cover image THE WAY I LOVE YOU


David Bedford, , illus. by Ann James. . S&S, $12.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-87625-7

A bright-eyed, pigtailed preschooler—rendered with brio by James (Midnight Babies )—muses on all the ways she and her equally spirited, pointy-eared puppy are soul mates. "I love... the way you tell me things," writes Bedford (Big Bear, Little Bear ), as the dog's wagging tail urges the girl to pick up a ball and play a game of fetch, "the way you jump so high, the way you smile your smile. That's the way I love you." James uses her watercolor-and-charcoal vignettes to structure the text, charting the duo's activities through a rambunctious day that ends with a bedtime snuggle. In one of many standout spreads, the girl strides away from readers in pursuit of her pet; her short arms swing out, while her chunky body exhibits unstoppable determination. The dog, meanwhile, seems to soar through the upper right hand corner of the page, turning his head back and egging the girl on with his flapping pink tongue. The artist strips away everything extraneous to the relationship; other than a few sticks of furniture to suggest domesticity (a table, a tub, a bed) and a smattering of props (a tea set, a paper crown for both characters), the girl and dog romp through expanses of creamy white space. The text turns mawkish at times ("I love... the way you always care, the way you're always there"), but it never intrudes on the spirited beauty of the drawings, or the feeling that, for this pair, the world is their oyster. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)