cover image The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have

The Dog That Nino Didn’t Have

Edward van de Vendel, trans. from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson, illus. by Anton Van Hertbruggen. Eerdmans, $17 (34p) ISBN 978-0-8028-5451-3

In a woodland landscape of shaggy trees, paneled station wagons, and A-frame cabins, a boy named Nino pines for his absent father, a pilot, and invents a pet dog for companionship and comfort: “The dog that Nino didn’t have liked tears. It loved the taste of salty water.” Newcomer Van Hertbruggen envisions the dog as both scruffy and see-through, and the ochers, rusty reds, and avocado greens of his expansive lakeside scenes evoke a 1970s childhood of unsupervised exploration and play; tokens of distant lands—masks, feathers, postcards—dot the pages, perhaps procured by Nino’s father. Then the boy gets a real dog: “The dog that Nino has now is soft. And sweet.... And everyone can see it.” Yet Nino, missing the presence of invented animals, goes on to conjure up a “zebra that he’s never seen,” an “imaginary giraffe,” a “not-hippopotamus,” and more: “Nino doesn’t have any of them! Not a single one!” Through playful negatives and sumptuous illustrations van de Vendel and Van Hertbruggen suggest that imagination can fill the void where melancholy and longing live, coexisting with realities beyond one’s control. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)