cover image I, JACK


Patricia Finney, , illus. by Peter Bailey. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (192pp) ISBN 978-0-06-052207-0

The cover photo of a yellow Lab (wearing drawn-on eyeglasses) and the author credit "By Jack, the dog, as told to Patricia Finney," tip readers off to the narrative voice in this labored British import. Jack's rather cloying exuberance is evident from his opening words: "Hi! hi there! Hello! hi, friend!! I am Jack! Look at me! Here I am. I like you. Do you like me? I am Jack. Big Dog Jack !! Hi! Can I smell your...? Oh. Sorry." He then introduces his "Pack," the English family he lives with, consisting of Packleader (the "biggest standing-up apedog"), his wife, Pack Lady, and three "apedog puppies." Some readers will be more tolerant than others of the cutesy "Jackspeak," some of which is translated in a concluding glossary ("talkbone" is the telephone, "Flying Featheries" are birds). Though Jack's interpretations of family matters occasionally hit a humorous note, his monologue can be tedious and repetitious, as he fixates on Petra, the pooch next door, yips about feeling hungry and garners criticism or praise from his owners. Only midway through is there any appreciable action, as Jack helps Petra find a place to deliver her "Special Message" (puppies); at the tail end, he struggles to obey instructions to "make like Lassie" and fetch help when his Packleader falls through rotting stairs and breaks his leg. Footnotes relaying quips from the supercilious family felines add little to this sluggish canine caper. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)