A pit bull transforms a simple bath into an underwater epic in Browne’s picture-book debut.
Marlo’s early appearances are rear views as he runs off the page, then digs up the garden. Finally he rests, a red flower comically planted on his head while he gazes quizzically at readers. Brief sentences and pen-and-watercolor images on generous white backgrounds create a seemingly tidy narrative as the bath begins—a contrast with Marlo’s imagined aquatic adventures. Ensconced in a claw-foot tub, rubber duck at his side, the dog catches a wave into colorful, full-bleed compositions depicting exotic plant life and sea creatures. Words disappear. When the duck is catapulted into the deep, his owner dons scuba gear. Children will enjoy the challenging hide-and-seek game that follows in the swirls of pattern and movement. The tension generated as Marlo is pursued by a shark and swallowed by a whale is relieved in the mammal’s belly when good-hearted penguins, partying in an underwater galleon, rescue Marlo and introduce him to their admiral, who has protected the beloved object. As with all good fantasies, the homecoming reveals clues that connect to the journey. This one also leads to laughter.
With a deft minimalism recalling Charles Schultz or Mo Willems, Browne creates a character to care about, whether excavating at home or when plunged into the pleasures and perils of the wider world. Dripping with delight. (Picture book. 4-7)