Ollo and Pal are family dogs, hanging out in the backyard one rainy afternoon, when Ollo suggests a game of fetch. Pal doesn’t like fetch — he’s not very good at it, just as he’s not able to jump up on the bed, walk on leash without tripping over his paws, or demonstrating bravery. He even crashes into Ollo as they slide and skid down the muddy hill — and their red ball vaults straight into the angry mouth of the largest oak in the yard.
Both dogs are terrified, but Ollo cowers and hides behind his bushy tail. This is when Pal realizes that, if they want their ball back, he’s going to have to face his fear and fetch it himself.
So in a great burst of courage, Pal leaps right into the mouth of the oak, grabs the ball, and jumps out as quickly as possible. As he speeds away from the furious tree, Pal realizes he just succeeded at a task he thought he always failed — he pulled off the perfect fetch!
Ollo is thrilled by his friend’s action, praising his courage and wishing he could be brave too. Pal is happily surprised, realizing that he not only succeeded at something that scared him, but he and Ollo are more alike than different. As he tells Ollo, “Bravery fits me, I guess,” and his friend enthusiastically agrees.
Gipson’s story is perfectly illustrated by Mark Nino Balita, whose colorful drawings vividly portray the emotions of both dogs throughout the book. Readers can sense the frustration and insecurity Pal feels about being different, and Ollo’s manic personality — he’s part chihuahua — vibrates off the page. Pal’s pride at rescuing the ball is palpable, as is Ollo’s admiration for his courage.
Ollo and Pal are real-life friends and the buddies of author Jaimie Gipson’s son Riley. Pal, which is how Riley pronounces Patch, is deaf and was adopted as a companion animal for Riley when he started speech therapy. They bonded through sign language. Ollo, which is Riley’s version of Oliver, taught Pal how to be a family dog and companion, and the three are inseparable.
Oliver and Patch have a page on the author’s website, https://www.jlgipson.com/ollo-and-pal, as well as their own Instagram @ olloandpal.