Houghton Mifflin Trade and Reference DivisionHoughton MifflinHoughton Mifflin Trade and Reference Division

Detailed Search


Press Release


Orville: A Dog Story

About the Book

New York Times Best-Selling Author Haven Kimmel Publishes Children's Book

Clarion Books is pleased to announce the September 2003 publication of the first children's book by well-known author Haven Kimmel. Orville: A Dog Story is a moving, uplifting tale of the power of love to change people's lives for the better. Haven Kimmel, the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir A Girl Named Zippy and the critically acclaimed novel The Solace of Leaving Early, pairs up with award-winning illustrator Robert Andrew Parker to create an affecting, meaningful story that will remain with you long after you have turned its last page.

Haven Kimmel's inspirational story and lyrical language, Robert Andrew Parker's luminescent watercolor-and-ink paintings, and the book's compelling design make Orville: A Dog Story a standout among the season's picture books. Dog owners will immediately empathize with Orville, the mutt from whose perspective the story unfolds. Yet the story's themes are universal; one need not be an animal lover to appreciate the message that the chains that bind us lie as often in our hearts as around our necks. Orville: A Dog Story counsels its readers to free themselves from loneliness, from sorrow, and from loss of hope — to dare, as Orville does, to love someone.

Haven Kimmel's magnificent contribution to children's publishing is already being touted by some of the brightest lights in the industry. Anne Irish, Executive Director of the Association of Booksellers for Children, says:

"I am still unable to read Orville, no matter how many times, without shedding a tear or two. The combination of her love and knowledge of dogs with her poetic use of language creates a dramatic and emotional story. It is a philosophical book with quite sophisticated underlying themes of love, trust, and dreams. . . . I like it more every time I read it."


John Valentine of The Regulator Bookstore in Durham, North Carolina, adds:

"You'll love Haven Kimmel's Orville, a sweet, lonesome dog who smells the truth in people and dreams the wildest, most vivid dreams of dog stars and freedom. . . . Haven's whimsical but grounded prose teases and leads the reader, while Robert Andrew Parker's delicious illustrations keep up with Orville's unique travels. . . . You won't look at a sleeping dog again without wondering just where his dreams are taking him."


For other readers as well, the magical realism of the narrative, the concrete images with which Kimmel so deftly draws each character, the consistently poignant tone, and the reassuring, emotionally satisfying ending make Orville a picture book to treasure. Parker's exquisite illustrations are the perfect companions to the spare prose text that reads like poetry. Clarion Books invites you with pleasure to rediscover Haven Kimmel — in a fresh, and very beautiful, way.


About Orville: A Dog Story

Herbert said, "If you keep barking like this, we'll take you to the pound." Maybelle said, "You're leaving us no choice." Orville barked and barked against his chain. And right in the middle of a long summer day, when he had barked about how he was really a good dog in a bad mood, about how he missed that one-eyed doll, about how there was something so terrible about the feeling of a chain against a neck, everything changed, because a girl with cotton-candy hair moved into the little house across the road and Orville fell in love. — from Orville: A Dog Story by Haven Kimmel

Somewhere in farming country, a big, ugly dog stretches and greets the dawn. He can see into people's lives, smell their hopes and heartaches, their dreams and disappointments. He's had a long life, and it hasn't been an easy one.

Chained up behind the barn belonging to his new owners, who are battered by hard work, loss, and loneliness, Orville (for that's what Herbert and Maybelle have named the dog) barks out his frustration. The more he barks, the less he is loved by his owners, who cannot understand that his anger echoes their own loss of hope.

Things change, though, when young Sally Macintosh moves into the small house across the road and Orville the dog falls head over paws in love with her. He stops barking and starts plotting his escape. Three times Orville slips out of his chain and into Sally's house, guarding her while she sleeps, and three times she calls the volunteer fire department to come and save her from the homely beast. It takes shy, awkward Jimmy Duncan to realize that Orville has already given Sally her greatest wish: to be loved.

Just as he touches the heart of each character in this poignant, uplifting story, so will Orville affect each reader who encounters him. In the end, the once-unhappy Orville shows Herbert, and Maybelle, and the girl with cotton-candy hair, and the volunteer fire department that sometimes dreams can become reality. In Orville: A Dog Story, author Haven Kimmel and illustrator Robert Andrew Parker create a movingly detailed portrait of the human — and canine — need for love, connection, and community.


About Haven Kimmel

Haven Kimmel grew up in the small midwestern town of Mooreland, Indiana. Her early childhood became the subject of her first book, the New York Times best-selling memoir A Girl Named Zippy. Although Kimmel never planned to become an author — Mafioso, rodeo star, or Supreme Court justice seemed like more appealing prospects at the time — she began to write stories at the age of nine.

Kimmel studied English and creative writing at Ball State University and North Carolina University, where poetry became her focus and she wrote only occasional creative prose. Then, while at the Earlham School of Religion, where she was pursuing a doctorate, she took a class in which Professor Tom Mullen required the students to begin a book-length project. Kimmel began writing the essays that eventually led to A Girl Named Zippy.

Zippy, which received a gratifying amount of public attention, was followed by the lyrical novel The Solace of Leaving Early (Random House). Kimmel's second novel, Something Rising (Light and Swift) will be published in Spring 2004 by the Free Press. Although Kimmel has never lost touch with her roots in the midwest she portrays so clearly and lovingly, she lives now in North Carolina, where she gathers many loved ones around her — a husband, two children, a cat, a fish, and a remarkable number of stray dogs.


Questions for Haven Kimmel

Q) Your previous works and your upcoming novel were written for adults. What made you decide to write for children?

A) I have two children, the oldest of whom is nearly nineteen, so I've been reading books for children for a long time. I'd never really thought to write one until after spending months trying to make the story of Orville fit into another book I was writing, one for adults. I'd revised the story ten times before I realized I couldn't make it work. Then one day I picked up one of the revisions and saw that it would make a wonderful picture book, and the first time I revised it in that direction, it all came together. I guess this is, in part, more evidence that books have to be who they are, rather than who we might want them to be.

Q) Did something in particular inspire Orville: A Dog Story? Did you draw the characters, human and animal, from people and/or pets you've known personally, as you did in your first, autobiographical work?

A) Orville is actually a portrait of a dog my sister saved many years ago, named Conan. He looked like a cross between a mastiff and a Great Dane, if you can imagine the ugliest combination of those two dogs ever seen in nature. That part is autobiographical, as is the part about the dog falling in love with a woman across the road (this is the element that interested me most of all). Unfortunately, Conan's story didn't have a happy ending. Since I wrote the book, though, I was able to change history and give him the ending he deserved.

Q) Did you read a lot as a child? Who or what were your favorite children's authors or books while you were growing up?

A) I didn't read a lot as a child. I know this isn't something most writers would admit to, and I've heard some authors in interviews say they read the whole of Homer by the age of six, or were speaking Latin by three, or something outrageous. I loved books, certainly, but I was much too busy outside to read. Readers of Zippy [Kimmel's first book, the memoir A Girl Named Zippy] will recall that I had a lot of very important things to do on my bicycle and in regards to injured woodpeckers. I couldn't just be hanging around indoors all the time. My whole attitude to reading was changed by Charlotte's Web, which was by far my favorite book as a child and remains one of my favorites today. I love all of E.B. White's books and stories, both for children and adults.

Q) On a related note, which writers for adults have most influenced your own style?

A) While I don't think my style reflects it, I was greatly influenced by Joseph Mitchell, who wrote for the New Yorker for many years. Up in the Old Hotel, a collection of his essays and four of his books, is a book I turn to again and again when I've forgotten the secret of good prose. As a teenager my favorite writers were Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut. I still love them both, and would list among my other favorites John Crowley, Alice Munro, Don DeLillo, Richard Russo, Margaret Drabble, Anne Tyler, Lee Smith, Lewis Nordan, John Kennedy Toole, and Augusten Burroughs.

Q) You grew up attending a Quaker church; are you still a Quaker? In what ways has your religious background shaped your writing?

A) I am still a Quaker and would never belong to any other sect or denomination; for me it's them or no one. One of the ways I've been shaped by that heritage is a profound distrust for any authority other than the Truth. This caused me to be a wretched student in elementary and high school, and obviously I'd be an abysmal soldier. But it taught me to sit still and listen for a trustworthy voice in my own head and heart, and that has served me well as a writer.

Q) What are your writing habits like? Do you like to keep to a schedule, or do you write only when inspiration strikes?

A) I work diligently — sometimes fourteen hours a day — when a project is fully under way. During those times when I'm not working on a book, I don't make myself sit down at the computer. I prefer to spend that time reading or cooking or hiking with the dogs. I find that I have to spend a certain amount of time putting stuff in the old creative cauldron before any good writing can come out.

Q) The world knows a lot about you as a child, but less about you as an adult. What do you like to do for fun? What are your personal interests and hobbies?

A) I have five dogs, so I'd have to count vacuuming as one of my hobbies. I love to go with my family to the ballpark and watch the Durham Bulls play baseball; I love the North Carolina beaches. (Those are both summer activities, I realize, so I think in the winter all I do is read and write. That's what it sounds like, anyway. Oh, and vacuum.) I travel back to Indiana a few times a year to spend time with friends and family there, and that always makes me happy.

Q) What would you most like readers to take away from Orville: A Dog Story when they encounter the book?

A) I think I'd like readers to take away from the book what Orville realizes in the end: there are so many ways to slip free of a chain. While what bound him was tangible and terrible, it was no less an impediment than the loneliness of the woman across the road, or the grief in the heart of Maybelle. Love freed them all, to a certain extent, and I hope that might be true for all of us.


Booksellers' Praise for Orville: A Dog Story

"You'll love Haven Kimmel's Orville, a sweet, lonesome dog who smells the truth in people and dreams the wildest, most vivid dreams of dog stars and freedom. He barks his way out of fixes, falls in love, and wins the Grand Prize at the County Fair.

"Haven's whimsical but grounded prose teases and leads the reader, while Robert Andrew Parker's delicious illustrations keep up with Orville's unique travels. Colorful country backgrounds, lots of cool trucks and tractors (what else would you expect from a girl raised in the Midwest?), and some very endearing close-ups of the county's ugliest dog keep the reader smiling.

"We will meet lots of Orvilles this fall. Barking and dreaming his way home, this Orville will curl up close to your heart. You won't look at a sleeping dog again without wondering just where his dreams are taking him. For all the good dogs."
John Valentine, The Regulator Bookstore, Durham, NC

"I have to admit that I am still unable to read Orville, no matter how many times, without shedding a tear or two. It is obvious that Haven Kimmel is a dog lover, as well as a talented writer. The combination of her love and knowledge of dogs with her poetic use of language creates a dramatic and emotional story. I particularly liked the repetition of the form by which Orville makes his decisions about the people he meets. It is a philosophical book with quite sophisticated underlying themes of love, trust, and dreams, so it may be a book particularly for older children and adults. Robert Andrew Parker's quirky style of illustration serves the emotional depth of the story well. I like it more every time I read it."
Anne Irish, Executive Director, Association of Booksellers for Children

"Haven Kimmel understands both dogs and people. Orville may well be the world's ugliest dog, but he knows a lot about love, listening, and breaking free of chains. Give this book to someone you love, especially if they don't know it!"
Carol Moyer & Rosemary Pugliese, Quail Ridge Bookstore, Raleigh, NC

"Thanks for letting me read Orville. I am in love with this book, and am so glad you are publishing it. The writing is gorgeous and the illustrations a perfect match to the story. I would recommend it primarily to older children and to every adult that would come to my store. The story is rather intense and too profound for a child under 10. The themes are universal. This is not just a dog story. One can see analogies with the human desire to be loved, to belong, and to not give up when the situation seems hopeless. One needs a 'dogged determination' to achieve a better life. What a beautiful love story and a great lesson in living. This book would fall into the 'not just for children' category . . . like recent picture books like Macaulay's Angelo and Napoli's Albert. I wish you much success with this book! It is a gem."
Tina Moore, The Blue Marble Bookstore, Ft. Thomas, KY



Home | FAQ | Contact Us |Site Map
Privacy Policy | Trademark Information | Terms and Conditions of Use
Copyright © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.