This Swedish import features a child in need of a friend.
Much of the narration is wordless, depicted in detailed black-and-white panels. Readers watch as Adrian is bullied at school and, later, is unable to respond when the teacher utters the titular phrase during reading. Adrian and time freeze, and the child imagines flying on a trapeze. Viewers will begin to understand that in contrast to the penciled scenes, these colorful gouache-and-ink spreads signal either a new chapter or joy. Entitled “Before I Met Heidi,” this first chapter ends with Adrian at home with loving but distracted parents. Enter Heidi, with the size and shagginess of an Irish wolfhound. The two bond outside the ice cream store, and Heidi follows Adrian home. Adrian reads well when touching her. Those with a low threshold for blurred reality/fantasy boundaries or deus ex machina solutions may be frustrated; others, including, perhaps, those who’ve benefited from “Reading with Rover”–type programs, will be all in. In the third section, child and dog encounter Heidi’s rightful owner, a woman with a cane. At her dwelling, she explains that she is nearly blind; seeing her performing on the trapeze in a scrapbook photograph, Adrian says “I can read to you.” Repeated perusals yield further clues to the child’s love of the circus and yearning for a pet. Some characters of color can be spotted in the background, but the primary characters are all white.
The minimal text and particular plot twists will garner appreciation from struggling readers; endearing characters and a fresh design will attract many more. (Graphic fiction. 6-8)