Izzy and Oscar by Allison Estes and Dan Stark, illustrated by Tracy Dockray
Izzy has always wanted a pet. So when an adventurous octopus squiggles into town, Izzy decides to keep him. After all, a real pirate captain has to have a mascot. Oscar is not very good at going for walks or playing fetch. (Although he is amazing at hide and seek). And he’s definitely not like other pets…
But he is just right for Izzy.
Readers will be tickled by Izzy’s attempts to teach Oscar to behave like a dog, a parrot, a pony-and gratified by Izzy’s realization that in the end we love others for who they are…eight arms and all!
- Age Range: 4 – 8 years
- Hardcover: 40 pages
- Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (April 7, 2015)
Imaginary Pets (A Guest Post):
Since this book is about an unusual pet, it got me thinking about pets that live solely in the imagination, so I asked the author and illustrator of Izzy & Oscar the following question:“Have you ever had an imaginary pet? What was it? What kinds of things did you do together?”
I never had imaginary pets, though I think I was born dreaming of owning a horse. But when I was seven years old, we had just moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and I very, very badly wanted a cat: a grey kitten, specifically. Only…Santa failed me. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles all, all failed me. I did get, from my grandmother, a fleecy, grey stuffed kitty with a jingle bell in his ear–which I named Jingle. But no real grey kitten.
That summer, while visiting my grandmother in Mississippi, I kept on begging for a kitten. Finally, she took me down the road to Uncle Scott’s. Uncle Scott wore overalls, and had twinkling blue eyes in his leathery tan face. I told him my heart’s desire, and that I had saved up five dollars, and could I please buy a grey kitten? Uncle Scott laughed–he had smooth pink gums in front top and bottom, just like a baby–he thought that was about the funniest thing he had ever heard. He reached in a pocket and handed me a pack of Smarties. “You want a kitten?” he asked. “Come on over here.” I followed him out back and stepped up on the cinder blocks leading up to an old corn crib. He pushed open the door. Inside were what seemed like a hundred kittens, all hissing and scrabbling and scrambling this way and that. “Which one you want?” Slightly terrified, I also could not believe my good luck; I pointed out the grey tabby kitten dashing back and forth in the corn crib, and Uncle Scott waded in and somehow fished him out for me. Overcome with glee and solemnity, I handed up my five dollar bill. Uncle Scott had another good laugh and told me I could keep my five dollars. I thanked him and went home with my grandmother, reverently clutching the object of my desire. Tiger, I named him.
Tiger proved to be the quintessential tomcat, and fathered many litters. He also had at least two lives, since once he got hit by a car and ever after caved in on one side and bulged out on the other.
I had a succession of pets after Tiger and his progeny, including a pony, and then a horse. I adopted every stray animal, domestic or wild, that ever found me–and I guess they all crept into my soul in one way or another, since every book I’ve ever written has had animals in it!
I guess I didn’t need imaginary pets, because I had so many real ones.
Growing up in West Texas, my imaginary pet wasn’t all that unusual, as far as imaginary goes. My pet was pretend horse who, when I needed him with me, could shrink himself to fit in my pocket. When I got home after school, I would run outside and mount up on Teaberry, who would be waiting for me there, tossing his imaginary mane. We’d gallop out onto the plains/ backyard for adventure. When my poor mother looked out the window, she always saw me in the back yard trotting around and rearing. I think she felt bad that I didn’t have a stick horse to play with. So she went to the toy store and bought me a lovely stick horse with a fuzzy mane and even reins. It was pretty, but I felt like I was betraying Teaberry every time I rode on it. I knew he’d understand though, it made my Mom feel so good to think that she finally found a toy I liked.
About the Author:
Allison Estes has written more than a dozen books. Izzy & Oscar is her first picture book, and was really different and fun to write! Some of her other books are The Short Stirrup Club series (ten titles) for middle-grade readers, four titles in the Thoroughbred series (fun because she got to start over in #24 with all new characters), and Paw & Order: Dramatic Investigations by an Animal Cop on the Beat, which is an adult book but fine for animal lovers of all ages and full of happy endings.
After 29 years in New York City, Allison recently moved back to her home town, Oxford, Mississippi. She lives in the country with her son, two grandparents, two dogs, and two horses. Right now, when she isn’t busy cooking supper, taking care of dogs and horses, teaching writing workshops and driving to soccer, she is working on another picture book, another adult book, and more happy endings.
About the Artist:
Tracy Dockray grew up on the plains of West Texas with a love of books and innumerable pets. She moved to New York where she studied fine art and acquired several old motorcycles. Her career veered from sculpture to puppet making to murals and finally to children’s books. She is ecstatic to have illustrated 30 books including two that she wrote herself.
Tracy now lives in a creaky, cavernous brownstone in Greenwich Village, with a hairless cat, 2 fuzzy dogs, two children and a very tolerant husband. She is thrilled to have been able to illustrate Mrs. Cleary’s Ramona series and The Mouse and the Motorcycle series since she has a soft spot for them both. Although Tracy studied Fine Arts in school, she has come to the happy conclusion that drawing pictures for children’s books is the finest art she knows.
My Thoughts on Izzy & Oscar:
This book was a huge hit with my kids. They loved the idea of having an unconventional pet and they laughed at all the things Izzy tries to get Oscar to do (like snuggle or perch on her shoulder). It’s a really cute story about seeing strengths in others and not being upset when people (or pets) don’t conform to the standards we think they should. Izzy and Oscar is a lighthearted, funny, and sweet book that kids will love.
The illustrations are fantastic. Personality practically dances off the page as they bring the story to life. The artist captured Izzy’s quirky sense of style, imagination, and drama.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.