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Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Lenny & Lucy, written by Philip Stead and illustrated by Erin E. Stead. A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast, 2015. $20.50 ages 5 and up

"Peter and Harold watched from the upstairs window. They felt safe knowing that Lenny was there. He guarded the bridge - silently, patiently, but with no one to keep him company.
"Do you think Lenny is lonely?" asked Peter."

Peter is not pleased with the idea that he and his father are moving at all. Couple those feelings with the trip taken to get to their new house through a dark and dreary wood, and you have the opening images for this atmospheric, fearful new story from the amazing Steads.

When they cross the wooden bridge near the new house, Peter is sure they have made a mistake. His dog Harold is privy to his thoughts, but can do nothing, even if he wants to do so. Neither one sleeps well on their first night, worrying about what lies beyond the bridge in the dark woods. So, Peter makes a plan, and follows through on it the following day:

"So the next day Peter made a tall pile of pillows. And after they'd toppled the pile six times Peter ran inside to find just the right blankets. He stitched and sewed and wrapped the pile up, tying it shut with string. He pushed and pulled and kneaded the pillows like dough."

Lenny makes the perfect guardian, who is tasked with keeping the woods always on the other side of the bridge. Peter and Harold are happier. Knowing how much they count on each other for company, Peter discusses Lenny's loneliness with his canine pal. Another night of sleeplessness leads to the creation of Lucy, a companion.

The four become friendly, and spend time together. When the young neighbor girl drops by to ask about owls and to share her binoculars and marshmallows, the four know they have found a soul mate.

Erin Stead's magnificent artwork is the perfect touch. She uses a transfer process that accounts for the ghostly feeling throughout her husband's wonderful tale. The color is added only for the characters who people its pages and for the doors of the two welcoming houses that sit alongside each other on the right side of the bridge. A perfect picture book, and one of my favorites of 2015. Bravo!

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