Yaccarino (Circle Dogs) finds an ideal subject for his smooth, lava-lamp-globular painting style: the fawn pug. According to human regulations for cuteness, Alfred the pug dog is adorable, with his oversize round head, buggy brown eyes and curly tail. Yet no people appear to provide Alfred with affection. Instead, the sensitive, anthropomorphic dog suffers the taunts of a smirking cat, a parrot who repeats the word "unlovable" and large-breed dogs (" 'His mouth is too small to hold a ball,' a big German Shepherd sneered"). Alfred's only friend is Rex, the dog next door, who is too small to see over the plank fence between their yards. "I'm a golden retriever," Alfred boasts to his hidden companion, only to dread the consequences of his fib. Yaccarino, working from a springtime-fresh gouache palette, keeps everyone in suspense by concealing Rex's identity and applying time-tested elements of Cyrano de Bergerac
and William Steig's Shrek!
As it turns out, the blind date ends happily. Rex is Alfred's mirror image and, in the wordless concluding image, he and Alfred beam identical smiles at the disdainful cat. This amiable tale of self-confidence challenges its cruel title, and word-slinging bullies, at every turn. Ages 3-6. (Jan.)