People with pets spell trouble—and opportunity—for a new sidewalk cafe.
With the exception of a handful of exclamations from restaurateur Alberto, standing nervously outside in crisp white shirt, bow tie and long apron, the story is told visually in sequential panels, from one to four on every page. "Come in, We're Open" declares a sign on the door, a chalkboard nearby says "Welcome!" and there's an "Early Bird Special" sign in the window. When Alberto spots a little boy walking in his direction with a big dog, he panics and changes the chalkboard message to "No Dogs Allowed." Crisis averted...temporarily. Then comes a woman with a gray cat, another holding a rabbit and, surprisingly, a couple on either side of a calm kangaroo. Each new animal (and there are several more) prompts a new version of the message on the chalkboard. Alberto notices that all these people with pets are hanging out at a nearby fountain and, worse, that he's losing business to a vendor there with a cart. Thinking quickly, he whips up a big batch of cupcakes and changes the name of his restaurant from "Alberto's City Lights" to "Alberto's Critters Bistro." Success! Ashman's concept is both sophisticated and delightful, with reading and animal-identifying lessons tucked in. Sorra's digital illustrations have bold distinct colors and crisp outlines.Offbeat and appealing. (Picture book. 3-9)