The mystery box that young Samuel pulls behind him draws a growing queue of curious creatures in its wake. What’s inside?
The blond, doll-like white urchin in floppy pants and a ribboned cap might not have a clue, but there are visual hints in every picture—as Dawnay rather unfairly waits until near the end to announce. Meanwhile, though, a speculative flock of pigeons, a fox, and other animals fall in behind Samuel, and the suspense heightens thanks to a deft and rhythmic narrative: “A pigeon spies it from a tree, / ‘Hey, what’s in there? Do let me see!’ / The paper package bumps and shakes, / The pigeon cries, ‘Could it be…cakes…?’ ” Samuel trundles the carton past a row of shops, into a park, and finally up to his birthday picnic. There, ta-da!—its contents are revealed at last to be the wooden toy pooch he had unflappably wheeled through a previous appearance in A Possum’s Tail (2014). Barrow’s informally drawn illustrations add considerable charm and subtext to the trek, as Samuel passes mixed-race and same-sex couples at cafe tables, a news vendor in a turban, and shopkeepers and pedestrians of diverse skin color…all clad in antique, mid-20th-century styles.
Young audiences will be drawn along, eager to chime in with their own guesses. (Picture book. 3-6)