cover image Prudence Wants a Pet

Prudence Wants a Pet

Cathleen Daly, illus. by Stephen Michael King. Roaring Brook/Porter, $16.99 (32p

Waifish Prudence, whose parents refuse to get her a pet, compensates by adopting inanimate objects%E2%80%94and, in one especially ill-advised scenario, her baby brother. She first selects a tree limb ("Its name is Branch"), which her father consigns to the woodpile after it trips him eight times. She moves on to a brown men's dress shoe named from its label, Formal Footwear, which she twirls and balances to create the illusion of tricks. In her first picture book, Daly (Flirt Club) chronicles Prudence's misplaced affections%E2%80%94for things like a twig, a tire named Mr. Round, and disappointing "sea buddies" ordered from an ad%E2%80%94in resigned shrugs of sentences, rife with understated humor. (Of the sea buddies: "Dry animals in a package? They come to life in water? Prudence is so excited she can hardly stir.") King (Leaf) pictures Prudence's passive-aggressive charade in loose pen-and-ink sequences reminiscent of Quentin Blake's sketch art. Prudence does not complain outright, yet her doe-eyed, pathetic performance finally moves her parents to supply a kitten. This sly story suggests nonwhiny%E2%80%94if sometimes mischievous%E2%80%94ways to bend the most stubborn wills. Ages 4%E2%80%937. (June)