illus. by Scott Campbell. 40p. Roaring Brook/Neal Porter Bks. Jan. 2017. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781626722880.
K-Gr 2—In this epistolary picture book, Ox, who has admired the lithe and lovely Gazelle from afar, finally sits down with paper and pencil to profess his admiration and affection. Gazelle replies with a form letter and a signed photo of herself. Not one to be dissuaded, Ox writes again, and the vain gazelle's response is exactly the same. Ox tries flattery, complimenting her intellect as well as her beauty. Not wishing to be repetitive, Gazelle personalizes her reply: "There is no need to write me again." Ox next commends her sense of humor. Gazelle lashes out in frustration and states emphatically that she could never love someone "so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely. And unlovable." The thick-skinned ox retorts that at least she is able to admit to having a fault, which makes him love her all the more. This gives Gazelle pause and forces her to reassess her feelings… at least enough to continue the correspondence. This tale of the attraction of opposites and the power of words is simply told and charmingly illustrated. Campbell's whimsical watercolor and colored pencil artwork features sepia outlines and earthy hues on Ox's pages and more textured patterns and shades of pink and purple on Gazelle's. The notes are easy to read, and the sensibilities, emotions, and body language are child-centric and brimming with humor.
VERDICT A sweet and tender Valentine choice for storytime or one-on-one sharing.

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