Animal picture books abound, but finding really well-written, touching and important picture books about animals is like finding Waldo in a sea of look-alikes. But it’s well worth the search, because finding a really good picture book is like finding a treasure — it’s something that will be kept and read and reread often.
“Tony” is one such book. It is by the late Ed Galing, a poet from New York. It speaks of a quieter time when in the early morning dark a horse made the rounds delivering milk, butter and eggs to homes. The illustrations by Erin E. Stead complement the text with simple pencil drawings and color. The use of green, gray and yellow is very effective in creating light in the dark night and a sense of brightness. The horse, Tony, is lovely and noble in spite of his lowly delivery job. And that’s part of the beauty of the story — the fact that both Tony and Tom, the young delivery driver, are respected and worthy of note. Published by Roaring Brook Press.
“Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List” by Kate Klise and illustrated by M. Sarah Klise is a picture book that will bring tears to the eyes of the adult reading it out loud. It’s about Astrid and her faithful dog, Eli. They have been together since she arrived home as a newborn and they have been best friends ever since. Eli was Astrid’s personal bodyguard, her favorite pillow, and sometimes her best hiding place. But when Astrid was six years old, she noticed that Eli was getting old. She decided to make sure that Eli had all the experiences he might want before he got too old to enjoy them. And they did those things together — beautifully. But the most important thing to Eli was what every dog lover knows matters most — simply being together. Published by Feiwel and Friends.
Two other picture books are about different kinds of pets. One is an abandoned goldfish, and the other is an imaginary lost pet. Both books are about children and their capacity for compassion and caring for animals they don’t even know.
In “Colette’s Lost Pet” by Isabelle Arsenault, Colette has moved with her family into a new neighborhood. We meet her when her mother tells her that “for the last time, NO PET!” She tells Colette to go outside, and Colette sees other kids around but doesn’t know how to approach them. When two of them ask her what she is doing, she makes up a lost pet. They decide to help her find her lost pet, an, er…parakeet. And as they go through the neighborhood, more kids help and the parakeet becomes more real. It goes from a black and white idea to a blue and yellow bird who has traveled the world. Colette’s new friends are fascinated by the exploits of this lost bird, and Colette has realized her ability as a story teller. Even an imaginary pet can help a child make friends. Published by Random House.
“The Only Fish in the Sea” by Philip C. Stead and illustrated by Matthew Cordell is the story of a quest to rescue an abandoned goldfish given as a gift to a spoiled young girl who declared that “GOLDFISH ARE BORING” and walked down to the dock where she dumped the fish, still in his plastic bag, into the ocean. Luckily for Ellsworth (as the fish is named), Sadie, once told the poor fish’s story, decides that she will rescue the fish. She and Sherman, her best friend, set out on a boat, with half a dozen sailor monkeys (ask Matthew Cordell, the illustrator) to rescue the fish. They brave whales and sharks and giant squid and manage to rescue the tiny goldfish. Sadie decides that Ellsworth needs to be in a place with a view of the entire neighborhood, so she puts him in the central fountain. The residents visit him, feed him, and keep him company. And little Amy Scott, the spoiled birthday girl? She gets just what she deserves. Published by Roaring Brook Press.