cover image The Perfect Friend

The Perfect Friend

Yelena Romanova, , illus. by Boris Kulikov. . FSG/Foster, $15 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35821-1

Romanova's entertaining debut story couches the time-tested theme of a new sibling in a tale of a dog in need of a friend. Kulikov (Morris the Artist ) depicts Archie as a russet hound who walks upright on his hind legs, sporting a fetching turn-of-the-century overcoat and a Jack Benny soulful stare as he ruefully recalls the boring goldfish, turtle and rabbit his family gave him as a surprise in the past. A wry painting of "a very hungry rabbit who had no time to be Archie's friend" depicts the pooch as a bow-tied waiter serving it a head of cabbage. Both stylish and playful, the illustrations lend humor and sophistication to the economically told story. Kulikov skillfully plants clues to the family's newest surprise: the furry hero dips his paws in a too-small tub and holds up a tiny jacket ("nothing fit"). When the surprise is revealed, "a wriggling, snuffling bundle in a cradle," his life changes dramatically. The family neglects Archie, so he starts misbehaving, as chronicled in paintings that feature Archie peeing in a shoe and literally shrinking as he feels "smaller and smaller" in the presence of the moonfaced baby. But guess who grows up to be the perfect friend? Romanova's original take on a familiar situation will resonate with children who must adjust to new siblings, and Kulikov's witty illustrations are sure to intrigue children and adults alike. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)