cover image The Barking Ballad: A Bark-Along, Meow-Along Book

The Barking Ballad: A Bark-Along, Meow-Along Book

Julie Paschkis. Atheneum, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-5344-9260-8

Paschkis (Delicious!) opens this interactive, interspecies friendship story with instructions: when readers see one of many red circles in the text, they’re invited to “yip, arrf, grrr, bow-wow” or otherwise sound off like a dog; a yellow diamond, likewise, cues readers to make like a cat. Enter an abandoned orange-and-white feline, “so swift and small,” who cowers in a bush; her anxious face is surrounded by six big rosettes, one of the many folk art–style graphic flourishes that embellish the playful, flat-perspective watercolors. When a rambunctious dog is injured near her hiding place, the cat ministers to him “with tender tongue and gentle love.” A friendship blossoms—“If you looked out for one of them,/ The pair is what you saw”—and readers are prompted by a page dotted with red circles to offer celebratory barks alongside the duo’s many doggie pals. The afterword notes that the text is inspired by a snippet of poetry from 18th-century writer Oliver Goldsmith. Though the resultant heightened language and phrasing (“She hid amidst the bushes low”) may take younger readers some getting used to, the opportunity to bark and meow ’til the cows come home is ample compensation. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)