THE STRAY by Molly Ruttan


by ; illustrated by
Age Range: 6 - 8
Email this review


Challenges both unique and familiar await a family that takes in a (literally) otherworldly stray.

For her first solo outing, Ruttan unspools a narrative that could apply to any terrestrial animal: “He didn’t have a collar, and he didn’t have a tag…so we brought him home.” She pairs it with sprightly views of a human family laying out bowls and bedding on the kitchen floor for Grub,” a doglike (if stalk-eyed) creature pulled from a crashed flying saucer. At first Grub exuberantly emits anti-gravity waves that create glorious chaos (“He wasn’t even housebroken”), but when, rather than settle in, he turns mopey, the family puts out “Found” posters. Soon a larger saucer swoops down to beam him back aboard. “We were sad Grub had to leave, but it felt good to know he was happy and was back with his family.” His rescuers are never seen aside from similar eyes on stalks viewed through windows. Read one way this makes a droll and cozy tale…but if seen as a riff on E.T. (“Grub” evidently piloted his own saucer), it’s discomfiting to see a stranded, sapient stranger treated as a pet, kitted with a cute name, given a bone to chew, and leashed for a walk outside. Subtle differences in the features and skin color of the human family’s two parents hint that they might be an interracial couple, though that too is left ambiguous.

A buoyant authorial debut spoiled by some unexamined assumptions. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 19th, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-525-51446-6
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2020