Larry Dane Brimner, , illus. by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey. . Harper-Collins, $15.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-029039-9

Shored up by simultaneously tender and zingy illustrations, Brimner's (Country Bear's Good Neighbor) tale rises above its prosaic theme to comfort children frustrated by the achievements of their older siblings. Big Gray discovers his youngest pup hiding: "Little One, why aren't you playing with your sister and brothers?" The youngster bemoans the different ways in which he is outpaced by the bigger pups: "Ana says I am a slowpoke." The father asks his pup to demonstrate, then judiciously replies, "It is true that Ana runs like the wind and you run like a soft breeze.... That is just how it should be…. Running like the wind comes later." Aruego and Dewey (How Chipmunk Got His Stripes) endow each of Little One's demonstrations of his shortfalls with humor and empathy; as he runs, for instance, the artists trace his path in craggy lines of citrus colors, exhaustion oozing from his trembling physique. With his father's encouragement, the tot seems to visibly grow in strength and confidence. The narrative occasionally lumbers in its drive to edify, but the father's thoughtful replies are right on target and consistently sound genuine. Sure to give fledgling young ones a boost of confidence. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)