What happens when pets resemble even the youngest, grumpiest of owners?
A mother takes her two kids—curmudgeon Billy and older sister Sara, both white—to Perfect Pets, a storefront animal rescue shelter. Mom worries about frown-wearing Billy, and she hopes that the trip to the shelter will bring a smile to her son’s face. “Who couldn’t help but smile with so much cuteness everywhere?” Billy, that’s who. Unlike Billy, a diverse group of future dog owners grin as they hold, play, and hug prospective pets—even Sara finds joy with kittens. Billy, it turns out, “was not amused.” Past the ranks of happy dogs in crates and beyond the food, toy, bed, and kibble aisles, Billy hears growls, barks, and hisses. There, in the back of the store, Billy finds the titular grumpy pets. Looking out from rows and columns of animal crates are scruffy, grouchy, crabby faces—not unlike the story’s protagonist’s. Billy, soon having found his match, points at a moody gray puppy and delivers the only three words of dialogue: “I’ll take him!” A volunteer hands the puppy over to Billy, and for the first time since readers meet Billy, he indeed smiles. In a style reminiscent of Scott Campbell's in Hug Machine (2014), Lombardi’s expressive illustrations and straightforward dialogue together deliver a benevolent, breezy tale.
Though on the tame side, it’s still a sweet story about a boy and a dog rescuing each other. (Picture book. 3-6)