Defying simple categorization, Cecil’s 144-page illustrated narrative presents a street dog that dreams of home, a light-skinned girl who longs for companionship, and her father, a juggler who panics in front of an audience.
Rendered in oil and printed in softly textured black and gray duotones on white paper, the scenes unfold in circular compositions (suggesting spotlights), accompanied by several sentences per page. Act I and II follow a similar pattern: noisy cars awaken Lucy, and she trots along the pavement to an apartment building’s entrance. Eleanor lowers a piece of sausage on a string from a second-floor window. The juggler’s exceptional skill is showcased when no one is looking, but he is yanked offstage each disastrous night. It is when the sensitive girl attempts to bolster her father’s confidence that changes occur. Each character’s daytime decisions lead to new outcomes after their paths intersect for a show-stopping evening performance during a climactic third act. Quirky caricatures featuring lopsided eyes and flat heads interpret the drama in the streets and interiors of a diverse community in an undetermined urban yesteryear. Children ready to move beyond early readers will appreciate the pace of the page turns and the chance to discover visual details that characters miss.
A brief denouement in the final act reveals that each main character has given the others just what they needed; a clever structure and a satisfying story. (Picture book. 6-9)