cover image Buddy and Earl

Buddy and Earl

Maureen Fergus, illus. by Carey Sookocheff. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $16.95 (32p

Fergus (And What If I Wont?) and debut artist Sookocheff kick off a picture book series with an understated winner of a friendship story. A "strange-looking thing" in a "mysterious box" has been dropped off in the living room. While the creature is forthcoming about his name, Earl, he keeps a dog named Buddy guessing about what he actually is, telling Buddy that he is everything from a race car to a giraffe. Buddy is unconvinced: "I am pretty sure that giraffes have long, graceful necks, Earl. As far as I can tell, you have no neck at all." Most readers will recognize that Earl is a hedgehog, but it's clear that the animal's imagination and sense of adventure are what really matter as he talks Buddy into a pretend game of pirates, which involves forbidden activities like climbing on the furniture. The clean lines and soft palette of Sookcheff's digitally assembled watercolors feel simultaneously of-the-moment and timeless, and the same can be said for the rewarding and gently funny relationship that develops between these two animals. Ages 4%E2%80%937. (Aug.)