cover image Little Kisses

Little Kisses

Jolie Jones, , illus. by Julie Downing. . HarperCollins/Andrews, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-06-058698-0

A pup named Bejinhos—Brazilian for "little kisses"—narrates this tale of his life with beloved owner Jolie (which "means pretty in France"). As long as he's with her, Bejinhos behaves ("Those are the rules" becomes a kind of refrain) and life is grand. But when Jolie goes to school, Bejinhos soon breaks the rule about staying in his own yard. Lost on the streets, he wonders if he'll ever see his owner again—a fear that's quickly put to rest when Jolie finds him. Jones's literal, often ham-fisted prose ("It's fun having friends!") and disjointed narrative nearly sinks the book. The author spends several pages establishing a cosmopolitan community of pooches with multicultural names such as "Nani" ("beautiful in Hawaii") and "Kibawa" ("little brother in Africa"), and then shifts gears completely from this promising idea, in favor of Bejinhos's solitary adventure. Downing's (The Firekeeper's Son ) velvety pastels effectively evoke a sense of place and mood, especially when Bejinhos is in peril. But unfortunately even she can't seem to give the canine hero a distinctive personality, or convey much of a bond between Jolie and Bejinhos. Ages 3-6. (Dec.)