The pet Charlotte Grey has long wished for and finally gets for her sixth birthday is not what she had in mind.
Charlotte is a cheerful, sturdy, bespectacled white child who lives with her white parents and Grandma Glennis, who knits and smiles benignly. The opening pages show Charlotte imagining a passel of lively, interactive, and cuddly pets, but what she gets for her birthday looks exactly like an enormous…rock. So spherical, solid, and gray is Charlotte’s new pet that readers won’t guess it’s anything but a boulder. Charlotte earnestly engages with her rock, taking it on walks and picnics, reading comics and playing games together, each wearing a matching hat. Charlotte names her pet Dennis. “We chose it together,” she tells a neighbor about the name—while the illustration shows her dropping the rock onto a grid of four name choices. Martin’s deadpan narrative voice emphasizes Charlotte’s stolid devotion to her odd pet. When Dennis, who “knew Charlotte needed a hug,” finally undergoes a sudden and dramatic change, it is Grandma who seems to be the only family member who is not surprised. Cotterill’s pen-outlined drawings and minimal color palette give her cartoon art a breezy feel that matches well with the silliness of the text.
Amusing as well as subtly encouraging about the rewards for patience and working with what you’ve got. (Picture book. 3-6)