Score: 89/100 (8.9 out of 10)
Who was your first pet growing up? Who was your favorite?
Why did you choose them? Why did they choose you?
Zoey Meets David is a cute little book about a boy (David), a family, and their new dog (Zoey).
This book excels in some regards while struggling in others. At its core, it is a very charming book that covers an enticing subject matter for children and adults alike. Who doesn't love pet animals? Whether if it's a dog, a cat, a goldfish, or a hamster, pets can be major ways in which children learn nurturing and even responsibility. We can see this in moments like when David learns that puppies need leashes for their own safety. David also plays with Zoey, feeds her, and puts her to bed like father would a child. These moments are quite sweet if not utterly adorable.
Another thing about this book that really shines is the artwork. The artwork is beautiful and charming, especially when it comes to Zoey. Zoey is illustrated in such a cute little way that you can't help but want to hug her.
The human characters are also well illustrated, although they do veer close to the uncanny valley. It's very possible that the artist's instruction were to make them look as close to the real-life people as possible. We assume the artist succeeded because the people do look quite realistic. The art is bright, friendly, and inviting.
There are a lot of smiles and a lot of things to smile about. More than likely, kids are going to flip through this book and simply admire the pictures while ignoring the writing, and that's fine. We did it as kids too.
This book was clearly written for David (and, perhaps, the rest of the family), possibly as a holiday gift or to commemorate some event. This is the kind of book you write as a gift, not necessarily for public/commercial consumption, although it could do well in that regard.
While the art and the subject matter are huge pluses in this book's favor, the glaring issue with this book is the writing. Beside how dialogue is handled, there aren't any grammatical issues that we noticed. It's something else. The way the story is written is very matter-of-fact and dry, almost like a doctor or a police officer writing a report. It's almost like, “Patient complained of increased pain and drowsiness. They were given 500 mg of _________, and __________ happened” or “the perpetrator was aggravated and says he threw the bottle in anger.” There's no real beat or rhythm to the writing. Parts of it feel disjointed. There are times there are huge blocks of texts in which multiple people are talking to each other. That's especially tough for a children's book since most children aren't looking forward to sit through a chapter book telling them the history of Italy, they need quicker, shorter, more rhythmic sentences and paragraphs.
There are times we're just told that things happen, and there's no rhyme or reason to the sequence of events. For example, we first join the main characters while they're out eating pizza, then the book skips to the mother's interest in Chinese Crested puppies. We think we know why this is the case (because it actually happened that way), but as a story presented to an audience that doesn't know the family or the author, it feels jarring and unmoored. The other thing is: this book is supposed to be about David (and Zoey), but it seems pretty clear from the beginning that these types of dogs are the mother's interest. It almost feels like a parent making a book projecting their Olympic gymnastics dreams on their kid. While that's great for the parent, isn't this supposed to be about the kid?
But we digress, because there are times when both David and Zoey shine as characters. Both are compelling in their own right and experience an arc. For David, this is a story about learning to be responsible for another living being. For Zoey, this is a story about how you need to kiss a few frogs before you find a prince. Zoey's story is particularly touching since she was a dog who was abandoned/returned multiple times and couldn't find a forever home for whatever reason.
If that is the kind of story that appeals to you, we recommend you check out this book on Amazon!