cover image Darby, the Special Order Pup

Darby, the Special Order Pup

Alexandra Day, Cooper Edens. Dial Books, $15.99 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2496-9

Day (the Carl books) and Edens (the Santa Cows stories) team up for this quirky, not altogether successful tale about a bullterrier puppy. Darby chews and destroys so many things in the Bell family's home that he is banished to a fenced-in doghouse. But when heavy rains precipitate an embankment collapse and the Bells' oceanside house is buried in the landslide, it is Darby who tunnels his way to the trapped family and leads everyone to safety. As always, Day's art is wonderfully expressive, and just the eager look on Darby's face and the ready-for-action position of his tail prove that she understands bull terriers as well as she does rottweilers. The storytelling, however, feels contrived. Opposite the title page is an ""ad"" showing Darby and his littermates; the opening spread features the children pleading for one of the puppies; the next spread, introduced by the phrase ""A week or so later,"" pictures the Bells at a counter labeled ""Airfreight Pick-up,"" asking if there is a shipment for them. Then, as the story progresses, none-too-subtle clues in the pictures--road signs, weather warnings on TV screens--foreshadow the trouble ahead. Subsequent abrupt shifts in narration begin to call attention to themselves, and as a result, the arc of the story feels uneven, as if the whole exercise is an elaborate set-up for Darby's heroic feat. Ages 3-8. (Sept.)