Shmulik Paints the Town

illus. by Catalina Echeverri. 32p. Kar-Ben. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467752398; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781467752497; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781467796071.
PreS-Gr 2—The mayor hires Shmulik the painter to create a mural in the park for Yom Ha'atzmaut, Israel's Independence Day. Waiting for inspiration, Shmulik procrastinates all week, but his clever dog Ezra saves the day by painting while his master lounges. The park is beautified, and everyone is happy. The text is straightforward and gently comical. The inclusion of Shabbat is a nice touch that adds a Jewish sensibility to a universal theme (getting by with a little help from your friends). Shmulik's enthusiastic acknowledgement of Ezra's help is all the more satisfying because the mayor says, "Everybody knows dogs can't paint." The quirky artwork is the real star of the book. Black-and-white scenes pop where Ezra paints or where Shmulik relaxes in his colorfully spattered smock. Silent clues to the canine's cleverness include his orange glasses and the symbolic light bulbs over his head. The illustrations advance the story in ways that the text does not, showing Ezra's progress and a growing relationship with a stray cat. The connection to Israel and Yom Ha'atzmaut is mild but important because there are so few picture books on the subject. The palm trees and intermittent Hebrew signage indicate an Israeli setting. The mural includes Israeli imagery such as pomegranates, camels, menorahs, and a diverse group of people holding Israeli flags.
VERDICT Charming, funny, and visually clever, this book will have wide appeal for Jewish and non-Jewish readers.

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