Emma Full of Wonders

How is Emma, a dog, full of "wonders"? By literally being full of puppies! In the blindsidingly moving Emma Full of Wonders, Elisha Cooper (Train; 8: An Animal Alphabet) offers a picture-book tour through a dog's experience of pregnancy and puppy birth, although the fact that Emma is expecting may come as a big, beautiful surprise to readers.

An omniscient narrator introduces Emma, "a large dog/ with many small dreams." These "dreams" take the form of a clutch of fantasy puppies who float above Emma's head in apparitional gray tones. The narrator goes on to describe Emma's dreams for these doggies: "singing, dancing, rolling in the grass," and more. The narrator proceeds to chronicle Emma's everyday activities--naps, stretches, walks--until "the day" arrives. The story concludes with her newborn pups gamboling about--sure enough, there's "singing, dancing, rolling in the grass"--and the assurance that Emma's "dreams came true."

While Emma Full of Wonders doesn't mention its protagonist's pregnancy, Cooper speckles the story with hints. "Some days Emma woke from her naps and still felt tired," the narrator says at one point. Why is she so tired? And why is it, exactly, that Emma "looked forward to tomorrow"? And wait: Is her belly getting bigger? Toward the end of the book, which features understated ink-and-watercolor art throughout, the narrator relays that Emma's "whole body felt strange," after which all becomes clear in a series of wordless spreads that show her delivering and tending to her newborns. Cooper captures the miracle in illustrations so tastefully straightforward that, as he recognizes, words are unnecessary. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

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