cover image What’s the Matter, Marlo?

What’s the Matter, Marlo?

Andrew Arnold. Roaring Brook, $18.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-250-22323-4

Marlo and the narrator of this book are best friends who love dogs and dog jokes. “We read together. We laugh together. We play games together,” writes Arnold (the Adventures in Cartooning series), making his picture book debut. When Marlo falls into a funk that he won’t explain (“I don’t want to play. Go away”), an emotional void opens up—Arnold draws a scraggly black line above Marlo’s head that grows larger as the pages turn, eventually becoming so dense that the narrator seems set adrift in outer space. But however scary it is to have a close friend suddenly feel so far away, this pal won’t give up. “Marloooooo,” the child cries out, and the o’s in his name become a chain that cuts through the darkness and reaches Marlo, who is sobbing by a tree. Readers now see what the narrator discovers but doesn’t voice: Marlo is standing by the grave of Hooper, the lively dog that romped with the pair in the book’s opening pages. The directness of Arnold’s storytelling makes his characterizations feel all the more honest; what starts out as a modest book soon becomes profound and reassuring. Ages 3–6. [em](Jan.) [/em]