cover image I’m My Own Dog

I’m My Own Dog

David Ezra Stein. Candlewick, $15.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-6139-7

The cheery, two-fanged grin of Stein’s bulldog testifies to his supreme confidence: “Nobody owns me. I own myself.” In the first half of the book, Stein (Dinosaur Kisses) develops the idea of canine freedom as the bulldog relaxes alone on his rug, a well-chewed slipper beside him: “Sometimes, if I’m not comfortable, I tell myself to roll over. And I do.” But when the bulldog finds a human who’s willing to scratch the one place on his back he can’t reach, he finds himself strangely affected: “The little guy followed me home. I felt sorry for him.” Soon the bulldog and human come to an accommodation. “Between you and me,” the bulldog confides, “I’m his best friend.” As final, quiet proof of devotion, Stein draws the man with his arm around the bulldog, his tie loosened, his eyes closed contentedly, happy to wear the chewed-up slippers. Stein’s role reversal is deliciously fun, and what makes it sing is the bulldog’s confiding tone, and the way Stein telegraphs a range of emotions—exasperation, resignation, and pure joy—with a few bold lines. Ages 4–8. Agent: Rebecca Sherman, Writers House. (Aug.)