cover image Skinny Brown Dog

Skinny Brown Dog

Kimberly Willis Holt, , illus. by Donald Saaf. . Holt, $16.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-7587-8

Despite its appealing cover and pedigree, this story about a skinny brown dog who finds a home contains stiff paintings that effectively distance the reader from an otherwise gentle narrative. Saaf’s (Hello, Hello ) mixed-media paintings are not without charm, but his animal characters often seem to be placed atop their surroundings rather than being part of them. Benny the Baker, a lean polar bear, is convinced that he has no need for a pet (“Sorry, but a bakery isn’t any place for a dog”). Still, Brownie makes himself indispensable: he retrieves Miss Patterson’s dropped purse, does tricks for the children on “free broken cookie day” and brings help when Benny falls off a ladder and breaks his leg. While recovering from his injury, Benny finds that he’s grown accustomed to Brownie’s face, with its eyes as “dark as chocolate chips,” and when a group of children visit him in the hospital, Benny concedes, “I miss the bakery. Especially Brownie.” The sizes of Saaf’s characters are not consistently rendered and the choice of making all the characters animals is perplexing—why is Brownie a pet when other animals are not? Holt’s (When Zachary Taylor Came to Town ) most animated and appealing character is the titular canine who sports an old-fashioned brown suit and a black derby hat, which he doffs most fetchingly. Ages 4-7. (June)