The bond between a child and a beloved stuffed lion is put to the test.
Henry, a white boy old enough to read chapter books and young enough to feel that his beloved Leo is real, goes for a walk in the woods with his family. Zagarenski’s text is prosaically documentary in tone: “Henry could never quite say exactly what it was that made Leo different….[M]aybe it was his jointed and moveable parts.” Big sister (also white) scoffs at Henry’s pronouncement that Leo loves the woods, but Henry remains firm in his conviction, especially when, at bedtime, Henry realizes that Leo is gone. The tale takes flight in a wordless sequence in which Leo finds friends in the forest. A bear, a fox, and a rabbit—seen among Henry’s toys in the opening pages—peer from the trees and gather to help Leo get home by morning. Zagarenski’s mixed-media, edge-to-edge art is richly textured, jewel-toned, and dreamily evocative, with a delicious sense of mystery and enchantment. Geometric swaths of color are layered and blended to suggest sunlight, moonlight, and shadow, walls and windows among the trees. Henry, Leo, and the family and forest creatures are graced with halolike crowns; a teapot and cups appear on the forest floor.
Invite young readers to talk about this visual feast for the imagination, and something magical may happen. (Picture book. 3-7)