One Cool Friend

Toni Buzzeo, illus. by David Small. Dial, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8037-3413-5
Elliot’s father wears a dorky plaid suit and works as some sort of naturalist. He’s also pretty absentminded, so when Elliot—a quiet, rosy-cheeked boy who prefers tuxedos—brings home a Magellanic penguin, he doesn’t notice. Small’s (Elsie’s Bird) ink-and-watercolor drawings are as urbane as Elliot’s bow tie, and he creates a magnificent mansion for Elliot and his father. Elliot fixes up a bedroom ice rink with the air conditioner and hose, puts Magellan to bed in the freezer, and takes him swimming in the bathtub. Buzzeo (the Adventure Annie books) gives Elliot courtly manners (“Thank you for inviting me” is his response to his father’s suggestion they visit the aquarium) and a quick wit. The book’s humor is built on gentle misunderstandings between father and son (when Elliot asks for a penguin, his father assumes he means a stuffed one from the aquarium gift shop). Though very much a boy-and-his-pet story, it’s just as much about two gentlemen who appear to be orbiting entirely different planets. The revelation that they’re not so dissimilar after all is about as sweet as it gets. Ages 5–8. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 10/31/2011
Release date: 01/10/2012
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