Booklist starred (August 2015 (Vol. 111, No. 22))
Grades K-2. Buddy the dog is bored on a rainy day, but he’s in for a surprise when a small box arrives with a mysterious prickly thing inside, who introduces himself as Earl. Inquisitive Buddy asks, “What are you, Earl?” Earl replies that he’s a race car, but Buddy’s not convinced. Tricky Earl agrees, “I’m not a race car. I’m a giraffe.” That’s still not right, but Earl soon turns the tables on Buddy: “You’re very tall. Are you a skyscraper?” Their lighthearted game of pretend culminates in a thrilling pirate adventure on the sofa, and Buddy knows he’s found a friend. Though savvy little ones will likely recognize that Earl is a hedgehog (despite his insistence that he’s a talking hairbrush), Sookocheff’s cute, cartoonish pictures, rendered with thick black outlines and flat patches of subdued color, cleverly illustrate Earl’s imaginative japes. When he claims to be a race car, the holes in his box transform into tires, and when he’s a sea urchin, the blue area rug is a pool of sea water. Though the muted palette may not immediately dazzle, it’s the perfect backdrop for Buddy's and Earl’s wild imaginations to take center stage. Their charmingly raucous game of make-believe is appealing enough, but the sneaky lesson in deductive reasoning makes this frolicsome, read-aloud-friendly picture book truly outstanding.