cover image Spencer’s New Pet

Spencer’s New Pet

Jessie Sima. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-5344-1877-6

With many nods to silent film—including a black-and-white palette, elegant title cards dividing the story into three parts, highly dramatic close-ups, and iris shots—Sima (Love, Z) tells the nearly wordless story of a bespectacled boy and the dog he loves very much. Only the dog is no ordinary pooch: it’s a seemingly magical, bright red balloon critter (one of few uses of color in the book) ostensibly created by a clown who doubles as a balloon animal artist. Like a real dog, the balloon cuddles, does tricks, romps (or at least floats) through the park, and stops at fire hydrants. But the dog also has an uncanny sense for getting too close to anything that could spell doom for a balloon, whether it’s a hedgehog’s spines, an eagle’s talons, or a piñata stick. Finally, a classic party game hastens the inevitable, and that’s when Sima offers a spectacular visual surprise. The event may initially alarm—there’s a whiff of Twilight Zone eeriness in the big revelation—but Sima swiftly assures readers that all is well. As long as there’s a powerful balloon artist nearby, that is. Ages 4–8. Agent: Thao Le, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. [em](Aug.) [/em]