Burnt Toast on Davenport Street

Tim Egan, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $16 (32p) ISBN 978-0-395-79618-4

In Metropolitan Cow and Friday Night at Hodges' Cafe, Egan offered wry comments on friendship and loyalty. But this less robust tale seems to trade chiefly in quirkiness. Dog couple Arthur and Stella of 623 Davenport Street have a ""nice life. Not perfect, but nice."" One day, as Arthur prepares to swat a fly, the fly offers three wishes in exchange for its life. Arthur, a skeptic, glibly asks for a new toaster (he always burns the toast) and that five streetcorner crocodiles, who harass him daily, become harmless squirrels; pressed for the third wish, he tosses off a request ""to live on an exotic tropical island filled with crazy natives who run around singing and dancing all day long."" The fly mistakenly transforms the old toaster into a squirrel and the crocs into toasters, but Arthur and Stella do awaken in a paradise where llamas, lions and ""hippo-like"" creatures shake maracas and wear fruit on their hats. Egan contrasts the dogs' refined middle-class abode (with its tasteful pawprint-and-bone-motif wallpaper) with the flamboyance of the island, whose broad-faced, nearsighted residents resemble Babar the elephant. The deadpan text humorously counterpoints the overstated illustrations, but it doesn't establish much of a point for this shaggy-dog story. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)