cover image Lost


Paul Brett Johnson. Orchard Books (NY), $15.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-531-09501-0

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Lost Cat (reviewed above), this picture book, based on first-time author Lewis's experiences, unflinchingly examines the terrors and traumas that ensue when a pet is lost. While camping in the Arizona desert, a girl and her father realize their beagle, Flag, has vanished. For a month afterward, the girl follows a familiar course: putting up reward posters, enduring the frustration of false leads, experiencing the elation and despair of a mistaken find. She rejects gentle pleas from adults to accept the tragedy. Interspersed with this account is the wordless story of the dog's survival: while sepia-toned art on right-hand pages focuses on the narrator in her sadness, full-color pictures on the left show the ever more emaciated Flag howling piteously at night, searching for water, scared by wild animals. At times the two stories intersect (as when cactus needles pierce Flag's body while the girl gazes at a cactus plant on the school window sill); sometimes they narrowly miss each other. The juxtaposition creates almost unbearable tension-indeed, while some children will be on the edge of their seats with the suspense, many may find the book simply harrowing. Against the odds, girl and dog are reunited in a cathartic ending that, like the rest of this dramatic story, rings true in its fullness of feeling. Ages 4-7. (Mar.)