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A dog and his boy Toby'

September 14, 2016
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Picture book looks at pet adoption

Pets can be a huge part of any child's life. There's something truly special about the relationship between kids and pets.

However, there's a lot of responsibility that comes along with pet ownership particularly when you're adopting a rescue. The process can be difficult and frustrating for anyone, let alone a child who doesn't quite understand.

Hazel Mitchell's picture book 'Toby' (Candlewick, $16.99), inspired by her own rescue dog of the same name, offers a sweet and engaging look at the wonderful and trying process. Mitchell who lives in Maine has created the beautifully-drawn and thoughtful story of a little boy, his rescue pet and their sometime-bumpy journey of learning about one another.

A young boy and his dad have just moved to a new place. As a way to help make it feel more like home, they decide to adopt a dog from the local shelter. However, the dog they choose an adorable little mutt named Toby has a tough time adjusting to his new life.

He howls and he hides. He has trouble with playtime and with potty time. The boy promises to do everything he can to help Toby learn what he needs to know, but Dad is starting to get frustrated. Toby is doing the best that he can, but he and the boy need to figure out the best way to settle into this new forever home relationship and fast!

Mitchell's illustrations offer a sophisticated simplicity. The backgrounds are detailed and the characters especially Toby himself are beautifully done. And the story is a sweet one it's a wonderful way to help show children just how hard and how rewarding rescuing a dog can be. The author's affection for dogs is present on every page, sharing the love with the reader.

'Toby' is a book with a message, to be sure, but that message never overwhelms the matter at hand that is, to tell an engaging story. Kids from preschool to first grade will find plenty to like in this whimsically-drawn, tenderly-told tale of a dog and his boy.

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