In the rhyming picture book Pickles and Jane, Sally C. Knox considers the conundrum of what to do when adding a new dog to a household with two cats just doesn’t work out.
As is shown in Nikki Dzimira’s engaging illustrations, one black and one white cat are “purr-fectly matched to the family,” which includes white adults and a black child. But the cats turn out to be so frightened of the much-barking new dog, Joe, that they flee the household. While Knox notes that the family “stuck it out, they gave it a try,” they finally know that Joe needs another home.
The incompatible-pet problem happens all too often, and because a failed effort to accommodate a pet may stir emotions in young children, it is an excellent subject for a picture book. Unfortunately, the story is marred by some stylistic issues.
Knox starts each page with an uppercase letter, even in the middle of sentences. Combined with a lack of consistent punctuation (for example, sometimes the author puts a period at the end of a sentence, sometimes at the end of a fragment and sometimes leaves the period out altogether), this style can confuse a reader, who isn’t always sure where a thought begins and ends. Also, the meter of the stanzas is unevenly maintained. A typical example: “They all lived together quite happily/ Til [sic] the day Granny said [sic] ‘I want a dog for me’.”
Knox is careful to show that the family finds a good home for Joe. With some revision of meter and a thorough copyedit, this story could bring the worthy message of taking responsibility for pets to a wide pre-school audience.