Pawcasso | Review
Writer/artist: Remy Lai
Henry Holt and Company; $14.99
It’s the first day of summer break and Jo is staring out the window, already bored, when she sees a strange sight: A dog prancing down the street, a basket in its mouth, with no leash or owner in sight. Curious, she follows the dog, and finds that it is headed to the nearby shopping center. There’s a grocery list and money in its basket, and this clever dog is apparently shopping, all by itself!
When Jo and the dog enter the bookstore Dog Ears, some children in the art class mistake the dog for Jo’s, and she tries and fails to explain that it’s not really her dog. Before she knows it, she’s agreed to let “her” dog serve as a model for the weekly art class for kids at Dog Ears. This obviously presents a few problems, including the fact that she has no idea whose dog Pawcasso—a name she stumbles upon when asked by the art kids, who are studying Picasso—actually is, where it lives and what its shopping schedule is.
Still, Jo makes several new friends through Pawcasso, and she is alternately fond of and slightly freaked out by all of the attention the local shopping dog has generated, and so she finds herself trying to keep the lie going. This becomes increasingly difficult when the local city council demands a leash law be enforced, and the whole community begins taking sides on the issue of whether or not dogs should be leashed, complete with a social media campaign, buttons and signage. She started out only having to fool one art class, but soon it seems like she has to fool the whole world.
As dramatic as all that might seem, it’s actually not Jo’s main problem. Her father works overseas, and is only able to come home for short visits, a week or so at a time. This breaks Jo’s heart, but also makes her resentful of her father, and of herself, for feeling the way she does. In some ways, the doggie drama is a welcome respite from the emotional turmoil of her feelings for her father.
That’s the basic story of Pawcasso, the latest original graphic novel from Remy Lai (Pie in the Sky, Fly on the Wall). It’s all told in a carefully regulated visual style that is highly abstracted, but just representational enough to convey the necessary emotion of the characters. This is most evident in the rendering of Pawcasso, who must look detailed enough to be an adorable dog, but also be highly expressive, radiating emotions over the things most important to Pawcasso, like food and poop, the latter of which is good for rolling in.
It’s a relentlessly charming work, and a perfect summer book for readers of all ages.
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About J. Caleb Mozzocco
J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.
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