cover image The Stray Dog

The Stray Dog

Marc Simont. HarperCollins Publishers, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-028933-1

In this slender but engaging volume, Caldecott Medalist Simont (A Tree Is Nice) retells and illustrates a true story told to him by a friend. Picnicking in the country, a family spies a friendly dog. The brother and sister play with him and even name him, but their parents will not let them take Willy back to their city home. ""He must belong to somebody,"" their mother explains, ""and they would miss him."" Returning to the same spot the following weekend, they once again see Willy, this time being chased by a dog warden who deems him a stray: ""He has no collar. He has no leash."" In the tale's most endearing scene, the boy removes his belt and the girl her hair ribbon, which they identify to the warden as Willy's collar and leash: ""His name is Willy, and he belongs to us."" Simont's art and narrative play off each other strategically, together imparting the tale's humor and tenderness. The final scenes are simple gems of understatement and wit. ""They took Willy home"" accompanies a full-bleed picture of the children energetically and messily bathing the dog; ""And after that... they introduced him to the neighborhood, where he met some very interesting dogs"" captions a busy scene of a park full of pooches. A charmer. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)