Newbery Award winner McKinley follows her picture-book debut ( My Father Is in the Navy ) with this affable tale of a girl and her pet--``I didn't know I wanted a dog. And then, one day, I did know.'' Armed with this revelation, the narrator spots a newspaper notice for Whippets and the breed is decided. The choice at the kennel becomes an easy one: ``I knew mine at once. She sprang up when I first bent over her, and kissed me on the nose.'' With grace and sensitivity this unassuming, somewhat slender story tells of a universal childhood experience. The first-person narrative lends immediacy and a youngster's perspective--though we do glimpse mother and father, this is first and foremost a kid's-eye view. And true-to-life details--the disoriented pup's initial loneliness, the girl's resultant sadness--add realism and variety. Ultimately, however, excitement and optimism shine through, feelings deftly enhanced by Ruff's somewhat hazy pastels. With its homey touches, this illustrator's debut artwork conjures up the essence of childhood; the final picture, of the gap-toothed heroine being ``kissed'' by her eponymous pooch, will melt just about any heart. Ages 4-up. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
K-Gr 2-- After deciding that she wants a dog, a girl considers and rejects several breeds before settling on a whippet whom she names Rowan. The ride home and the first night present some difficulties, but by morning, bonding has occurred between the two. The concept of a child acquiring a pet is a worthy one, but the execution is slight. The awkward text, which is self-conscious and unchildlike, is at its best when it is describing the dog's adjustment to its new surroundings. This is a case where the illustrations definitely outshine the text. Ruff's expressive drawings, executed in pastels and colored pencil, are largely responsible for the book's appeal. --Valerie F. Patterson, Queens Borough Public Library, NY
A small girl tells of bonding with a new pet in an affectionate picture book by YA fantasy writer Robin McKinley. Readers will recognize the stages: first the girl is not sure she wants a dog, then she can't decide what kind. But at the kennels, she doesn't hesitate ("I knew mine at once"). She names her whippet Rowan and brings her home. The tone is low-key, saved from sentimentality by the detailed observation, as the child sees the dog's behavior ("every few minutes she stood up and whirled herself into a new little curl") and imagines the pet's misery ("she didn't know about houses, and carpets, and furniture, and telephones"). Ruff's soft-textured pastels and colored pencil illustrations express the physical closeness, especially when Rowan gives her owner wet puppy kisses in a joyful climax.