Andrew Murray, , illus. by Nicola Slater. . HarperCollins, $15.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-06-057187-0

Chester and Buddy, a rancorous white cat and medium-size brown dog, taunt and swat each other all day long. Their owner, a blond girl named Lucy, can't make them get along, and "even though Chester was brave , Buddy was bigger ," one night Chester "crept out through the cat-flap... and didn't come back." Chester's hind end, with its orange-tipped tail and an angrily extended rear paw, disappears proudly out the door. While a worried Lucy searches the vicinity and posts flyers, a deft cartoon sequence recalls Buddy's memories of Chester: the cat closes his eyes and licks his paw, pounces violently on a piece of string and lounges blissfully on the TV. Buddy realizes he misses Chester, and he sneaks out the cat-flap himself to find his antagonist. British author Murray, a children's bookseller, and debut picture-book artist Slater make an effective team. Slater draws Chester and Buddy as barrel-chested rivals, with sausage-thick bodies and stubby legs. Chester's sharp ears and narrowed eyes give him an insulted feline demeanor, while Buddy's pert ears, quizzical eyebrows and round eyes lend him a hopeful, apologetic doggy look. Sound effects (Chester's "rrraaaouwww"), thought bubbles and bold, oversize print let readers emphasize key words in Murray's narrative. Predictably, and to Lucy's delight, Chester and Buddy become friends, and this tale finds a place among other recent runaway tales like Amanda Harvey's Dog Gone: Starring Otis . Ages 3-7. (Mar.)