cover image Don't Need Friends

Don't Need Friends

Carolyn Crimi. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32643-8

Devastated when his best friend moves out of the junkyard, Rat decides to become a recluse. ""Don't need friends, don't need'em at all,"" he grumbles, rejecting overtures of friendship and food from his neighbors. Rat meets his match in churlishness when Dog moves in. ""Don't you come near me,"" snarls Dog. ""Fine with me!"" Rat responds. It takes calamities of health and weather to make the animals acknowledge--albeit in brusque terms--how much they need and care for each other. Crimi (Outside, Inside) and Munsinger (Tacky the Penguin) are in perfect sync in this slyly funny and deeply touching story. Without overemphasizing their message, they show how gruffness can mask hurt, and how even unwitting selflessness can warm the coldest heart--on both the giving and receiving ends. Crimi's tight, deft prose mines Dog and Rat's petulance for all its comedy and poignancy, while Munsinger offers up yet another memorable cast of all-too-human animals. Ages 4-8. (Oct.)