Lucky Russell

Brad Sneed, Author
Brad Sneed, Author Putnam Publishing Group $14.95 (1p) ISBN 978-0-399-22329-7
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An endearing feline hero, perched atop a tree stump on this picture book's jacket, fixes his audience with a disarmingly direct gaze. Little ones will readily take to this beleaguered protagonist and his ``downright embarrassing'' predicament: a nameless girl on a farm, it seems, has taken to wheeling Russell about in a doll buggy, dressing him in a baby bonnet and insisting on his thus prettified presence at afternoon teas. Russell has had it, and makes the rounds of the various animals, begging each of them, ``I need an important job.'' The ensuing sequence of kid-pleasing repetition consists of each creature letting the frazzled feline know why he's not suited to any of their tasks. A stern Doberman, for example, announces, ``You gotta have a mean look and a low growl to protect the farm.'' As he did in his illustrations for Grandpa's Song , Sneed employs skewed perspectives to excellent effect. His barnyard cast manages to be both lifelike and winningly human, without ever seeming self-conscious or cute. Russell himself makes a charmingly persistent foil on this farm excursion; youngsters will cheer when he finally wins his eponymous appellation. Ages 3-6. (Oct.)
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