cover image TRUELOVE


Babette Cole, . . Dial, $15.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8037-2717-5

Cole (The BAD Good Manners Book) turns greeting-card sentiment inside out in this pictorial tale of Truelove, a lonesome dog whose owners dote on their new baby. Syrupy captions about caring, offset by miniature hearts, contradict images of Truelove groveling for attention and being ignored. Under the platitude "Love cures all hurt," Truelove holds up an injured paw; in the next image, he licks his wound while the new parents tend the infant in the background. To show that "Love makes your heart sing," Truelove howls, "I Loo... ve yooou... Wooo! Wooo! Wooo!" and gets banished to the rainy front stoop: "That's it, Truelove. Out!" The poignant situation becomes a dire emergency when Truelove joins a pack of runaway hounds. Luckily, his masters rescue him and his friends from the pound, and Truelove has no hard feelings ("Love means forgiving"). Cole tells the story in scraggly, anti-cute watercolors, with italicized asides from the dog, and she lets irony accumulate in the mawkish definitions of unconditional love. Like William Steig's Made for Each Other, this list of clichés ends on a realistic note. The conclusion ("Sometimes love isn't easy, but there's always enough to go around") is not framed by whimsical hearts, and the picture shows Truelove changing the smiling baby's diaper. Busy families may cast a guilty eye toward their loyal pets; displaced older siblings will relate to Cole's generous, and not at all misnamed, hero. Ages 4-8. (Jan.)