Sunday, September 19, 2010

Placebo Pets: The Best Pet Ever by Victoria Roberts

"Mom, can I have a pet? PLEASE!

Mom, Mom, can I have a pet?

Can I?"

"We'll see."

It's a classic conversation that almost all children and parents have somewhere along the line. Unlike some kids, this little girl takes her mom's provisional "We'll see," seriously. Setting out to prove that she's got the right stuff to take care of a pet, she undertakes a series of trial adoptions.

First it's a rock she names "Fluffy." She takes Fluffy for a walk, although he's apparently not in the least leash-trained. Then he somehow seems to earn the privilege of walking off-leash, but fails in his part of the deal when he makes his escape down a steep hill.

The girl turns to a single glove she finds. It has its appeal: it's soft and woolly and looks cute in its cozy basket. And named "Nibbles," it lives up to its moniker by agreeably consuming everything the little girl stuffs it with--acorns and leaves mostly--for a couple of days, until Nibbles apparently reaches her capacity.

Then the prospective pet owner finds a candy wrapper and submerges it in a handy clear glass fruit bowl in the kitchen. Filled with water, the sinuous wrapper, christened "Swishy," obligingly swims around and around when its owner swirls the liquid, twisting and turning cheerfully for a day or so until sogginess sets in.

Finally, the girl seems to have found the perfect substitute pet--a red balloon which she names "Bruce." Bruce gets a cheery black marker face and filled with static electricity, clings to the girl when he's warmly hugged. It looks like Bruce is the best pet yet, until...

Now the girl is sad. Bruce was the best pet yet, but now he's a popped pet!
"Oh, that's a shame! Maybe we can find another pet for you to play with," Mom says.

And there, in the kitchen, is an interesting looking brown box, with big, round holes cut in the sides. What could be inside?

Victoria Roberts' The Best Pet Ever (Tiger Tales, 2010) is a neat imaginative take on the may-I-have-a-pet story. Written with a childlike simplicity and illustrated agreeably by Deborah Allbright, this book will intrigue kids with her improbable pinch-hit pets and empathize with this girl who proves she's worthy of the privilege, and it looks like Timmy is going to be one lucky little black-and-white kitty.

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