When animals begin to move into the narrator’s apartment building, she welcomes their differences, but her parents are uncomfortable.
This simple story of discrimination and acceptance is recalled in a straightforward fashion. The little girl enjoys the saxophone-playing dog, the elephants who washed everyone’s cars and the gift-bearing crocodile, even though his yellow eyes shine in the dark. Her building “was becoming more and more fun to live in all the time,” she remembers. Her friendly new neighbors find her parents’ standoffishness strange. And so will readers when they notice that the sad human child rides off in a car with two giraffes when they move away. The stylized images—shapes in red, blue and pink on a white background—have no shading and few details. Yet both human and animal neighbors are distinguishable, allowing readers to track them through the events of this subtle parable. The parents’ fears are evident in their barricaded door and many keys. The more tolerant narrator looks forward to returning when she’s grown. First published in Portugal, this has been smoothly translated and will resonate with readers here as well. For the North American audience, the editors have removed all references to smoking in text and pictures; the dog now blows bubbles from his pipe.
Stylish and understated, this argument for tolerance is a welcome one—just like that saxophone-playing dog. (Picture book. 5-9)