Dawney and Barrow here offer the tale of a little boy who navigates the streets of 1940s London to visit the possums at the zoo.
A bit reminiscent of Madeline (1939) with its rhyming text, recognizable metropolitan landmarks and purposeful youngster wearing a hat that trails ribbons, this follows Samuel and his “dog-on-wheels” through a bustling cityscape. Urban diversity is captured through varying skin tones, hairstyles and fashion choices. While the poetry scans smoothly, the first half of the book merely describes what the eye can see: “They pass the man who sells balloons, / they pass the band that’s playing tunes.” A pleasing narrative symmetry, however, becomes evident midway through. To the left of the gutter, five baby possums are sleeping, tails wrapped round the branch above; on the right, their eyes open and watch Sam depart. The rest of the story mirrors the beginning, except that the five possums join tail to tail with the toy dog Sam is dragging. While the boy is oblivious to his parade, the passersby, palace guards and street vendors are riveted; the humor derives from the onlookers’ distracted mishaps and the text/image contrast. The balloons play a part in the animals’ return to the zoo, but a surprise awaits the child at home. Cream-colored, matte backgrounds offer a restful backdrop for the tale’s colorful cacophony.
This understated British romp will have readers absorbed in its details. (Picture book. 3-6)