The desire for a pet is a frequently-covered topic in picture books. Two of my favorites on this theme are Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly and A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid. (Links go to full reviews.) Three new titles on this topic recently crossed my desk, two from HarperCollins and one from Chronicle Books, that I thought were worth sharing.
1. Two Girls Want a Puppy, written by Ryan and Evie Cordell and illustrated by Maple Lam (HarperCollins). This is a pretty straight-up story about two sister who desperately want a puppy. Their father says no. Undaunted, they come up with a four-part plan to convince him. The plan involves showing him that they can be persistent (asking over and over again), super responsible (sitting for a neighbor's dog), super smart (doing research on puppies), and super creative (writing a book about dogs).
All four of the traits that they exemplify in their plan are traits that they know that their father values. Thus, when he gives in at the end and agrees that they are ready, it feels plausible. I liked the message that you have to earn responsibility, and I appreciated the father's quiet resolve and sense of humor. Bonus points for him being, apparently, a single dad, and for them going to a shelter to pick out the dog.
Lam's watercolor and colored pencil illustrations add heart (the joyful expressions on the girls' faces) and gentle humor throughout (when the girls hold their nose while cleaning up after the neighbor's dog).
2. Itty Bitty Kitty, written by Joan Holub and illustrated by James Burks (HarperCollins). In Itty Bitty Kitty, a little girl named Ava wants a cat. Her parents say no, "maybe when you're older." But then the girl finds a tiny purple striped kitten with sparkly green eyes in a cardboard box, with a "Free Kitten" sign. She sneaks him home and hides him, naming him Itty Bitty. Ava has all kinds of fun times with her secret kitten.
Things get a bit tricky, however, when Itty Bitty starts to grow. And grow. And grow. He ends up bigger than Ava, and becomes much more difficult to hide. When Itty Bitty is discovered, all seems lost. But when Itty Bitty's extra-big ears enable him to notice something, and save a vulnerable member of the family, well, things turn out ok.
I found the notion that a five year old could conceal a kitten from her parents to be more unrealistic than the notion of an enormous purple cat. And the ending, well, it was a bit convenient, of course. But I was won over by the sheer joy of this book. Ava adores Itty Bitty. He adores her. The two of them are just so hopeful. You can't resist them. Burks bright, digitally-generated illustrations lend considerable appeal to the story. Ava and her dad have big blue eyes, while Mom and baby brother have matching green eyes. Ava has bouncy, curly hair and freckles. The household is full of cheerful chaos. Itty Bitty Kitty is just a book that, however implausible, brightens the reader's day.
3. Land Shark, written by Beth Ferry and illustrated by Ben Mantle (Chronicle Kids). In Land Shark, a morbid-looking boy named Bobby desperately wants a real shark for his birthday. He launches a campaign to inform his parents of his wishes. However, he somehow neglects to make it clear that the pet he wants is actually a shark. He is thus devastated when, instead of a shark, he ends up with a puppy.
His family tries to convince him to accept the puppy, but "shark lovers cannot be converted to dog lovers. EVER!" Well, unless it turns out that untrained puppies are capable of wreaking destruction, eating garbage, and biting things. Just like sharks... Perhaps there will be a place in Bobby's heart for the puppy after all.
What I like about Land Shark is that, although the puppy does eventually win over Bobby, she does it through mess and chaos, rather than through cuddles and affection. As Mantle's watercolor, pen, and pencil illustrations (retouched digitally) make abundantly clear, a puppy can make a lot of mess, and leave an entire household feeling grumpy. I think that kids will find this hilarious, even if Bobby is a bit too odd for them to really relate to as a character.
© 2015 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook. This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through affiliate links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).