cover image Dear Beast (Dear Beast #1)

Dear Beast (Dear Beast #1)

Dori Hillestad Butler, illus. by Kevan Atteberry. Holiday House, $15.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4492-2

Andy had one pet at his mother’s house—a cat named Simon—and now there’s a dog at his father’s house, too. Polished, tightly drawn panel artwork by Atteberry (Ghost Cat) shows a mustachioed snail carrying a letter from haughty Simon to the new pet, Baxter. “This letter is to inform you that your services are not needed.... I prefer to care for him on my own.” The dog’s laconic reply is written in red crayon on a scrap of paper: “No can do.” As the correspondence continues, Simon’s letters grow chillier, while Baxter’s replies grow all the more sweet: “LET’S BE FRIENDS!!!!!!!!” Soon, there’s a crisis: Baxter runs away, Andy’s bereft, and Simon’s letters with a third pet and other local creatures help track Baxter down. Butler (the King & Kayla series) paces her epistolary story smartly and sweeps it free of distractions, making the contrast between Simon’s controlling elitism and Baxter’s dopey but eager heart easy to see. Though both love Andy, Baxter’s more interested in making him happy than in hovering over him (“There’s more to life than book reeports, you noe” Baxter tells Simon). It’s a message of acceptance that readers of this generous, easy-to-read story will warm to. Ages 6–9. [em](May) [/em]