It is obvious from the cover alone that The Dog Who Belonged to No One, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Amy Bates, is going to be adorable. Just the image of the smiling but scruffy looking dog tells you that this is one story that will tug at your heartstrings and make you go Awwww. The cover is not lying. This is one of the sweetest and cutest stories I've read in a while. I even got chocked up at the end.
The story alternates between the little dog that no one wanted and a little girl named Lia who makes deliveries for her baker parents. We see how the little dog tries to be helpful and friendly and how the girl works all day. Both the dog and the young girl are sweet and helpful but both are very lonely. The dog sleeps in the street and dreams of a warm porch. The little girl lays in bed and dreams of finding a friend. One night as a storm brews, the little girl races for home after her last delivery. At the same time a little dog is desperately trying to outrun the storm. And of course they both end up on the same porch, Lia's family's porch. After they both dry off, the girl and the dog become fast friends and they live happily ever after.
I'm sure that I've read this story before but I've never heard an adoption story told with such heart. The section about how the little dog tries to outrun the night because it doesn't want to be alone is just heartbreaking. The shared joy when they both, warm and dry, decide to adopt each other was enough to bring tears to my eyes. In fact, Hest manages to make us smile and cry numerous times in the book, which is impressive for a mere 32 pages. The story is told as alternating pages and it is only as we get close to the end that we see how the friends will finally meet up. There is a wonderful spread at the end where we can, through words and pictures, see how the two will come to the same spot and finally meet up. A sweet story, told well.
The illustration, by Amy Bates, are done with pencil and watercolor and are simply stunning. There is no other word to describe how beautiful and captivating the images are. I was completely in love with her depictions of the dog, which range from heartbreaking to cheery (a scene with the dog sleeping in an alley, made me tear up a little). It is the kind of depiction that would make anyone want to adopt this little dog. The setting, a small town in the late 1800s, is well captured. Little details like the storefronts and the costumes make it very believable. Bates uses a fall palette and mixes in some leaves to make it seem like winter is just around the corner for both of these characters. Bates manages to mix absolute adorableness with surprisingly detailed.
It is rare to find a book that tugs at the heartstrings quite as much as this one has done. I was in love with the dog and the girl from the beginning. And although I could see how it would end from the very start of the book, the beauty and the sweetness of the story made the journey more than worth it. One of my new favorite books. I'll be picking this one up immediately.