Spencer’s New Pet (Jessie Sima)

Hello, friends! We’re back from our vacation with a new review: Spencer’s New Pet by Jessie Sima, a deliciously odd and unexpected tale.

Borrowing elements of a silent movie (such as title cards to indicate the story’s three “parts”, film grain over select spreads, and even a leader countdown), this textless story introduces us to a boy, Spencer, and his new pet… a balloon animal. Besotted with the balloon beastie, Spencer takes him home from the carnival and dutifully cares for him, getting pet supplies, going for walks, playing, attending parties, and sharing plenty of (gentle) hugs. It’s at a visit to the veterinarian that a complication of having a balloon animal for a pet presents itself: when the pet drifts a bit to close to a prickly hedgehog, Spencer clutches his pet to his chest and backs away in fear. And it’s in Part II of the story (“The Park”) that this foreshadowing is expanded upon; breaking loose from Spencer’s grip, the balloon begins to careen toward a gauntlet of sharp, pointy, or hot things that threaten its well-being. Spencer tears after his friend, desperate to save it from a grisly fate – can he protect his pal in time?

Delightfully strange. Sima has a talent for telling unusual yet heartwarming stories, and this may be her most original yet. To discuss the last third of the book any further would do any prospective reader a disservice; the ending was so unexpected (yet so BRILLIANTLY foreshadowed) that I laughed out loud once I realized what was going on. And while the more subtle winks may fly over the heads of younger readers, it’s an ending that’s both silly and sweet enough to charm any age. The wonderful “silent movie” patische introduces elements of a genre that few other pictures books (if any) do, and gives a book a wonderful and unique visual style. Sima’s illustrations are charming as always, and fans of her previous works will enjoy the Easter eggs hidden in backgrounds and crowd scenes. The length is fine, and JJ and I loved it. A thoroughly entertaining tale, and it’s Baby Bookworm approved!

(Note: A copy of this book was provided to The Baby Bookworm by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.)

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