start throwing the brush into a direction the arm might be.” Then along with that informal painting style, Wegman says, “The  photographic aspect snaps it into a nice kind of clarity. Like I guess if you’re a cook and that’s your feature dish, you want to set the table with some side dishes that make your main dish work.” (A video demonstration of this technique is a don’t-miss at Wegmanworld.com.)

This new approach to depicting his Weimaraners may surprise some of Wegman’s fans, but to him, painting has always been a part of his life. “That’s what I did. That’s why I went to art school, and then somehow I got involved in early usage of video back in the late 1960s and early ’70s and used photo as a way of breaking through into new media. At the time it was considered new for artists to be using photography and video. And I found just a really electrifying way of using that. Painting seemed just absolutely part of the 19th century or at least it seemed to peter out by 1960-something. But because I have an innate love of it, I started to do it again. Way before I even thought of doing children’s books, I started to do paintings.”

An artist with such a rich history has seen tremendous changes in technology over the years, and those changes have influenced his art, Wegman says. “I use to use the Polaroid camera, which at one time was the very new and startling thing that took gigantic 24” X 20” pictures instantly, and that seemed really fast and very brazenly exciting. And I used that very effectively for many years. Then I got more into the digital. But I noticed that when I took a digital picture of a dog for instance, dressed up, you might have imagined that was all photoshopped and that the dog wasn’t really there collaborating, in a way, so that issue became less interesting. . . . So I think that’s another reason why the painted books and so forth have become more interesting for me. I still use the digital cameras for photographs with the adult dogs, and they do all kinds of crazy stuff, but less and less are they made into especially human characters. I’m still photographing them as adult dogs in situations and occasionally they are in outfits but, I don’t know, it’s just different.”

Wegman and his talented family are similar to the mom, dad and kids in Flo & Wendell, each one involved with the arts. Wegman’s wife, Christine Burgin (who designed the layout for the book), his 18-year-old son, Atlas, and 15-year-old daughter, Lola, and four Weimaraners, Candy, Bobbin, Flo and Topper, all divide their time between homes in Maine and New York City.

Wegman says the dogs adapt to just about any environment, whether loping along Maine’s winding nature trails or enjoying the city smells of a busy bike path in New York. “All the art projects go into suitcases and the dogs sit in a large SUV and enjoy the eight-hour drive between Maine and New York,” he says. And although according to Wegman, the big dogs love the big city, if you took their picture when they’re in New York, their expressions would say, “When are we going back to Maine?”

Images from Flo & Wendell © copyright 2013 by William Wegman. Reprinted with permission of Dial Books for Young Readers.

Since the 1960s, artist William Wegman has captured his beloved Weimaraners in iconic poses that have appeared in books for adults and children, postcards, calendars and posters, to name a few. But it has been a decade since Wegman released a new children’s book, and he does so now with a twist on his familiar […]

William Wegman’s first new book in 10 years comes with an unexpected twist. Once again, Wegman features photographs of his Weimaraners—dogs with piercing blue eyes and personality-plus. But instead of the usual photos depicting the canines in elaborate costumes and settings, he adds paint to the pictures to create the hilarious scenes of Flo & Wendell. This merging of media is a visual treat, and the dogs’ deadpan, all-too-human expressions add to the fun.

The lighthearted and slightly satirical story introduces us to Flo and her little brother Wendell, who are part of a family where everyone is a creative type, but in very different ways. Dad paints large by-the-numbers canvases, while Mom is so crazy about knitting that she even knits a sweater for the family car.

Flo, with a pink bow perched atop her head, is never short on drama. She recruits her less-than-enthusiastic brother for all sorts of activities like dress-up and hide-and-seek. Wendell has interests of his own, including soccer and cooking (he even whips up a dish with tuna fish and chocolate syrup).

Speckled with a big sister’s teasing and a little brother’s ability to roll with the punches, Flo & Wendell reflects the sibling negotiations that many of us endured while growing up, but in a whimsical, furry new way.

RELATED: Read an interview with William Wegman about the creation of Flo & Wendell.

William Wegman’s first new book in 10 years comes with an unexpected twist. Once again, Wegman features photographs of his Weimaraners—dogs with piercing blue eyes and personality-plus. But instead of the usual photos depicting the canines in elaborate costumes and settings, he adds paint to the pictures to create the hilarious scenes of Flo & […]

The holidays are always a festive, frolicking time, but there’s also a religious message inherent in the Christmas season. If you’re looking for books that focus on the meaning of the holiday or that offer messages of faith, hope and love to little ones, these selections from Christian publishers would be just right for gift-giving or family sharing.

WORDS OF COMFORT

Not just at Christmastime, but year-round it happens. A kid needs an understanding pal, a listening ear or a promise of hope—and right away! Veteran author Sally Lloyd-Jones had just that in mind with Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing, a generous collection of encouraging words about the everyday bumps and hurdles that children encounter. Each page is a blend of Lloyd-Jones’s inspirational, gentle tone with illustrations of rich, deep colors by British artist Jago that depict a God who is forever with us and always understanding.

“Of all the incredible things God made, which do you think is the most amazing?” Lloyd-Jones writes in a section titled In All the Earth. “Is it the Grand Canyon? Or the Milky Way? What about the North Pole? . . . Do you know what God says is the best, most magnificent, incredible thing he has ever made? You.”

I call this a go-to book in times when a child (or even an adult) needs a spiritual lift or a happy thought at the end of a rocky day. The author says it much better by describing how the book came about in the first place.

“My niece was the inspiration for this book. She was 8 at the time. And almost overnight, she went from being a vivacious little girl full of life to a quite hidden child. Even her voice changed—into a very quiet voice you could hardly hear. And we found out she was being bullied at school,” Lloyd-Jones says. “I wished she had a book that she would want to have by her bedside, a book she would look forward to reading, a book no one would have to make her read–but that she would choose to read–a book that would tell her what God says about her instead of what these bullies were saying. And so I wrote the book for her—and every child like her.”

THE GOOD SHEPHERD'S GOOD BOOK

Children’s Bibles have changed over the years, becoming more and more accessible to young readers. Jesus Calling Bible Storybook by Sarah Young is a terrific selection, especially for kids who sometimes tire of the same stilted retellings. This Bible brings it home, making children feel that ancient Bible is personal, speaking directly to them. Young masters this in two ways. First she puts the stories in modern “kidspeak” with everyday language. For example, she begins the story of creation this way: “A, B, C . . . 1, 2, 3 . . . Everything begins somewhere.” How simple is that? Then after every Bible story, Young ends with a Jesus Calling scripture and simple devotional that is conversational, written as if Jesus were sitting right next to the reader and talking about things kids experience or question like faith, happiness, right and wrong, and love. Again, the language is just right when Jesus tells kids, “Talk to me all the time —in good times and in bad times.” No vague Bible-speak here that swooshes over the reader’s head. Jesus’ words seem written in real time.

Each story is carefully selected to teach young hearts not only basic Bible stories, but also to show Jesus’ role in the Old Testament and the New Testament. With bright, vivid illustrations by Carolina Farias, God’s love unfolds on page after page, from creation to Jesus’ departure from this earth. Farias’ style is captivating, with a color palette that lends itself to Biblical times yet somehow feels warm and intimate for today’s reader. This is a Bible to be treasured for many years.

THE CHRISTMAS STORY

In A King James Christmas: Biblical Selections with Illustrations from Around the World editors Catherine Schuon and Michael Fitzgerald combine excerpts from the Gospels with beautiful illustrations, ranging from Renaissance masterpieces to paintings by Schuon herself. The selected passages from Matthew and Luke tell the story of Jesus’ birth and childhood, as well as the key tenets of his teachings (Jesus Teaches in the Temple and the Sermon on the Mount). For young readers who may be a bit intimidated by the language of the King James Bible, the editors have included synonyms for unfamiliar words within the text. This beautifully crafted book makes the story of Jesus’s birth easy to follow and understand, and the multicultural artistic expressions add to the book’s appeal. Intended for the entire family, A King James Christmas would be a perfect choice for a Christmas Eve read-aloud.

A NEW ADVENTURE

Now here’s a good idea: an Old and New Testament Bible that kids can read and comprehend all by themselves. Although the publisher, Common English Bible, painstakingly created this translation with 120 Bible translators from 24 denominations plus a plethora of diverse Bible readers, Deep Blue Kids Bible is truly in the language and on the vocabulary level of today’s child. There’s no better way to engage kids than to use their own words, then enliven the reading experience with 3D-style illustrations, lively characters and timely life-related notes throughout. The Deep Blue Kids Bible makes the reading more like a Bible story adventure.

This Bible is so upbeat that parents and grandparents will get a kick out of reading it with their kids and grandkids. Adults will enjoy the pages loaded with devotions, highlights of fascinating facts, notes of character traits and faith concepts. Children’s ministries will appreciate the resources that pop onto the pages, like fun trivia, easy overviews and kid-level discussion suggestions. All that and the pages never look too busy, overloaded or junky. Instead, this Bible os inviting, calling for kids to climb aboard and explore—in a high seas adventure kind of way.

COOKING UP SOMETHING SPECIAL

With just the right measure of clear directions and big, delicious food photos, the Faithgirlz line of books for tween girls adds a delicious recipe book. More than a simple snack cookbook, Food, Faith & Fun has an array of cooking delights from munchies, and salads to main courses, with a dash of scripture included. Healthy smoothies, perfect potato salad and enchiladas are just a few samples any family would delight in being served and any tween would enjoy creating—with Faithgirlz flair, of course. Vegetarian recipes are part of the mix, along with a nice section for creative holiday treats, including Cathedral Window Cookies and Christmas Swirl Cookies. Food, Faith & Fun encourages friends and family to grab an apron and join in the fun of nourishing the body and soul.

The holidays are always a festive, frolicking time, but there’s also a religious message inherent in the Christmas season. If you’re looking for books that focus on the meaning of the holiday or that offer messages of faith, hope and love to little ones, these selections from Christian publishers would be just right for gift-giving […]

Do you prefer your fiction pulse-pounding, heart-wrenching, sprinkled with belly laughs or loaded with hairpin twists and turns? These new inspirational fiction titles offer something for everyone and are sure to deliver.

As if the complicated emotional relationships between animals and humans weren’t enough to stir the soul, Neil Abramson adds a harrowing twist of legal suspense to his moving first novel. Hauntingly told through the voice of a dead woman, Unsaid finds former veterinarian Helena caught between this world and the next as she watches her loved ones and worries about a dark secret she’s taken to the grave. Her widower, David, is still struggling to get back to his law practice, deal with his grief and find a way to care for the many rescue animals (all with their own issues) that Helena had nurtured. 

But David is forced into action when Cindy, a chimpanzee Helena had loved, suddenly becomes the target of a dangerous lab experiment. It is up to David to save Cindy through a harrowing legal battle that (unbeknownst to him) could release Helena from her sad purgatory. Unsaid explores the miracle of sentience in humans and animals, and every character in this story makes heartbreaking mistakes. This compassionate and suspenseful story will remind you to savor every moment of every meaningful relationship you may ever be blessed with—whether human or animal.

LOVE AND MARRIAGE

Whether you’ve read the previous five Bug Man novels by Tim Downs or not, Nick of Time will show you just who Nick Polchak, aka the Bug Man, really is deep down inside. Though Nick is a forensic entomologist who studies insects from murder victims’ remains, this time he faces a much more precarious situation: He’s getting married. And never has Nick Polchak ever been more out of his element. Dead bodies and bugs? No problem. Wedding cake and honeymoon decisions? Run! And whether consciously or unconsciously, he does run—or rather, accepts an invitation from the Vidocq society to attend a forensic specialists meeting just a few days before the wedding ceremony.

Alena Savard, the bride-to-be and a trainer of cadaver dogs, is none too happy about Nick’s sudden departure. Then Nick and Alena, along with several other interesting folks—most of whom are forensic professionals who relish solving dead-end crimes—suddenly find themselves fearing for their lives. Downs uses plenty of humor to expose the quirks of these odd characters. In fact, Bug Man fans might be in for a jolt at the story’s close when the day arrives for Nick and Alena to tie the knot. 

END OF DAYS

Tim LaHaye’s best-selling Left Behind series cast him as an expert on prophetic fiction. The second entry in the End Series, written by Lahaye and Craig Parshall, Thunder of Heaven, does not disappoint. Political squabbling, governments and agencies butting heads, an angry Mother Nature, global warming and unemployment aren’t only today’s top news headlines—they are the bones of this knockdown, drag-out tale that grips readers from the start. 

Almost anyone can identify with Deborah Jordan as she sits in a plane on a tarmac awaiting departure. The hassle of security, boarding and cramped seating just isn’t fun. But unbeknownst to her, her plane—along with several others in other cities departing at the same time—is part of a coordinated attack on America. From there, the pace doesn’t let up until the last page as all the members of the Jordan family do their dead level best to thwart the destruction of our country, in spite of the politically driven media, inept government, soulless terrorists, global threats and enormous personal sacrifice.

A MOTHER’S HOPE

Mark Schultz, an award-winning Christian music artist, has touched millions of hearts with his song “Letters from War.” The song tells an unforgettable story, reminding listeners of the sacrifices our military men and women make for our freedom and the unwavering courage of their families. Now, writing with Travis Thrasher, Schultz has expanded that song into a novel that follows the emotional journey of one soldier’s family, friends and community. Readers get to know one military mother, Beth, who refuses to give up hope even after two years of not knowing whether her son James is being held prisoner, wounded or dead. She finds strength in her faith, continuing to pray and write letters to her son, even as well-meaning friends say hurtful things. The ripple effect of how one missing soldier can change the lives of so many people is vividly portrayed in Letters from War. But most powerful throughout the story is Beth, who continues to give to her family and to her community even though her heart is fighting despair. 

A true master at storytelling, whether in song or in prose, Schultz has written a tale that will bring a tear and lift your spirit, all while honoring the service of our military families. 

 

Do you prefer your fiction pulse-pounding, heart-wrenching, sprinkled with belly laughs or loaded with hairpin twists and turns? These new inspirational fiction titles offer something for everyone and are sure to deliver. As if the complicated emotional relationships between animals and humans weren’t enough to stir the soul, Neil Abramson adds a harrowing twist of […]

Think you know David Baldacci, the thriller bestseller? Well, think again. One Summer, a giant departure from his adventure genre, is a story about love, family and moving forward in the face of tragedy. But lucky for us, the novel is written with the same fast pace as Baldacci’s razor-sharp thrillers.

We meet Jack Armstrong as he is living out his death sentence, an incurable disease. Jack is determined to use his last bit of strength just to make it to Christmas Day with his beloved wife, Lizzie, and their three children. It’s not to be. Lizzie must drive in a blizzard to refill his medicine and is killed in an accident. In his bedridden condition, Jack is unable to care for his children alone, so his choices are grim. A miserable mother-in-law makes everything even more difficult, splitting up the family from coast to coast. Then a miracle happens and healing takes place, but not just physically. Jack finds new strength and, determined to reunite his family, takes his children back to the summer home where their mom grew up and learned about the struggles in life. 

Not without challenges and hardships in their new home on the beach (with a neglected yet symbolic lighthouse), each family member learns to love again—and to move forward even when life delivers a storm of difficult challenges. 

Dee Ann Grand writes from Nashville, Tennessee.

Think you know David Baldacci, the thriller bestseller? Well, think again. One Summer, a giant departure from his adventure genre, is a story about love, family and moving forward in the face of tragedy. But lucky for us, the novel is written with the same fast pace as Baldacci’s razor-sharp thrillers. We meet Jack Armstrong […]

When several co-workers from the Powell Agency become murder victims of a killer with a talent for precision slicing, sparks begin to fly between headstrong Powell agent Maleah Perdue and the agency’s keenly intuitive profiler, Derek Lawrence. Thrown together as lead investigators, these two quickly learn that they have more than one mystery to solve and very little time before the butchering begins again. But first, the pair must figure out how to become tightly knit partners, working closely together in spite of their polar-opposite personalities and combative relationship. But life has unexpected twists—and sometimes sparks can turn into passionate flames, especially when the evil descends upon one of the duo.

Beverly Barton’s romantic, suspenseful Dead by Morning is the second book in the “Dead By” trilogy; the first book, Dead by Midnight, introduced us to Griffin Powell’s detective agency, an organization with a shadow of secrets from the past. Don’t expect Dead by Morning to end all tied up with a pretty bow. This multilayered mystery leaves us with a lingering question from way back in book one. But the author promises us more deadly fun and questions answered in Dead by Nightfall, the last of the series, coming in late 2011.

When several co-workers from the Powell Agency become murder victims of a killer with a talent for precision slicing, sparks begin to fly between headstrong Powell agent Maleah Perdue and the agency’s keenly intuitive profiler, Derek Lawrence. Thrown together as lead investigators, these two quickly learn that they have more than one mystery to solve […]

Sign Up

Stay on top of new releases: Sign up for our enewsletters to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres.

Trending Features

Sign Up

Sign up to receive reading recommendations in your favorite genres!