cover image Courtney


John Burningham. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $16 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-517-59883-2

Burningham's ( Hey, Get Off Our Train! ; Granpa ) insouciant tale opens as two children beseech their parents for a dog. Although the adults insist that such a pet needs a great deal of care, they breezily give in (``Oh, very well then, if you must.''), provided that the kids choose a ``proper dog. One with a pedigree.'' Instead, the youngsters decide on an old mongrel named Courtney who, as it turns out, is no ordinary canine. Soon after arriving, he slips away and returns lugging a huge pink trunk. From it he pulls a chef's hat and proceeds to cook up a meal. Donning a waiter's jacket, Courtney serves the food in style, and then plays the violin while the family dines. This astonishing pet goes on to display great bravery when he saves the baby from the family's burning house. Like the siblings featured here, readers may be distressed when Courtney and his trunk disappear one day, but the tale's cleverly cryptic ending implies that the heroic dog has not really abandoned his adopted family. A caveat: though intentionally sketchy, Burningham's art on some pages seems unfinished. Ages 4-7. (Aug.)