Review by Dianne Donovan, in Midwest Book Review 24:8 (August 2014), online at midwestbookreview.com/cbw/aug_14.htm:
Written in simple, sparse moving verse for the understanding of children ages 3-6, “No-Matter-What Friend” explores the depth and comfort of a relationship between a growing boy and his old dog, who has been his faithful friend, protector, and companion since babyhood. The dog is old and tired, while the boy is still growing and moving. Although the dog cannot run and play so easily now in his twilight years, the boy remembers all their happy times together. Change can be difficult to accept, especially in an aging loved one. But the boy knows his no-matter-what friend deserves the same loyalty from him, no matter what. Masterful illustrations map out the emotional content of every nuance of interaction, evoking warmth, sensitivity, and all the feelings of joy and sadness a heart’s love can feel.
Review by Jeanna Potts, in Children’s Literature:
Age and friendship are presented in an interesting fashion as a young boy talks to his old dog and revisits the times they have had together. The dog is too old to play with the boy now, so the boy muses about their past and what the dog may be thinking. Does the dog remember the ball the boy is holding was once his toy? Does the dog wish things were the way they used to be when they played on the beach together or went sleigh riding in the snow? The dog was always with the boy as they chased after Dad’s car, and the dog pulled the boy from the mucky pond and then sprayed Mom with muddy water when the dog shook himself dry. Now, the dog sits and listens as the boy talks and tries to cajole the dog into playing with him again. The dog is just too old. The story ends with the boy holding the dog and reassuring the dog he will always love him and be his friend—no matter what. This is a charming story about friendship enduring even when one member becomes old. True friendship lasts forever. Colorful illustrations complement the storyline, depicting the experiences of the boy and dog. Teachers can use the book to supplement units on dogs, friendship, or aging. The author and illustrator do a good job of portraying the theme in a manner that will appeal to all readers.
Review by Janet Beauchamp, in CM Magazine 21:10 (November 7, 2014 ), online at umanitoba.ca/cm/vol21/no10/nomatterwhatfriend.html:
3/4: No-Matter-What Friend is a moving storybook which involves a young boy and his dog who have grown up together. The dog has aged while the young boy is still full of energy. The book has an appealing flow with rhyming sentences and interesting reflections on times past. While the story involves a boy and his dog, the relationship between the two characters could be applied to any friendship. There is a great opportunity to launch from this story into a discussion of loyalty and dependability.
While the outcome of the story is somewhat predictable based on the title, young readers would enjoy the message, and the adults reading the story would be pleased with the teachable moment it provides. While I did not particularly like the illustrations, all three of my daughters did. My 10-year-old liked the book because “it teaches a lesson”, and she liked the “brush strokes” in the illustrations. My four-year-old liked the page without any words because she had to use her imagination, and my six-year-old felt the illustrations “looked like chalk drawings”. Overall, No-Matter-What Friend is a very touching story.
Review in Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2014), online at kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/kari-lynn-winters/no-matter-what-friend/:
A touching, understated story in which a boy looks back at growing up with his faithful dog, Bud.
The huge, tan dog of indeterminate breed has floppy ears, a large nose and drooping, old eyes, as shown in the poignant illustration on the cover. The boy who narrates the rhyming story wonders how much Bud remembers of all their years together, with flashback views of the pair playing ball, skiing, chasing the family truck and getting covered with mud at a nearby pond. Now the faithful dog is too old to play fetch with his owner, who is also growing older and perhaps feeling his childhood coming to an end. The final pages unfold in a powerful conclusion as the boy realizes his dog is having trouble getting up. His one-word commands on successive pages (“Stop. / Sit. / Stay”) are tremendously affecting, helping readers realize the dog will not be able to stay with his beloved boy too much longer. The sun is setting in glowing shades of pink and orange in the last spread as the boy hugs his dog and promises to be his friend always, no matter what. Soft-focus, impressionistic illustrations with oddly adult children and the saggy, sad-eyed dog create a dreamlike world with a misty quality suggestive of hazy memories.
A bittersweet exploration of the enduring bond between a growing boy and his aging companion.