cover image My Old Pal, Oscar

My Old Pal, Oscar

Amy Hest, illus. by Amy Bates. Abrams, $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1901-1

Hest and Bates return to the themes of their 2008 collaboration, The Dog Who Belonged to No One, in a tearjerker of a story about a heartsick boy who meets a stray dog on the beach. The day is as stormy as their unnamed narrator, who stomps across the sand while a perky black-and-white dog trails him. “Hello, you. Who are you? No tags? No name?” asks the boy before brushing the dog off. Readers gradually learn that the sandy-haired child is still mourning the death of his dog, Oscar. This is a story about mutual need, a need the boy takes a while to admit or recognize, but by the time a thunderstorm chases the two indoors, it’s clear the boy is ready to let this stray into his life. Bates, working in watercolor and pencil, creates wonderfully moody beachscapes dominated by gray stretches of sea and sky. While some readers may wonder whether the boy is going to attempt to find the dog’s actual owner, Hest subtly captures the boy’s sadness, resilience, and tenderness through his gruff, choppy narration. Ages 5–7. Illustrator’s agent: Justin Rucker, Shannon Associates. (May)