WILEY AND JASPER

Miriam Moss, Author, Jutta Bucker, Illustrator , illus. by Jutta Bcker. Mondo $15.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-59336-060-3

Wiley lives next door to his grandfather, who has a dog named Jasper. Wiley and Jasper share something in common: Both like to think they are brave, and each is on the other's secret list of bugaboos. "When Wiley visits Grandpa, Jasper hides in the bedroom," writes Moss (A New House for Smudge ), as Bucker (Best Friends ) pictures Jasper hunkering down in his dog bed, one ear flap hanging vigilantly over the edge. Opposite, Wiley anxiously peers around a door. "When Grandpa visits Wiley, Jasper stays at home." But when the dog and boy get separated from their family during a thunderstorm and share refuge in a spooky barn, they turn to each other for comfort, and a friendship blooms. The premise may not be fresh (and readers will be tipped off to the happy outcome by the cover illustration), but the understated prose lends the story a crispness and urgency, while allowing Bucker to fully redeem it. Her pictures are playful and buoyant without undercutting the emotional stakes, and her settings are as expressive as the duo's faces. When Wiley runs to the barn, the artist pares down the illustration to its simplest, nightmarish elements. And when Wiley and Jasper discover they're trapped together (Wiley's hand lands on Jasper and their respective eyes bug out), it's a moment that's funny, tense and poignant all at once. Ages 3-7. (Sept.)