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MR. SCRUFF by Simon James Kirkus Star


by Simon James ; illustrated by Simon James

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-5362-0935-8
Publisher: Candlewick

Sometimes not matching is just right.

Molly, a brown-skinned child with curly hair, has Polly, a curly-haired brown poodle; and jowly dog Lawrence has jowly elderly white lady Florence; each pair is perfectly comfortable together, as well they might, being so similar in looks and name. But then there’s poor Mr. Scruff, a large, unkempt dog at the dog rescue who has no one. That is, until Jim, a small child of color with interracial parents, picks out Mr. Scruff to be his dog. His parents have reservations; “He’s so BIG, / and you’re so small!” but Jim replies that Mr. Scruff “needs a home. / A place to call his very own. /… / And that’s enough for me— / and Mr. Scruff,” in the story’s simple rhyming text. They hit it off. But now who should come into the dog rescue looking for a dog? Unkempt Mr. Gruff, a white man who seems like the perfect match for Mr. Scruff. But like Jim, Mr. Gruff isn’t constrained by the familiar. He picks out a small, brown puppy for his companion, “the perfect / dog for him.” Author/illustrator James does a marvelous job of creating a playful story about the serious idea of stepping outside the familiar in friendships—an idea stupendously amplified with his light-filled watercolor-and-ink illustrations, showing a grand diversity of people in a bustling city setting.

Diversity in friendships is brought to happy, lively life in this effervescent picture book.

(Picture book. 3-8)