Set in an unnamed tropical nation by the sea, this picture book follows a boy and the dog he’s befriended as they enjoy one of their regular outings to surf at the beach.
Sammy greets the dog who waits faithfully for him to return home from school every day, and the two ride a scooter to the beach, where they surf together until sunset, a routine they have had “for many months.” This particular evening the boy’s mother offers to feed both of them dinner, which startles the boy, who says, “But he’s not our dog.” A refrain throughout the book is that the boy and dog are friends who care for each other, so it is confusing that he would respond in such a way to this turn of events. Visual clues—a tropical jungle inhabited by squirrel monkeys, ocelots, and toucans—point to Central America as the setting. Additionally, all the people shown are brown-haired and brown-skinned like Sammy, but the text does not ground the story in a particular cultural context, losing an opportunity for richness and texture as a result. The story arc is weak, lacking any tension, and the text is flat and stilted.
Tales of boy-meets-dog are perennially popular for good reason: they can tug powerfully at the heartstrings. Unfortunately, there is little here to distinguish this story from the pack. (Picture book. 3-7)