This morning my eight-year-old daughter and I read a new picture book by Esmé Shapiro. Although my daughter is “beyond” picture books, we were both drawn to the beautiful illustrations rich in texture while echoing the innocent interpretations of children’s drawings of nature. (For more of Shapiro’s work, such as this image from Ooko, check out esmeshapiro.com)
Ooko is a fox in search of a friend. He sees a little girl playing with a dog and goes in search of his own “Debbie.” Ooko examines each dog and changes himself to become more attractive to Debbies–he paints on spots, creates floppy ears. You get the idea. Ultimately, he finds a friend who likes him for himself. The message is timeless, and a good one for adults as well as children, but the treasure is in the illustrations. Each page is so beautiful I want to frame the images and decorate a studio or a nursery. When Ooko realizes he is lonely, the image begs the viewer to give him a hug.
In good company with the best children’s books, Ooko includes some humor. In one of his attempts to find a Debbie, Ooko wanders into a yard out of which a little dog has just wandered and cozies up to an elderly woman who is gardening in platform flip flops topped by hairy legs. She misidentifies the fox as her Ruthie and brings Ooko in, bathes him, and clothes him in a scratchy sweater. My daughter, even at a cool eight-years-old, giggled.
We read this story three times this morning. I suspect we will read it again. Ooko will be my go-to gift for the young children in my life this summer. Publication date–July 2016. Thank to Net Galley and Tundra Books for the opportunity to review this delightful new title.