Joan Holub, Author, Joan Holub, Illustrator

Holub's (I Have a Weird Brother Who Digested a Fly) book looks as if it's going to move Cinderella to cowboy country ("Yee-haw! Way out west, near a ripsnortin' town you never heard of..."), but it turns out to be a moral tale about adapting to life in a stepfamily, from Cinderdog's point of view. Holub isn't sure where to stop: a courtship, a marriage, a cat show, a capture by a desperado, a rescue and even a new baby are all crammed into 32 dizzying pages. Life on the ranch for Cinderdog and his buddy Cowboy Carl is bliss, until Cactus Kate rides into town with her precious cat, Wicked, and Carl decides to marry her. Cinderdog registers protest about life with his new stepmother, but Carl turns him a deaf ear. Only in a vulnerable moment, after Cinderdog rescues Wicked the cat from a desperado, does the feline confess that she is just as uncomfortable in her new family as he is. Harmony reigns until the surprise ending: a new baby! The audience for the book remains in question. Children young enough to appreciate the floppy-eared hero, the cowboy talk and the folksy, faux-primitive illustrations will likely miss the book's lesson about stepfamilies. Older children, more sensitive to the tension in such families, may be put off by the story's relentless cheer. Ages 3-8. (Mar.)