cover image Puppy Love: The Story of Esme and Sam

Puppy Love: The Story of Esme and Sam

Gillian Shields, , illus. by Elizabeth Harbour. . S&S, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-4169-8010-0

A pampered poodle runs away from her high society owner and meets up with a scrappy stray mutt who knows the city like the back of his paw and becomes the love of her life. While Disney doesn't have a lock on that idea, Shields and Harbour, who previously collaborated on The Starlight Baby , must have known Lady and the Tramp would serve as a benchmark—and sadly, this book doesn't offer much competition. The story is long on biography and romance and short on adventure—as Shields puts it during Esme and Sam's moonlit stroll through the park, “They walked and they talked, and a sweet night bird sang./ They talked and they walked, as the old church bell rang.” While Harbour's visual refinement and vintage sensibility fits the world of penthouse poodle Esme, she seems at a loss for conveying the streetwise brio and outsider existence of Sam. The Manhattan scenery provides ample inspiration for Harbour's skills and versatility as a colorist, but the renderings have a generic feel and do little to convey a night of life-changing adventure. Ages 4–8. (July)