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Thursday, April 6, 2017

Colette's Lost Pet, words and pictures by Isabelle Arsenault. Tundra Books, Random House. 2017. $22.99 ages 3 and up

"Have you seen Colette's
lost pet? It's a parakeet.
It's blue with a bit of yellow
on its neck.

Oh, what's its name?

Um, well ...
uh ... Marie.
Like the princess."

Oh, I am so happy to have received this book in the mail yesterday. I am presenting a workshop on new books for kids with a hardworking group of teacher-librarians this afternoon, and can't wait to share it with them! I love everything about it. Another hit for award-winning Isabelle Arsenault.

Colette has moved into a new Montreal neighborhood. Moving boxes are strewn in the backyard and we can see from the conversation that she and a parent are having a disagreement about the need for a pet. She is forcefully encouraged to get outside and explore her new surroundings. Angry, she kicks one of the boxes over the fence. Her attempt to retrieve it leads to her meeting next door neighbors, Albert and Tom. When asked what she is doing, she is contrite and quite shy.

It leads her to telling the boys that she has lost her pet (a small fib). The boys want to know about the pet. When they learn that it is a parakeet, they offer to help. As happens too often, the lie gets a little bigger as she meets more and more of the children in the neighborhood. Each has a question meant to improve their search capabilities.

"Have you seen Colette's pet?
It's a parakeet. It's blue with a bit
of yellow on its neck, its name is
Marie-Antoinette and it makes
a sound like Prrrrr Prrrr PrrrrrruiiiiiiT!"

With every new child in the neighborhood, the description becomes more elaborate. When Colette is called in for supper, the search comes to an end and so does her saga of the lost pet. The children are astounded, yet so kind as they respond with more questions for her.

Ms. Arsenault uses pencils, watercolor, and ink with digital coloration to create the winning images that will have young readers paying attention to every detail. The design is kid friendly, and filled with dialogue ... it has a graphic look with its black and white illustrations touched with bursts of yellow and blue. What I think is so special is that she allows her young readers a quick peek at the interests of each of the children introduced. Albert and Tom have a soccer ball; Lily has a leaf and a magnifying glass; Scott is quietly reading on his back step (with a bag of books at his side); Maya's yard has a fish fountain, plants and she's hugging a shell; Beth is drawing at a table in her backyard; Lukas is radio-controlling cars. We know what Colette's strength is, don't we?

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