For young children, moving to a new city can be lonely and anxiety inducing. That’s the case for the protagonist in Isabelle Arsenault’s new book, Colette’s Lost Pet. But she overcomes that with an assist from her bustling imagination, and it makes for a satisfying and entertaining read.
The story—laid out in panels of various shapes with dialogue in speech bubbles, making this a sort of picture book/graphic novel hybrid for young readers—opens with Colette’s mother telling her, “For the last time, NO PET!” All of this comes from indoors, where Colette and her mother stay hidden. Look closely in the yard (as readers get an aerial view) to see empty boxes littering the grass. This one drawing tells readers a great deal: The family’s just moved, and Colette would like a pet to help her acclimate to this huge adjustment.
Angrily, Colette steps outside in her yellow raincoat and meets two boys, who ask her what she’s doing. When she tells them she’s looking for her lost pet, the adventure begins. Clearly making up the story on the spot, Colette sets off with the two boys on a wild goose chase, looking for a pet parakeet that never existed. As they move through the neighborhood, five more kids join the chase, all the while Colette elaborating further about this pet.
Arsenault builds the text well, using internal rhymes to great effect. As each child joins the search, another child explains the creature they’re looking for, and the details grow. The parakeet becomes a massive and mythical sort of creature, and as Colette expounds further at one point, the children all see it fly over her head. Did it really make an appearance, or is it a wild collective imagination at work? It doesn’t really matter, as now they are all friends. Colette’s lonely days are over.
Arsenault’s drawings, in grays, blacks, yellows and a bit of light blue, are sweet but not saccharine, and the hand-lettered text is relaxed and inviting—much like the entire story.
Julie Danielson features authors and illustrators at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, a children’s literature blog.