Review of Pawcasso

Pawcasso
by Remy Lai; illus. by the author
Intermediate    Holt    240 pp.    g
5/21    978-1-250-77448-4    $21.99
Paper ed.  978-1-250-77449-1    $14.99

Lai’s finger is always precisely on the pulse of kid humor (see Pie in the Sky, rev. 7/19; Fly on the Wall, rev. 9/20), and she provides laughs galore in this graphic novel. Joanna “Jo” Lin just wants to escape her house, where she feels the absence of her dad (who works overseas) and acutely notices the presence of her vexing siblings. One Saturday, she follows an extremely capable dog running errands downtown. A class of art students immediately mistakes Jo for the owner, and they convince her to bring the pooch (whom Jo, inspired by the curriculum, dubs “Pawcasso”) each Saturday to model for the group. What begins as a weekly art class grows into genuine friendships, and the mystery of Pawcasso’s true owner unfolds in layers, encompassing an ­off-leash petition that polarizes the town and provides a B-plot family drama. Lai excels at visually and verbally conveying Jo’s anxieties through humorous and resonant gags. A strong reliance on black ink outlines will remind older audiences of classic syndicated comics by Bil Keane or Patrick McDonnell, while Lai’s expert attention to angles and perspective makes even small moments cinematic for younger eyes. Move over, Jeff Kinney!

From the July/August 2021 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Niki Marion

Niki Marion is the children’s outreach manager at Third Place Books in Seattle. She holds a master’s degree in children’s literature from Simmons University.

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