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From Barnes & NobleCaldecott medalist Marc Simont proves once again that he is the quintessential children's storyteller with his latest effort, The Stray Dog. Simont borrows from a true story and turns it into a delightful and beguiling tale of one family's adventures with a stray dog they encounter in a park. While picnicking in the country, this city-living family finds and plays with a dog they name Willy. Thinking the dog might belong to someone, they leave it behind when it's time to return home. But the entire family thinks about him throughout the week to come. When they return the following weekend and find Willy again roaming the park -- this time with the dogcatcher in hot pursuit -- they claim Willy as their own and bring him home.
Simont's tale is a deceptively understated and heartwarming story of love, giving, and family -- a family whose definition and makeup is subject to change. There's plenty of humor to be found, too, primarily in Simont's beguiling and splashy watercolor illustrations where the subtleties ignored in the text spring to life. The front fly page is a good example, boasting a simple picture of Willy's tail-wagging back half while his front end is buried inside a large bag of trash. And later, when the quick-thinking boy in the family donates his belt to use as a collar, he's shown struggling to keep his pants up while his sister (who donated a hair ribbon to use as a leash) frolics and plays with the family's newest member.