cover image WHAT PETE ATE FROM A–Z


Maira Kalman, Susan Guevara, . . Putnam, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-399-23362-3

Kalman (Next Stop Grand Central) unleashes her extravagant whimsy in this loquacious alphabet book, "in which a certain dog devours a myriad of items which he should not." Shaggy yellow Pete, staring benignly from the book's flame-red cover, is an omnivore. According to his astonished owner, who speaks in a torrent of interjections and parenthetical asides, Pete first dined on an "accordion. All of it." Pete's torso takes on the instrument's shape as he springs in the air. He next "ate a bouncing ball that belonged to uncle Bennie's dog Buster. (Buster is no bargain. He barks all the time, but still...)." A wan fellow stands with a frowning white bulldog at his feet, gesturing at a picture of the vanished ball; empty chairs in a composition reminiscent of Matisse augment the sense of tongue-in-cheek tragedy. Pete proceeds through the letters of the alphabet, enjoying sticky stuff ("Gooey gluey dog"), "Mrs. Parsley's pink pocketbook" and a pair of "underpants. Uggh!" A loose story line emerges as Pete eats Bennie's money ("Now Bennie has no money [none] to buy Buster a new ball...") and the Parsleys make multiple appearances. Kalman paints affectionate portraits of the unstoppable Pete, the now-missing objects and their disappointed owners, and her hand-printed text acts as an element of the illustrations. Her overblown alliteration and fabulous gouaches gush with glamour. All ages. (Sept.)