Imaginations run quite literally wild for a young girl.
A measured, soft voice narrates, “On the night before the first day of school, a pack of stray dogs moved into Molly Akita’s head. / They were friendly. But a bit wild.” Molly finds the only way to manage her emotions, manifested as the rowdy pups that swirl around her room, is to draw them. Quickly the pack of canines run beyond her sketchbook onto moving boxes at home as well as onto the chalkboard and work at school. Her teacher, Ms. Shepherd, gets impatient, “but Molly’s dogs were stubborn. They needed to run free.” After receiving a teacher’s note, Molly’s grandmother hires a tutor, but he too declares, “No dogs allowed!” Grasping for control and acceptance, Molly runs, trailed by her sketched dogs and getting lost in the rain, and takes shelter in a shed. Pulling out her chalk, she draws coats for her companions. They in turn protect and comfort her when she grows fearful. Molly is Japanese, as denoted by her surname and dark hair and eyes. Xu uses darkly hued colored pencils that bring a textured somber tone to the story. In a twist, when Ms. Shepherd finds Molly, she tells her a robber was scared off in the area by coat-wearing dogs. With this validation, Kerbel deftly crafts a gentle argument for more empathy for others and yourself.
An artful plea for emotional acceptance. (Picture book. 5-8)