The Rough Patch

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Evan and his dog do everything together. They play and read and eat. But mostly you will find them tending to Evan’s extraordinary garden, where flowers and other good things flourish and reach for the sky.

But friends don’t always stay forever, and when Evan loses his, he destroys the place that meant the most to them, and creates something to match his mood. Something ugly and twisted, sad and stubborn, ragged and rough—and he likes it that way. 

Until one day . . . 

  • ISBN-10: 0062671278

  • ISBN-13: 978-0062671271

  • 2019 Caldecott Honor Book

  • 2019 Massachusetts Book Award Honor

  • 2019 Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators Crystal Kite Award

  • Named a Junior Library Guild Selection

  • Japanese, Chinese, French, Italian, Korean, Ukranian and Greek translations in progress

    Social Media Reviews:

"Grab the tissues. . . break & warm the heart with one pic book." —Jillian Heise, @heisereads

"Too many adults think that kids are fragile. They are resilient beyond any adult you know. However, they need help navigating...they need to know that they will be ok and it's ok to be sad and angry. This book is the best road map ever for that." —T.J. Shay, Goodreads

"This book will break your heart and mend it right back up. With tender illustrations and thoughtful text, this will hit straight to dog lovers' souls. How do we go on when our world stops suddenly? Hope sprouts when we least expect it, but need it most.—Aliza Werner, Goodreads

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Trade Reviews of THE ROUGH PATCH

STARRED REVIEW, Publisher’s Weekly, June 1, 2018

STARRED REVIEW, Booklist, May 1, 2018
Farmer Evan, portrayed as a fox in overalls, has a dog.  Constant companions, they enjoy playing games, taking hikes, and working in their garden.  But after the dog’s death, Evan feels that nothing will be quite the same and so hacks his beloved garden to bits.  Time passes.  Weeds move in and he lets the itchy, spiky-looking ones stay.  He begins to tend a prickly vine, which eventually produces an enormous pumpkin.  Feeling “an old, familiar sense of excitement,” Evan hauls his pumpkin to the local fair, where he enjoys the food, the games, and talking with old friends. His pumpkin wins him a prize:  $10 or a puppy.  He drives home with a new companion.  Spare and beautifully phrased, the story is well told in the text.  But Evan’s emotions are most vividly conveyed in the artwork, created with acrylics, oils, and colored pencils.  In the graveside scene, a shadow literally falls over Evan, while on the facing page, the phrase “and nothing was the same” appears on a light gray background, encroached by looming, chaotic darkness.  Lies’s rich colors and expressive use of light are evident throughout this picture book, which acknowledges grief and delivers a hopeful message with subtlety, empathy and eloquence.  —Carolyn Phelan

STARRED REVIEW, School Library Journal, May 2018
Gr 2-5Lies taps into the powerful nature of love, loss, grief, and hope in his latest picture book. Evan, a fox, and his dog are best friends and in a series of acrylic, oil, and colored pencil vignettes, they are shown attending a fair, playing games, and, most important, working in Evan’s meticulously groomed garden. These loving scenes are abruptly cut short by a large spread of white space with spare text stating: “But one day, the unthinkable happened.” On the opposing page, white space surrounds a grieving Evan as he mourns the loss of his dog. In his grief, Evan destroys the garden that reminds him so much of his friend and weeds grow in its place. When a pumpkin vine sneaks into the garden, Evan allows it to take root and with it, hope returns. With lyrical figurative language, Evan transitions from being devastated by heartache to a being willing to step back into the world again. With his pumpkin, Evan rejoins his friends at the fair. Although it’s not the same without his best friend, he enjoys himself again and even wins a prize for his pumpkin. His prize and the hope of all those who suffer love’s loss is a chance to love again with a new puppy. While best suited for independent readers or shared moments during a loss, this poignant picture book provides an exquisite depiction of grief and hope. VERDICT A remarkable first selection for all libraries and a helpful guide for children and adults who are going through their own rough patches.    –Rachel Zuffa, Racine Public Library, WI

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2018
Nature brings healing and a reawakening of the heart. Evan, a farmer, is a red fox; his best friend and trusty companion is a black mutt. They do everything together, including work in Evan's lush garden. Eventually the dog dies, and Evan is inconsolable. Progressing through the stages of grief, Evan mourns, then feels bitter anger and destroys the garden, hacking it to pieces (presumably not, as some readers may wonder, the corner where he buried his friend). Matching Evan's mood, the formerly beautiful place is now weed-filled and forlorn. A creeping pumpkin vine gradually helps Evan to reassess his thinking. Deciding not to destroy the nascent plant, he cultivates it; his tender horticultural touch allows the pumpkin to develop into a gourd of enormous proportions. Bringing it to the fair, Evan wins third place—and oh, what a prize he chooses, revealed wordlessly on the book's final page! This story is simply and subtly told with admirably genuine emotion, but the textured, strong-hued art is the real standout. Charming images, such as Evan's gardening boots with holes for claws, and heart-wrenching ones—note Evan's bending over the dog's unmoving body—are to savor. Lies also matches colors and characters' expressiveness to moods and provides white space around numerous vignettes to focus readers' attention. Reassuring and clear, this is a heartfelt story about loss and discovering that one can love again. (Picture book. 4-7)

IndieBound's BookPage, August, 2018
Evan, a bright orange anthropomorphic fox in gardening overalls, and his dog are constant companions.  They enjoy many hobbies, but more than anything else, the best friends love to work together in Evan's garden.  One moment they are relishing their time outdoors in their lush garden space; the next, Evan's dog has passed away.  Evan is devastated.

With his best friend gone and grief at the wheel, Evan loses his passion for gardening.  In fact, he destroys his plants and tears angrily at the ground with a hoe.  Weeds soon take over, but this is fine with Evan, as he wants the barren earth to reflect how he feels inside.  But when a pumpkin begins to grow in his yard—despite all the weeds—Evan's heart expands, and he begins to carefully tend to it.  When Evan's pumpkin grows large and wins third place at the county fair, he turns down the grand prize—a free puppy.  But after bravely taking a peek inside the pen, he's soon driving home with a new furry friend.

With tender restraint (the dog's death is handled well, with merely six words and a poignant, but not graphic, image), author and illustrator Brian Lies has crafted a deeply felt story of new hope and healing after loss, one that altogether avoids excessive sentimentality.  The pacing is flawless, and the emotions are never forced.  Lies's eloquently rendered illustrations play with light and shadow on full-bleed spreads that invite readers into Evan's grief and his eventual journey from sorrow to newfound happiness.

Understated yet powerful, The Rough Patch is a story that stays with you.  —Julie Danielson, BookPage

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What they're saying about The Rough Patch:

"Grab the tissues. . . break & warm the heart with one pic book." —Jillian Heise, @heisereads