cover image Lester's Dog

Lester's Dog

Karen Hesse. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-517-58357-9

This atmospheric picture book memorably evokes the long summer evenings of a bygone era, then broadens in scope to convey a boy's sudden courage and the warmth of friendship. The young narrator peppers his story with the inflections and observations of youth (``We walk down the hill on our toes to keep from going too fast'') in this vivid, vibrant text, full of unexpected word choices (``Mama scoots me out of the house,'' ``My legs feel like they're dragging bricks''). Soft pictures are dreamily nostalgic yet their vision is acutely realistic. Thus they capture fear, a ferocious dog, movement in the still heat and shadows beyond the reaches of the sun, all the while complementing the good-hearted tone of the text. The story line is spare--the boy and Corey, his hearing-impaired friend, must pass by a vicious dog on a quest to rescue a trapped kitten. The narrator overcomes his horror of the dog and brightens a widower's day with his gift of the kitten. This unassuming tale shimmers with wisdom and persuasive intelligence. Ages 4-7. (Oct.)