That Ike LaRue has such a vivid imagination. In Ike's private world, a mild time out is a hundred-year jail sentence; the neighbor's pet cats are really notorious, cop-evading canary burglars, and...did we mention that Ike's a pooch? Dog or not, he's a roguish character far too delicious to limit to one bestseller: The star of Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School, the multiple award-winner by popular children's book author/illustrator Mark Teague, is a keeper. A wire-haired terrier who leads one of the most entertaining double lives since James Thurber's milquetoast Walter Mitty, Ike is back in his second Teague tome, Detective LaRue: Letters from the Investigation.
What makes Ike so endearing? "He's a rascal," Teague says. "That's always appealing to children. Children and dogs have a lot in common. They both occupy their own worlds within the adult world, and they seem to manage very well. And though they're subject to our authority, they often seem to be running the show." Ike -- a clever amalgam of dogs Teague's known in his lifetime (for the record, none of them were terriers) -- is both humorously deceptive and openly naive.
There's no doubt that the fictional canine's charm springs directly from a rare sort of imagination. The author, who admits there's a certain Peter Pan facet to his disposition, has that uncommon ability to tap into the secret lives of children. He says that quality comes naturally as an outgrowth of his own childhood memories, combined with observations made as an adult living with two young daughters and various pets. But it's his illustrations, brimming with personality and endlessly amusing details, that put his tales on top of the kid-lit heap, and in the case of the Ike LaRue series, those pictures are the key to understanding the story. Teague paints reality in living color and Ike's fantasy versions of the action in black and white, then it's all tied together with a string of letters that advance the plot.
Will Ike return for a third adventure? The author says it could be in the works, but in the meantime, Teague will give a drawing demonstration and read from Detective LaRue today at 10:30 a.m. at the Tattered Cover Book Store, 2955 East First Avenue. For details, call 303-322-7727. -- Susan Froyd
Boulder Open Studios paints the number ten
Rather than throw a party with champagne, Boulder Open Studios members wanted to celebrate their ten-year anniversary -- and to promote their upcoming annual studio tour -- with something more splashy than bubbly. The Open Studios folks set out to craft a giant paint-by-numbers project based on an original Boulder scene by artist George Good; their canvas was 1,000 square feet of vinyl divided into 25 sections, each completed by a different community group or business. Forty different colors make up the palette, ranging from white (number one) to rust red (number forty). "We had everyone from five-year-olds to 95-year-olds work on it," says Gary Zeff, Boulder Open Studios executive director. "Some were neater than others."
Even though a little touch-up was required on some of the handiwork, artisans should feel proud of participating. However, there was a limit to the exercise: Nobody but the organizers knows what the finished image looks like. The mystery masterpiece (hint: It's neither President Bush nor a CU Buff) will be unveiled at 11 a.m. today on the north face of the Colorado Building at 14th and Walnut streets in Boulder. The work is scheduled to hang for thirty days, through the annual tour of some 130 artists' studios on the weekends of October 2-3 and 9-10. Whether the group effort proves more intoxicating than the tour remains to be seen. Still, Zeff says, some participants have already volunteered to do another mural next year.
"We'll wait to see what the community's reaction is," he says. For more information, visit www.openstudios.org. -- Richard Kellerhals
The Sex Factor
Although sexologist Dr. Alfred Kinsey has been dead since 1956, he's making quite a comeback in 2004. Kinsey, a biopic starring Liam Neeson, is due to hit theaters in November. Until then, readers can get a Kinsey fix courtesy of T.C. Boyle, the prolific author of The Road to Wellville. His latest book, The Inner Circle, presents a fictionalized account of Kinsey and his researchers, who discovered that Americans circa the 1940s and '50s weren't nearly as repressed as they seemed. The man at the center of Circle is narrator John Milk, a shy, carnally inexperienced college student who's instructed in the ways of the flesh by Kinsey himself along with Clara, the good doctor's accommodating wife. Before long, Milk and Kinsey are crisscrossing the country in search of prostitutes, hustlers and just plain folks (children included) who offer them blow-by-blow descriptions of their most intimate activities. This material brings out the naughty schoolboy in Boyle. His panting prose reveals little about what drove Kinsey -- beyond the obvious, that is.
T.C. Boyle signs copies of The Inner Circle at 7:30 p.m. at the Tattered Cover LoDo, 1628 16th Street; admission is free. Call 303-436-1070 for details. -- Michael Roberts