Pawcasso is a joyful graphic novel from acclaimed author-illustrator Remy Lai (Pie in the Sky) that abounds with silliness, camaraderie and a few white lies.
A dog wanders around town, holding a basket in his mouth. There’s a shopping list inside the basket, but why is the dog shopping on his own? Where is his owner? And where will he go next? Jo is bored, upset that her father has left on yet another extended work trip and eager for a distraction. When she sees the dog pass by her house, she slips out of her yard and follows him into the cleverly named Dog Ears bookstore, where a children’s painting class is being held in an upstairs meeting room.
The class is so enamored with the charming dog that they name him Pawcasso and invite both him and Jo back for the next class, under the mistaken impression that the dog belongs to Jo. Though she wonders where his owners are, Jo effectively adopts Pawcasso, going so far as to give him a bath after he rolls in something stinky. She quickly comes to love the attention she receives when everyone believes that Pawcasso is her dog.
But not all of Jo’s neighbors find Pawcasso charming. It turns out that the Duchamp family has submitted a petition to the city council that would require all dogs to be leashed, and the town quickly becomes divided over the issue. How can Jo protect Pawcasso when he doesn’t even belong to her?
All over town, children and adults work together to support their side of the debate in an excellent depiction of civic engagement. Characters respectfully stand up for their beliefs, gather support and follow through. Lai’s candy-colored, cartoon-style illustrations are a delightful complement to this cute, clever romp. The book is full of well-executed canine puns and jokes, including Jo’s fabulously phrased apology: “I made a Chihuahua-sized lie, but it snowballed into a Great Dane-sized lie.”
Readers who enjoyed Lai’s two previous illustrated middle grade novels will love Pawcasso, her first graphic novel. It’s a gentle story of community, forgiveness and redemption.