cover image Rover


Michael Rosen. Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32677-3

In this comical tale, it's the canine narrator who calls his pet human ""Rover."" Rover and her doting parents (whom the dog names Rex and Cindy) have many unusual customs. At the park, for instance, Rover ""keeps losing her ball, but I always bring it back for her"" (a thought bubble shows Rex calling, ""Fetch boy!""). One day, the family goes to the beach (where ""humans rip off lots of their clothes. Then some of them run around like crazy, and some lie down and pretend to be dead""), and Rex and Cindy fall asleep in the sun. When the parents awaken, Rover is missing. Although the unflappable narrator doesn't understand the fuss, he blithely locates the girl. Rosen demonstrates a silly sense of humor as he imagines an animal's logic, and he strongly conveys the parents' anxiety when Rover gets lost, despite some avoidable repetition (the TV is a ""loud, colored box,"" and on the next page, the car is ""the family box""). The illustrations, however, are the real draw here. As in his Smile If You're Human, Layton exhibits an intuitive sense of an outsider's perspective. He offers a dry counterpoint to the goofy proceedings with a deliberately clumsy, charcoal-gray scribble that mimics a child's technique. He covers his gestural sketches with wide brushstrokes in a beach-umbrella--bright palette, making no effort to stay within the lines. The crude, exuberant images mirror the emotional charge of the drama in which the narrator learns to guard his pet. Ages 6-up. (May)