cover image Just Like Millie

Just Like Millie

Lauren Castillo. Candlewick, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5362-2481-8

After a child and mother unpack boxes in their new apartment, Castillo (This Is a Story) draws the pale-skinned youth, who has a mop of tousled hair, playing with blocks and declining a suggestion to meet kids their age at the local park—“I didn’t mind being alone. It felt safe.” The offer of a playdate produces a hot face and wet eyes; “NO,” the child says, clinging to their mother. Story time at the bookstore? “I shrank to the ground and cried till my face was bright red.” Then the mother—who, notably, never oversteps her child’s clear boundaries—concocts a surprise outing to an animal shelter, where they meet a “not too big, not too small dog./ A just right dog.” Millie needs three walks a day, and “on every walk we met at/ least one new person./ It was less scary each time./ I felt safe with Millie.” The experience of Millie’s friend-making success, and the pleasure that the dog takes in companionship, transforms the narrator: “Mom,” the child whispers, about a parent-child duo they see at the dog park, “should we go say hello?” Castillo’s tale persuades without sounding prescriptive, and her signature artwork highlights both a close, transformative bond, and the way that new connections made voluntarily can ease upheaval. Secondary characters are portrayed with various skin tones. Ages 3–7. Agent: Paul Rodeen, Rodeen Literary. (Apr.)