cover image My Pet Book

My Pet Book

Bob Staake. Random, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-385-37312-8

Staake, whose wordless Bluebird depicted a lonesome outsider, introduces a happier child, albeit one allergic to cats. “I want a pet that’s easy!” the boy declares, so his pleased parents steer him to a bookshop, where he chooses “a frisky red hardcover.” Staake’s bouncy hero resembles a Photoshop version of Crockett Johnson’s Harold as he casually walks his obedient book across a chaotic city bridge, oblivious to the mischief of real dogs and cats. In the only spread to picture him reading, he imagines battling a fairy-tale dragon and a purple octopus, reveling in “tales/ Of awesomeness and glory.” All is well until his book goes missing, and the family maid fears she has given it “to charity” while cleaning house. There are some missteps (like that anachronistic, uniformed maid), and a few stanzas include words and phrases that feel like filler (“Most pets, you know, are cats and dogs/ Go out and take a look./ But there’s a boy in Smartytown/ Whose pet is... a little book”). The appeal of a good book gets lost in the fray, despite much entertaining stage business in Staake’s images. Ages 3–7. (July)