This picture book could serve as a tourist’s guide to Brooklyn.
Yotam has the sort of neighbors anyone might wish for: Debbie, who walks her turtle and pit bull at the same time; the man with a big bushy beard; the man with 10 cats. (The neighborhood is multicultural, but Yotam’s family is white.) All the neighbors try to help out when Yotam’s dog runs away after being startled. He had tied Bailey’s leash to a metal chair, which is pretty much the definition of “accident waiting to happen,” and no pet owner will have trouble believing the book was inspired by a true story. The creators—especially VanderPloeg—get every detail right: There’s the woman with the “BUSY LADY” tote bag. There’s Yotam’s anxious fantasy that Bailey is at the Prospect Park Zoo, sleeping on a branch like a monkey. The off-kilter perspective in the illustrations is enchanting but difficult to describe; if Grandma Moses and Maira Kalman could have a baby, that baby would paint this book. The tone of the story moves flawlessly from genuinely hilarious (the scene where Bailey runs with a metal chair even incorporates sound effects) to bittersweet and mysterious: Bailey returns, but she’s slightly injured, and the last line is: “He would never know where she had gone those missing nights, but he knew where she would be sleeping tonight.” Whew.
Readers may finish this book and move straight to Brooklyn. (Picture book. 5-8)