Nino has a dog, but it’s a dog he never had. It’s invisible to everyone else, but Nino can see it clearly. It’s a dog that climbs trees like a squirrel, loves deep water, and likes salty tears. But one day, that dog disappeared and a new dog took his place. It was a dog that everyone could see, one that had it’s own personality that is completely different from Nino’s other dog. Soon though, Nino is enjoying the new dog. But that doesn’t stop him from thinking up lots more animals that he’s also never had.
Just opening this book, you know you are in for a strange and beautiful treat. Originally published in Belgium, the book carries that elusive European flavor about it. The concept of an invisible friend or pet is not a new one, but as it is done here it takes on extra weight and meaning. Here, the pretend dog is a companion for a lonely boy, a comfort when he needs one, and someone who understands that he misses his father desperately. His real dog can’t quite do all of that at first, but he steadily does take over those duties just in a different way. This is a book about change, resilience and the imagination.
The art here is part of weaving that odd world. It is done in 70s angles and styles with the A-frame houses and long, low station wagons as vehicles. Even the colors hearken back to that time. The book is filled with night skies and bright hot days. Some pages are busy with details while others are open and wide white. Beautiful, strange and wondrous.
This is a strikingly unique book that will speak to anyone who is missing a parent and needs a dog of their own to help. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from library copy.