Scholastic. Nov. 2023. 32p. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781338898330.
PreS-K–Jeff Mack, Mo Willems, and others have gone this route: presenting a story that makes no sense but has so much humor and heart that readers will love it anyway. Maya’s grandfather, who splits his time between Alabama and Alaska, has a gift for Maya. A large pink pig, perhaps four times her size, named Julius, becomes her best friend and mentor, and she becomes his. Pilkey has a riot building the scenes of Maya’s unpleasantly grim parents, who dislike Julius and his coffee-guzzling dribbling, and the joy of Julius, galloping down the road like the pony Maya always wanted. Every scene of them is a portrait of a mutual admiration society in a growth spurt, even as Maya makes Julius develop manners, and Julius makes Maya aware of how much fun it is “trying on hats and dancing to jazz records” with friends her own size and age. Whether this is an imaginary friend or a real pet, or any version of those, the team of Maya and Julius know how to be friends, rubbing off each other’s rough edges.
VERDICT Color-drenched acrylic paintings and outsized proportions provide humor and affection in equal doses. Readers will want to settle in for a second read.

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