cover image Surprise Party

Surprise Party

William Wegman. Hyperion Books for Children, $16.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-7868-0585-3

Kitsch is king in this effortful enterprise, which reflects a hefty amount of labor but does not deliver a commensurate amount of reward for young readers. As in My Town, Wegman's famous weimaraners--here, Chip, Batty, Chundo and Crooky--are cast as small-town citizens. Chip is the delivery boy, bringing everything from newspapers to pizza, and the others want to throw him a surprise birthday party, but their plan misfires. The deadpan storytelling is secondary to the no-holds-barred campiness of the props and settings. Tricked out in dumpy housedresses and flowered aprons or polka-dotted shirts and bow ties, the canines inhabit a never-never land of tackiness, their house a profusion of retro tablecloths, crewel-work pictures, '70s calendars, motel-quality art and busy-as-a-bee wallpapers. It's no surprise that the endpapers are designed to look like the fake wood of rec-room paneling from a bygone day, or that Chundo decides to make ""a rustic sportsman's lamp"" (the shade shows a fisherman amid a woodland stream) for Chip's birthday. The details are perfect, but their appreciation requires either a sort of jaded sensibility or a taste for nostalgia, neither of which kids are likely to share. All ages. (Apr.)