cover image Bark, George

Bark, George

Jules Feiffer, Jules Fieffer. HarperCollins Publishers, $17.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-205185-1

In just a few pen strokes and just a few words, Feiffer (I Lost My Bear) outlines the playful scenario of a puppy who cannot say ""arf."" The images are striking, with no background details or props but the unobtrusive text. In the initial spreads, a big dog and a little one face each other from opposite sides of the book: ""George's mother said: `Bark, George.' George went: `Meow.' "" As George proceeds to quack, oink and moo, his dismayed mother grimaces and puts her paw on her head in the classic gimme-a-break gesture. She takes her afflicted son to a veterinarian, who snaps on a rubber glove and decisively repeats the title command. This time, when the pup meows, ""The vet reached deep down inside of George... And pulled out a cat."" Feiffer reverses the old-lady-who-swallowed-a-fly plot and boosts the giddiness with every barnyard animal removed from tiny George. The pen-and-ink close-ups of the dogs and vet are studies in minimalism and eloquence, and the characters' body language registers intense effort and amazement. Rather than being black-on-white, the illustrations get a boost from cool pastel hues. This pairing of an ageless joke with a crisp contemporary look will initiate many an animated game of animal sounds. Ages 2-6. (June)