cover image Scaredy Dog

Scaredy Dog

Stephen Lemberg. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $8.99 (1pp) ISBN 978-0-679-83175-4

A puppy and his young owner explore the limits of their bravery in this reassuring picture book. To Rufus the puppy, the child who takes care of him seems confident and all-knowing. The child doesn't seem to be afraid of anything, while Rufus earns the nickname ``scaredy dog'' because he whimpers and starts to run when he encounters such mild creatures as butterflies, crickets and rabbits. The child teaches Rufus that his fears are--almost always--unfounded. But a run-in with a protective mother swan proves enlightening for both dog and boy. First-time author Lemberg uses a happy-go-lucky relationship between a boy and his pet to deliver a comforting message about the virtues of both self-confidence and caution. Although it possesses some kid-pleasing repetitive elements and onomotopoeia (``hisssss!'' ``rrrickitt,'' etc.), the story stumbles a bit as a read-aloud because the protagonist is called ``the child'' throughout. Bowman Smith's ( Chester the Out-of-Work Dog ) loose-lined, slapdash style suits the summertime setting here, although the child's limbs (and especially his feet) are sometimes badly misshapen. Her characterizations are particularly expressive, and the sunny, Easter-egg-toned palette radiates light. Ages 4-8. (Aug.)