cover image Fleabag


Helen Stephens, Henry Holt, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8975-2

A familiar premise—lonely boy meets homeless dog—sets the scene for a heartwarming story, which Stephens (the Magic Movers series) adeptly delivers. Written in the third person from the pooch's perspective, the narrative easily captures his wistfulness and affability. In the park ("the big green place"), he notices that the other dogs "all had people to take for walks. He wished he had a person, too." Shunned as a "fleabag" by dog walkers, the canine perks up when he sees a boy who has no one to play with ("That didn't seem right"). The mutt dashes to catch Bob's thrown ball, garnering his first-ever tickle, and a friendship is forged. The dog earns a permanent place in the family after his barking alerts Bob's "big people" that their son, sad because they are moving, is attempting to run away. Combining wispy outdoor panoramas and smaller, scribbly spots set against white space, Stephens's art crystallizes the rapport between Bob and Fleabag, who is officially so named after being de-flead ("which was good") and scrubbed clean ("which wasn't so good"). Ages 4–8. (Aug.)