Prudence Wants a Pet by Cathleen Daly, illustrated by Stephen Michael King
Prudence wants a pet badly, but her parents tell her that pets cost too much and make too much noise. So Prudence gets a pet: a branch. She drags it to school with her so it gets plenty of exercise. Branch doesn’t eat or drink much at all. But when her Dad trips on Branch for the eighth time, he breaks branch into smaller bits and throws them on the woodpile. Now Prudence has a new pet, Twig. Twig is pocket-sized and doesn’t have to live out on the porch and trip people. But Twig got lost in the wash and no one responded to Prudence’s lost pet sign. Prudence gets a new pet, an old shoe named Formal Footwear because that’s what it says on its tag. Formal Footwear can do tricks and goes for walks, but eventually Prudence gets tired of dragging him around and frees him back into the wild. Prudence then tries keeping her baby brother as a pet, but he gets ill eating leaves. The car tire doesn’t work either, too heavy and too unpopular with the neighbors. As her parents watch her, they start to reconsider. But just what pet will Prudence get?
Prudence is a young lady who will not give up on her dream. In fact, she tries to create options again and again. She’s creative and inventive, making for a book that is wry and funny. There are lovely small touches throughout the book: the lost pet poster for Twig, the name of her pet shoe, the pink bow on her baby brother’s head, and the “pulp” that are the sea buddies.
King’s art adds a lot to the picture book with his cartoon-like characters that have a modern feel. Prudence’s hair alone tells part of the story, drooping in despair, perky with hope, curled in contentment. King isn’t afraid to push a little, giving one big eye, showing little brother Milo a putrid shade of green after eating the grass. The humor of the art matches the humor of the story well, complementing each other without one overpowering the other.
The elements here add up to a very wonderful read. The quirky illustrations, the creative protagonist, the silly humor: all create a marvelous book that I’d be happy to read again and again to any young pet lover. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
Also reviewed by Jen Robinson’s Book Page.