Book: Enzo Races in the Rain!
Author: Garth Stein
Illustrator: R. W. Alley
Age Range: 4-8
Enzo Races in the Rain! is a new picture book written by Garth Stein and illustrated by R. W. Alley. It's about a puppy who, unlike the other puppies, feels "more like a person." When people talk, he wants to talk back, and hear them say "Yes, yes, we know exactly what you mean." The puppy also loves, loves, loves to run. He loves speed so much that when he is adopted by a little girl named Zoe and her father, they name him after Enzo Ferrari. Enzo Races in the Rain! is about Enzo's adjustment to his new home, and about finding a place where one is understood. It is adorable, from cover to cover.
Enzo Races in the Rain! is a bit more text-heavy than many modern picture books, told from Enzo's first-puppy viewpoint. Like this (on one page spread):
"One day, I see a cloud of dust blowing down the barn road toward us.
It's a car running like I've never heard before. Not chugging like the old man's tractor but smooth and even, the way I feel when I run.
I race to meet it. But it is fast. Really fast.
A girl in the car is waving at me.
The girl and a big man get out. I see that the girl is small -- a puppy like me.
The car smells like the others, but there is a new smell, too. It is sweet and clean. It is the little girl."
There's a lot to like here. I like how despite feeling like a human, the puppy has a dog's focus on smells (this theme continues through the book). I also like the way Stein makes it clear that this is a new puppy, without a lot of knowledge of the world. He's never seen a car that doesn't chug. And I love Enzo's enthusiasm about everything.
Another thing that I like about this book is that Zoe's father appears to be a single dad. There's no comment on this, but he is caregiver and nurturer, and maker of pancakes for dinner. It's nice to see a picture book that reflects something other than the traditional two parent, two child family. And Zoe and her dad are a lovely family, too, even if small. They welcome Enzo into their home with understanding and generosity, though the book never feels cloying or overdone.
Alley's illustrations ("pen and ink, pencil, watercolor, gouache, acrylic, and coffee spills") are simply perfect for Enzo Races in the Rain!. Enzo is bright-eyed, with perky ears. Alley conveys his near constant movement, as well as his human-like curiosity. The backgrounds seem predominantly colored pencil and pen and ink, with textures everywhere (especially where there is grass). There is a warm feel to the pictures that works well with the warm feel of the story.
Enzo Races in the Rain! has a timeless feel. I think that young listeners will fall in love with Enzo, and ask to have this book read to them again and again. Highly recommended for home, library, or school use. I hope to see more books about Enzo in the future.
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books (@HarperChildrens)
Publication Date: October 7, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher
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