Holt. May 2021. 240p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781250774484; pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781250774491.
Gr 3-6–The town of Redhart has a special citizen: the most adorable, polite pooch you’ve ever met. He’s a canine who does his owner’s shopping, without a leash or a human in tow. And when a lonely girl named Jo befriends this lovable hound, everyone assumes she’s his owner. Not that Jo minds this mistake, but soon, one small fib has spun into a web of lies, and she even gives the dog a name: Pawcasso (the first name that springs to mind when he winds up a model for a children’s art class). With Pawcasso’s help, Jo learns to make friends, discover new hobbies, and even address the wound left by her father’s frequent work trips. But what happens when Pawcasso’s real owners discover what Jo’s been up to? And what does all this have to do with irritable Mr. Iccc, the neighborhood’s resident dog-hating crank? The story line is reminiscent of Kate DiCamillo’s Because of Winn-Dixie, while the artwork recalls the goofy expressions of James Kochalka’s comics. The culmination is a tale with bright, cheerful illustrations and an abundance of heart to match, as Jo grapples with resentment, forgiveness, and the power of community. This book might not be for every kid, though; its loftier themes might fly over the heads of some readers, while those more invested in Jo’s journey may be put off by the occasional toilet humor. Jo is pale-skinned with short black hair, and her town is racially diverse.
VERDICT A page-turning delight, and a must for dog lovers.

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