cover image Can I Be Good?

Can I Be Good?

Livingston Taylor, Maggie Taylor. Harcourt Children's Books, $16 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-200436-1

Children will see themselves in the gleeful activities of a golden retriever who finds that ``it's awfully hard to be good.'' Throughout the day, obedience is uppermost in his mind, but there is always something to lure him from the straight and narrow: the yard beckons in the dawn light, mud puddles are too much fun to resist, the school bus is filled with friends to visit. At every turn goodness eludes him and, while he is never really a bad dog (except for chewing dad's new shoes), he is certainly a bundle of trouble. Only when fatigue descends does he achieve his goal: ``And I'm all bedded down / On my favorite rug. / Finally it's time to be good.'' Songwriter Taylor's rhyming prose snaps along merrily, upbeat in tempo yet tinged with wry melancholy that reflects the naughty dog's exasperation. Dreamy watercolors in soft shades capture the suburban setting while drawing attention to the canine flurry of movement constantly at the center. Rand endows his lovable protagonist with facial expressions that tug at the heartstrings and, from the smiles of family and neighbors, it is obvious that this not-quite-good-as-gold-en retriever's exuberance is not held against him. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)