cover image SPARKY


, . . Candlewick, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7636-2208-4

"This is Sparky," writes McDonald (Giddy-up! Let's Ride! ), introducing her puppy hero. "He has just arrived at his new home. Everything looks and feels strange." But not for long: Sparky soon meets Mary, the girl who shares his home. "He thinks Mary is probably another kind of puppy. It's love at first sight." McDonald shows the pup wagging his tale emphatically. The rest of the day is spent joyously getting acquainted, and it truly does seem like Mary and Sparky have a lot in common—they like to dance, dig, slide and eat snacks. But while the text tells a familiar story of a blossoming relationship between pet and owner, McDonald takes greater risks with her illustrations. Mary, with her snub nose and almost blank eyes, has a naïf quality that teeters on woodenness. Black-and-tan Sparky, on the other hand, appears with a thick black outline to convey a strong sense of volume and presence. He pops off every spread and seems to be in constant, eager motion, just as a real puppy would (his ears crook this way and that, and take on a life of their own). Yet, somehow, their portrayal works. The bond between Sparky and Mary shines through, and when McDonald declares on behalf of the duo, snuggling at bedtime, "This was the best day ever!" readers will wholeheartedly believe it. Ages 2-4. (Feb.)