cover image Bad Dog

Bad Dog

Nina Laden. Walker & Company, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8027-8747-7

Like the wolf of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, this book's smooth-talking outlaw insists he is misunderstood. The bad dog, dressed burglar style in a turtleneck and beret, says his troubles began with a deceptive ad for ""free-range chickens."" He and his partner in crime, a bulldog named Butch, speed away in search of the well-stocked chicken coop. Laden's knack for economy, in evidence in Roberto: The Insect Architect (reviewed above), seems conspicuously absent here: a plethora of puns and mixed metaphors litter this escapade. When the hard-boiled criminal grabs some hens, ""farmers yelled, `Get that poacher!' `This won't be over easy,' I mumbled as I scrambled to hatch a plan."" Not only are the one-liners over the top, but such jokey repartee contradicts the ugly behavior of the perp, who demolishes a mailbox, sends chicken feathers flying and snarls at angry police. In spooky, high-contrast images like the mug shot on the cover, the white-furred protagonist seems illuminated by a 100-watt bulb and projects an icy attitude (even though he winks at the story's end). While the wordplay suggests pure silliness, the casual--and human-scale--crimes detract from this desperado's charm. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)