Any parent of a young child knows the importance of saying no, or, failing that, the importance of that face-saving fallback option, negotiation. In the wily and winsome picture book I Want 100 Dogs, from Stacy McAnulty (A Small Kindness) and Claire Keane (Paolo, Emperor of Rome), the parents may seem to have the upper hand, but the child, like the reader, has the last laugh.
The book begins with a girl's announcement to her parents: "I want 100 dogs." Through gritted teeth, her dad replies, "That sounds fun. But where would 100 dogs sleep?" On another occasion, the girl declares, "Okay, then I want 90 dogs." "Interesting request," acknowledges Dad, "but how would you walk 90 dogs?" On it goes--point, counterpoint, Dad alternating with Mom--until the girl says, "I think I'd like 1 dog." Later, Dad confides to Mom, "I can't believe we talked her out of 100 dogs." A facing illustration shows the girl telling her new dog, in a blue-ribbon punch line, "I can't believe I talked them into getting 1 dog."
Keane's digital art has comic-strip elements: the caricature-faced cast relays the story via dialogue and thought balloons. But Keane also comes through with serious detail work to approximate the book's fantasy-dog numbers: the girl sees dozens of pups in the clouds, conjures a 60-dog naming ceremony, and so on. The choicest illustration is set at a kennel, where it's revealed that--well, well, well--the girl isn't the only dog-besotted family member. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author