The Rough Patch

The Rough Patch
Age Range
Release Date
August 14, 2018
Buy This Book
A Caldecott Honor Book

An ALA Notable Book

A breathtakingly beautiful and luminescent book that is pitch-perfect for anyone of any age who has experienced any type of loss or disappointment, from New York Times–bestselling picture book creator Brian Lies.

New York Times–bestselling author-illustrator Brian Lies has created a beautiful, accessible, and deeply personal story about friendship, loss, and renewal. The Rough Patch was awarded a Caldecott Honor and features stunning paintings from the award-winning creator of Bats at the Beach.

Evan and his dog do everything together, from eating ice cream to caring for their prize-winning garden, which grows big and beautiful. One day the unthinkable happens: Evan’s dog dies. Heartbroken, Evan destroys the garden and everything in it. The ground becomes overgrown with prickly weeds and thorns, and Evan embraces the chaos.

But beauty grows in the darkest of places, and when a twisting vine turns into an immense pumpkin, Evan is drawn out of his isolation and back to the county fair, where friendships—old and new—await.

A deeply hopeful and positive book, The Rough Patch was awarded a Caldecott Honor and is a story about love, loss, and hope, and the healing power of friendship and nature. “Weepy and wonderful.”—Wall Street Journal

Editor review

1 review
A brilliant book on grief
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
In THE ROUGH PATCH, Evan's best friend is his dog, and they do everything together. Author and illustrator Brian Lies details their fun and friendship with bright and cheerful scenes throughout the first part of the book. The joy Evan and his dog share in each other is evident as they have ice cream, ride in Evan's truck, and work in Evan's "magnificent garden."

The cheerfulness of the story comes to an abrupt halt as Evan's dog dies in his sleep, and a stark picture of Evan crouched over the dog bed beautifully and heartbreakingly depicts the sadness and grief he's feeling.

The tone of the story shifts to one of melancholy and anger as Evan shuts himself away from the world, and hacks his garden to the ground as he attempts to deal with the emptiness in his life without his friend. "But a good place won't stay empty for long," so things begin to grow again in Evan's garden. As plants return, Evan allows them to stay if they suit his spiky, prickly, and foul moods. And soon, a pumpkin vine snakes its way among the weeds, and Evan begins to tend to it. As the pumpkin grows, Evan begins to find a bit of happiness and excitement again, and he decides to venture to the fair with his pumpkin in tow.

While at the fair, Evan is still sad and mourning the loss of his dog, but he enjoys the food and the company of others, and readers will be happy to see Evan out and about again. When the pumpkin wins a prize at the fair, Evan is offered $10 or a puppy, and he initially wants the money, but one peek at the dogs is enough, and the final picture shows Evan and his new friend driving away from the fair together.

THE ROUGH PATCH is a wonderful picture book for young readers or preschool-age kids who are dealing with grief. The illustrations are engaging and brilliantly set the appropriate mood for each page, and anyone who has experienced the death of a loved one will identify with Evan's despair. The tendril of hope that come after a loss is also well established, and Evan's story will linger and help heal those who need it. It's definitely a must-have for a children's library collection.

My thanks to YA Books Central and the publisher for a copy of the book in exchange for my honest review.
Good Points
Illustrations that perfectly set many moods of the book
A depiction of friendship, grief, and hope that will resonate
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