by Taylor Solomon
Even if you don’t know Stan Mullins by name, you know his work. If you live in Athens, GA, you see it on a regular basis. More than likely you have driven or walked past “The Character of a Champion.” You know, the majestic bronze sculpture depicting Coach Vince Dooley during the 1980 University of Georgia National Championship win. Mullins is the artist behind that work and many others seen around the Classic City.
Several years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Mullin’ home and studio, a renovated 18th century cottonseed oil refinery nestled in Pulaski Heights. I was there to see author Mark Z. Danielewski read from his newest book in an event hosted by Avid Bookshop. If you are at all familiar with Danielewski’s work, you know he is one of the most captivating and engaging contemporary authors, often grouped with the likes of Chuck Palahniuk and David Mitchell. But there was something else that captivated me that night: Mullins’ relationship with his dogs. His beautiful canine companions roamed the event, excited to play hosts for the evening. Watching Mullins, you saw a natural born pet owner and animal lover. He was just as charming with his pets as he was his human guests that evening.
When I heard Mullins had written and illustrated a book about a dog, I knew I had to read it. Codalino: A Shepherd Dog’s Little Tail is Mullin’s own interpretation of the Biblical Christmas story told from the perspective of Codalino, a puppy born in a manger who becomes the companion of a child born in the same manager just days later. Mullins’ words and art work together to create mesmerizing new look at a story familiar to many. Mullins has illustrated several picture books, but Codalino was his first time taking on the whole project himself. Though known more for his work in the visual arts, Mullins has a way with words that leaves the reader feeling enlightened and yearning for more. The way he writes about animals and their human companions depicts what I saw the night I visited his home, someone who truly has a heart for those animals who walk among us.
Throughout the story, Codalino’s tail wags as a sign of enjoyment and appreciation towards those around him. Reading this book, taking in Mullins’ writing paired with his incredible art work, your own tail is sure to do some wagging.