cover image The Strange Adventures of Blue Dog

The Strange Adventures of Blue Dog

Jean Van Leeuwen. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-1878-4

A small, blue wooden dog lives a (real) dog's life, for a while, in this confusing story. Blue Dog lives in a wooden toy farm in Big Billy's room. The boy tucks Blue Dog in his pocket and takes him everywhere, to school and even on a field trip to a working farm. Big Billy makes no secret of the fact that what he wants is a real dog, and when he gets a springer spaniel near the close of the book and names it ""Blue,"" the pet usurps the toy's place: ""Now it was Blue who waited for Big Billy to come home from school, and Blue who went traveling."" Although Van Leeuwen (the Amanda Pig books; Going West) hints that Blue Dog could be ""real"" after he visits the working farm, and the artwork portrays Blue Dog running alongside Billy as if he were lifesize, such suggestions are only a tease. Unlike The Velveteen Rabbit, in which love makes the toy come to life, Billy sadly admits that his toy is not real; and Blue Dog doesn't seem concerned that he is largely shunted aside by the living, breathing pet. A newcomer to children's books, Ventura creates serene, detailed oil paintings, luminous with warm sun or bluish moonlight. The photo-realist quality of the illustrations works well with the tale's interplay between reality and fantasy. But because the tale is told from Blue Dog's point of view, readers will identify with the appealing fellow, and likely be disappointed that he is ultimately cast aside. Ages 4-8. (May)