cover image Mutt Dog!

Mutt Dog!

Stephen Michael King, . . Harcourt, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-205561-5

Homeless but not helpless, a two-toned, scruffy dog lives his life on the streets of a big city. Nameless for most of the book, this self-reliant canine "had to be brave, and fast, and smart... just to survive." Vignettes show the cute brown-and-white pooch scrounging through garbage cans, barking to scare off dive-bombing birds and making a getaway with a loaf of French bread. Australian author King (The Man Who Loved Boxes ) also does not shy away from illustrating people without roofs over their heads (e.g., a spread portrays the wandering mutt encountering a child and her grandfather bundled beneath a shadowy stairwell, others sleep on park benches or in cardboard boxes). Braving a blustery night, the dog follows an elderly bag lady into a shelter, where he meets a kind worker who will later give him a home. King's ink-and-watercolor illustrations maintain a lighter tone with their cartoonish look, even as they depict a hardscrabble side of life. Once adopted, Mutt Dog, as he's later called, basks and thrives in his new surroundings. This gentle yet realistic introduction to the topic of homelessness—via an endearing, shaggy dog—will get readers of all ages thinking. And while the subject may be disconcerting, the message is reassuring: that there is a place for everyone. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)