Coyote pup Cardell is perfectly happy with his parents. He lives in a cozy adobe cottage with his artist mom and visits his dad across the desert, sharing him with his stepmother and stepbrother.
When Otis comes a-courting his mother, Cardell is resentful. Mama has had other suitors, and she and Cardell had agreed on each gent’s flaws. Cardell presumes that Mama will similarly dispatch Otis and growls at the persistent suitor. Otis can’t make jalapeño pancakes like Cardell’s dad, and “his howl sounded like he had rocks in the back of his throat.” Otis does have his own talents, however, and he knows that Cardell is “one tough little hombre.” Gradually, he wins the pup over with his delicious prickly-pear pudding, exceptional pouncing skills and hilarious stories. “Cardell’s grrr…got softer and softer until it disappeared altogether.” By the time, a “few moons later,” Otis proposes to Mama, Cardell and he are aligned, awaiting her answer in matching 10-gallon hats. Appelt’s telling sparkles. She expertly foreshadows the realistic conflict between Cardell and Otis by depicting the young coyote’s secure relationships with both his parents. McElmurry’s delightful gouache paintings depict a stylized desert Southwest. These coyotes often walk upright; they paint, dance, make music and fully embrace life.
This excellent take on modern, blended families melds a believable, resonant story arc and winsome, child-appealing illustrations. (Picture book. 4-8)