The story begins with a little girl with dark skin and crinkly hair telling about how she got Alfie on her sixth birthday. Although at first she spends lots of time with him, when Alfie doesn't respond she gradually loses interest and on her seventh birthday he disappears. This sad news is followed by a stark white page with the little girl and Alfie on opposite pages, smudged in shadow.
Then the story flips and Alfie is telling the story of how he met Nia. (I thought at first the story was repeating and then - doubletake!) Little does Nia know, but he's been appreciating her all along, loving her presents and wanting to show her how much he likes her. On her seventh birthday he sets out to find a present and after various advice ends up outside where he falls asleep in the pond. Waking up in spring, he wakes up just in time to find a present for Nia's birthday, happy that he's made it in time and they are seven together.
Of course, the joke is that time just moves to slowly for Alfie he hasn't realized he's lost a year! The author's note talks about her own Alfie and how she lost interest but he was there when she came back and rediscovered how interesting turtles are. The final page shows the smudged shadows of Nia and Alfie, together again.
This is a pitch-perfect story on so many levels. It has an unusual pet, a very realistic child who loses interest and then rediscovers her friend, subtle bits of humor throughout, and a beautifully and lovingly drawn African-American family.
Verdict: A delightful addition for storytime or your pet collections. Recommended.
ISBN: 9781419725296; Published 2017 by Abrams; Borrowed from another library in my consortium