cover image The Gift of Nothing

The Gift of Nothing

Patrick McDonnell, . . Little, Brown, $14.99 (56pp) ISBN 978-0-316-11488-2

The stars of the Mutts comic strip, Mooch the cat and his canine friend, Earl, break out of the Sunday funnies into the picture book world. McDonnell applies his spare style, sketching his cheeky characters with only a few deliberate lines. Each has a distinctive feature—Mooch's red ellipse-shaped nose, Earl's Princess Leia ears—that makes them instantly endearing. With plain backgrounds, a limited palette and a small square trim size, the book looks like a blown-up cartoon strip (even the pages have a newspaper-like grittiness). But the story has more depth than the minimalist visuals would suggest. Here, Mooch searches for the perfect gift for Earl. "What do you get someone who has everything?" he wonders. (Earl is the proud owner of a bowl, bed and chewy toy.) Mooch mulls it over (red and black dots and bubbles indicate his deep thinking) and comes up with "Nothing ! He would give Earl the gift of nothing." But where to find nothing? Mooch tries shopping (because "Millie came home from the store and said, 'There was nothing to buy!' "). But alas, "nothing was not for sale." How he solves the problem is pure delight, reminding young readers that the greatest gift is friendship, not things. Both Mutts fans and newcomers will appreciate McDonnell's clever wordplay and lovable characters, who prove that nothing can be everything. All ages. (Oct.)