cover image Albert, the Dog Who Liked to Ride in Taxis

Albert, the Dog Who Liked to Ride in Taxis

Cynthia Zarin. Atheneum Books, $17.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-689-84762-2

Like most literary heroes who set off on their own to see the wide world, the debonair dachshund who stars in this droll, episodic picture book pines for adventure. Albert loves to ride in taxis, and when he sneaks into a cab without being seen for his first solo ride, he thinks, ""Here was luxury. Here was freedom."" He meets an elderly lady in another taxi, who offers to take him with her to the Kalahari desert, and, later, he befriends two boys bound for California. Albert feels ""exhilarated. He had ridden in three taxis in one day. He was a dog of the world."" Fans of The Adventures of Taxi Dog, also set in New York City, will discover here a longer text and more fully-fleshed out characterization. The stylized artwork brims with elongated vehicles, buildings and trees that seem tailored to a dachshund. Pratt's (Where's Pup?) Albert and friends, with their squared-off noses or muzzles, seem posed, as if they were part of a series of acrylic cartoon tableaux registering exaggerated emotions. Zarin's story blends realism and fiction with quirky verve, and the memorable Albert is Fred Astaire-suave. By the end, Albert, the inveterate optimist, has been to the airport and now sets his sights on bigger things: ""Taxis are all very well,"" he thinks to himself, ""but can they take you to California? To the Kalahari? To Timbuktu?"" The leisurely, sophisticated delivery will stretch the vocabulary of the picture-book crowd; grown-up dachshund devotees will certainly lap this up as well. Ages 3-6. (Feb.)