In this German import, Little Anna and her dog have an adventure at the beach.
Anna loves her dog, Toto. When she takes him to the beach, Toto’s scarf matches Anna’s skirt and kerchief: red with white polka dots. As Anna heads toward the water, she passes “a boy in a very silly cowboy hat.” Readers may feel that Anna is a bit silly herself. Toto is not a live dog but a wooden Dalmatian on wheels that must be pulled by a rope. When Toto “learns to swim,” he’s dragged out to the deep water by a wave, and Anna is bereft. Luckily, that silly cowboy has more than a hat with him, and Toto is saved, opening the way to friendship. Saturated digital illustrations have a hand-drawn feel that creates a warm, homey atmosphere. The droll storyline respects the young readers who will no doubt chuckle when Toto is subtly revealed to be a beloved toy rather than a real pup. Even the cowboy, whose body and rope are hidden behind the grown-up beachgoers, is a pleasant surprise. His eyes might be concealed beneath that enormous hat, but his good spirit is clear.
It’s rare to find a real story in a book that brand-new readers can tackle alone—Anna and Toto and the cowboy certainly deliver. (Early reader. 3-5)