cover image Derek's Dog Days

Derek's Dog Days

Nancy Lee Charlton. Harcourt Children's Books, $14 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-15-223219-1

Derek's kind of dog days are not about the summer heat. Instead, Derek wants to become canine: ""He liked to shake himself after his bath. At bedtime Derek liked to roll over and play dead."" But when he finally starts school, Derek decides that being human isn't all bad, even though he still ""paint[s] giant puppy pictures"" and occasionally growls at the justifiably nervous family cat. In this sort of story, there's usually a magical transformation from boy to dog and back again, but debut author Charlton takes the realistic approach; dogdom is all in Derek's mind. Demarest does include a thought-bubble in which Derek imagines himself four-footed and furry, but otherwise paints Derek as an energetic, curly-headed kid who would presumably wag his tail if he had one. He brings out the beast in Derek through jaunty watercolors, freewheeling enough to suggest constant motion but considerably more controlled than those in Casey in the Bath (reviewed above). Derek's flights of fancy come to naught, but his mischievous personality pervades the story and images. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)