cover image No Dogs Allowed

No Dogs Allowed

Jane Cutler. Farrar Straus Giroux, $14 (99pp) ISBN 978-0-374-35526-5

The Fraser brothers--Edward, five, and Jason, eight--are the heroes of the five supposedly comic, actually disturbing stories in this collection. Throughout the book, Jason belittles Edward's creative self-expression: he insists the youngster stop pretending to be a dog, is jealous of his artistic ability and teases him mercilessly about his choice of glasses frames. Although Mrs. Fraser takes some steps to mitigate Jason's behavior, her (rather bland) efforts are ineffectual in the face of her husband's daunting influence. Father puts in appearances only to impose his will on his family: he demands that his sons take swimming lessons they don't want and insists upon a camping trip they have no desire to take. Given the potentially waggish familial scenes, the book's tone is surprisingly unfunny. What emerges beneath a deceptively sunny surface are two imaginative boys being reshaped in the uncaring image of a self-centered father. Like Cutler's Family Dinner, this book's humor masks weightier matters. Pearson's typically peppy, sketchy illustrations do little to enliven the proceedings. Ages 7-10. (Oct.)