cover image Clementine in the City

Clementine in the City

Jessie Hartland. Viking Books, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-670-05929-4

In Hartland's (The Perfect Puppy for Me) daffy tale, a black poodle strides forth on her hind legs, leaving behind the limited cuisine and cramped prospects of small town life for a shot at becoming a circus dog. Her destination goes unnamed, but various hints (including the endpapers decorated with ticket stubs) lead to none other than the Big Apple. Plucky and determined to live life to the fullest, the pooch makes friends and teaches herself to juggle (a job prerequisite) while savoring all the pleasures urban life has to offer: museums (""I learn that if the eye is on the cheek, it must be a Picasso""), shopping (""You can... go to 534 shoe stores and try on 187 pairs of boots""), and ordering in (""Wiener schnitzel, cheese blintzes, even haemool soondooboo. You name it""). Writing in a breathless first-person narrative and peppering her text with lots of exclamation points, capital letters and splashes of hand-lettered script, Hartland draws readers into a kind of gal-pal confidence with her indomitable, if dizzy heroine. The hip-naif pictures have a whiff of Warholian whimsy; while bursting with color and goofy detail, they also exude a hard, worldly edge that seems appropriate to an urban fable. Even the book's denouement is of the only-in-New-York variety: Clementine's big top dream is derailed (she crashes her unicycle), but she networks her way into a Tokyo assignment for a glossy new travel magazine. Ages 4-up.