Pawcasso is a basket-toting dog who does his family’s grocery shopping on his own. When 11-year-old Jo is mistaken as his owner by a group of kids, she goes along with the lie in the hopes of making new friends. Soon the town becomes divided over whether Pawcasso should be allowed to roam free, and Jo worries that her lies will be exposed—and endanger Pawcasso and her new friendships.
If you have followed me for awhile, then you will know that I love everything that Remy Lai has written. From her tender and hilarious story about cakes and grief to her fun and poignant story about family and flying, Remy’s stories are undeniably full of heart and humour. I’m delighted to share that Remy’s latest book, Pawcasso, her new middle-grade graphic novel, is no exception!
Pawcasso follows Jo, a Chinese girl who is a little lonely. One day, when she spots a basket-toting dog who does his family’s grocery shopping, in a series of shenanigans and misunderstandings, Jo finds herself to be the mistaken owner of the dog – now named Pawcasso. When Pawcasso and Jo’s antics almost hand Pawcasso in the pound, the town soon becomes divided about whether Pawcasso should be able to roam free – and the conflict may expose Jo’s lies.
While both Pie in the Sky and Fly on the Wall were told in prose with illustrations, Pawcasso is a full graphic novel, which I absolutely adored reading. Remy’s illustrations were wonderful. One of my favourite things about Remy’s illustrations is how she conveys emotions and humour in her character’s facial expressions, especially when something takes the character by surprise. With Pawcasso’s antics and Jo constantly staying on her toes to avoid being caught in her lie, Remy’s soulful art conveys the silliness, fun and warm-hearted humour in her characters’ expressions – even Pawcasso’s!
The story is just as delightful as the art. For what starts as a little misunderstanding, despite Jo’s best efforts to tell the truth, Jo finds herself invested in an innocent lie. What I loved about Pawcasso was, with its fun and gentle storytelling, explores that lies are not always intentional but they can have consequences that we may not be able to handle, and how lies can have ripple effects. Ultimately, the story culminates into a debate about whether dogs should be able to roam free or not without a leash or not. I was in awe of how this debate was handled – presenting both sides fairly and exploring the implications of both – and I think the story provides an excellent lesson on the importance of being responsible. In saying that though, the shenanigans and antics are so much fun to watch and they will undoubtedly delight readers of any ages. The resolution of the story is also tender-hearted and lovely.
Though there is a lot of fun in Pawcasso’s story (and true to Remy’s books!), there is so much emotional depth as well. Readers will relate to Jo’s loneliness – how she has little friends, struggles as a middle child to young twins and an older teenage sibling, how her father is rarely ever home – and how she finds so much joy in finding new friends and finding her corner of belonging and community. I also loved that Pawcasso is definitely a story that explores and celebrates community – that everyone is different and may not always agree with one another, but with mutual respect and understanding can come together as well.
At its heart, Pawcasso is about kindness and how everyone, especially the people whom we make assumptions about, are deserving of compassion. I thought this was a beautiful message, and how Pawcasso explores this through dog ownership and how much we can love our pets was so profound and lovely. I could feel the love that Remy has for her lovely dogs through this story.
MY CONCLUSION: RECOMMENDED
Pawcasso is guaranteed to be a fun and delightful read for dog-lovers and non-dog-lovers alike! Brimming with so much heart, humour, and compassion, Pawcasso is a wonderful showcase of Remy’s art and storytelling skill. Once again, I cannot wait to read what she writes and draws next.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: A girl becomes the mistaken owner of a basket-toting dog, and her little innocent lie spirals into something bigger.
Perfect for: Readers who love dogs; readers who love vibrant and expressive graphic novels; readers who love middle-grade stories that delight.
Think twice if: You’re not a fan of graphic novels or middle-grade stories.
Genre: middle-grade graphic novel, contemporary
Trigger/content warning: mention of pet death