cover image The Five-Dog Night

The Five-Dog Night

Eileen Christelow. Clarion Books, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-395-62399-2

Crusty New Englanders get a good ribbing in this tale of two neighbors in pursuit of both corporeal and emotional warmth. Betty always brings cookies and unwanted advice when she visits cranky old Ezra. As winter deepens, she nags him more and more about his refusal to put extra blankets on his bed. She complains about the chill, he responds that it ``wasn't too bad. . . . only a one-dog night'' and she thinks he's ``crazy as a loon.'' She doesn't understand that he's ``blanketed'' by anywhere from one to five of his dogs. In Christelow's witty story, which was inspired by a news report, the one-dog weather gradually intensifies and the number of dogs atop Ezra's bed increases--along with Betty's concern for her stubborn neighbor. One frigid morning, Betty bursts into Ezra's home and discovers the secret of his warmth. Fed up with what he perceives as her nosiness, Ezra lashes out at Betty, who vows never to return. Ezra's heart thaws with the spring, and he takes cookies to Betty, by now a convert to the five-dog heating system. Their friendship blossoms. Christelow's crisp pacing, well-pitched dialogue and unpolished style of illustration suit her rough-around-the-edges but winsome Yankees just fine. As homey as apple pandowdy straight from the oven. Ages 5-9. (Aug.)