Buddy the dog does not have much excitement in his life. One day, his human, Meredith, brings home a box with a strange-looking thing inside. Despite orders to “stay,” Buddy cannot help investigating. When he discovers that the prickly thing in the box is alive, Buddy eagerly introduces himself. The creature (a hedgehog named Earl) initially claims to be a race car, then many other things, before finally settling on “pirate.” Spurred by Earl’s imagination, the mismatched pair has a wonderful adventure playing in the living room. Meredith soon separates them for making a mess, but the two pets have become fast friends.
While the theme of odd-couple friendships is nothing new, Maureen Fergus (The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten) creates something special in this first book of a series. When the two animals meet, neither accurately identifies himself; rather, they determine what they are not (Buddy is not a skyscraper and Earl is not a race car). Buddy and Earl agree they’re both pirates – playmates – and that is all that matters. Furthermore, Buddy discovers how much fun stepping out of his comfort zone can be. Fergus succeeds in engaging readers with this rollicking adventure in a way that never feels didactic or forced.
Editorial illustrator Carey Sookocheff (The New York Times, Real Simple, Canadian Living) marks a promising debut with her first picture book. Her clean lines and minimalist colour palette serve to focus the reader on the story, while the thick black lines outlining the objects and expressive characters give the art an understated, polished feel.