cover image Fabian Escapes

Fabian Escapes

Peter McCarty, . . Holt, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7713-1

Readers smitten with the soothing Caldecott Honor book Hondo and Fabian , about a sedate yellow Lab and a gray-striped housecat, may get a frisson of alarm from this book's title. Not to worry—McCarty maintains an even keel in this wry look at pets' everyday lives. Just as Hondo returns from an escorted walk, Fabian the tabby jumps out a ground-floor window. Fabian investigates springtime shrubberies ("He stops to smell the flowers/ and eats them"), while Hondo woozily cruises the kitchen table ("He stops to smell the butter/ and eats it"). The pets' similarities continue. In a breathless moment, Fabian faces three dogs on the lawn (which comically plays against the deadpan text, "The neighbors are happy/ to play chase with their new friend," followed by the pooch as victim inside—"The baby is happy/ to play dress-up with Hondo"). McCarty gives readers a suspenseful glimpse of the canine interlopers over Fabian's shoulder and a bird's-eye view of the chase. Fabian eludes them with a soaring lunge over a weathered wooden fence: "Fabian spends the rest of the day/ hiding under the porch./ Hondo spends the rest of the day/ napping on the bed." McCarty's parallel sentences and soft-focus pencil illustrations hint that Hondo and Fabian are too well-fed to stray. His characteristic pattern, one framed image and one sentence per spread, slows the pace. Yet the artist lends an enigmatic feline quality to Fabian's alert ears and confidently stiff tail, and a glimmer of mischief around Hondo's beady eyes and plush golden contours. McCarty shakes things up ever so slightly, then lets Fabian duck back in the door. "Where have you been, Fabian?" an unseen speaker casually asks, restoring tranquility with a rhetorical question. Ages 3-up. (May)