IT'S A DOG'S LIFE

Paul Banks, Author, Jakob Kirchmayr, Illustrator , illus. by Jakob Kirchmayr. Penguin/Minedition $14.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-698-40009-2

The debut children's book for Banks unfolds as a languid, bluesy chronicle of a hound dog's day-to-day travails. Impeccably illustrated, the story tells of a yellow, flop-eared pooch who's had his share of ups and downs, with couplets that owe a debt to Banks's own roots in jazz and country traditions (the tale is adapted from one of his songs). The wide-eyed puppy is loyal to his owner, Mrs. Anderson, even though the woman keeps him on too short a leash. "She talks to me in baby talk,/ she thinks that she's so smart,/ but when she cuddles me and feeds me beef/ I love her with all my heart./ It's a dog's life./ It's a dog's life." Walking by the pound or the park, he isn't allowed to play, and must sit watching as the other dogs flirt with "the sweetest little lady hounds/ in the whole wide world." When "one day I saw Daisy,/ she makes my heart go crazy," the hound bounds after her, only to see her won over by a Collie. Life seems to hold a hefty dose of disappointment for the pup, but he never loses heart. Austrian artist Kirchmayr's illustrations are ideally suited to the original and catchy verse. A vaguely European cityscape unfolds in pencil, and bold brushstrokes make the foreground come alive, fading into a cursorily defined distance. This heartfelt, spot-on pairing of rhymes and illustrations prove that even a bittersweet lament is worth telling. Ages 4-up. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/28/2005
Release date: 03/01/2005
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