cover image Socrates


Chronicle Books, Rascal Bogaerts, Rascal. Chronicle Books, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0314-4

Move aside, Lassie and Rin-Tin-Tin: this unusually refreshing picture book boasts one of the most endearing canines ever seen outside of a dogfood commercial. A text that exudes immediacy and originality is perfectly paired with vigorous artwork both funny and touching. The eponymous pooch wanders through life all alone--Socrates is an orphan who, ``more than anything else . . . dreamed of having a friend.'' When he finds a pair of red eyeglasses (``the thing fit his nose perfectly''), his surroundings magically brighten: people seem friendlier, the world becomes more beautiful. Then Socrates meets a musician, the actual owner of the glasses, and his life, not just his vision, is improved permanently. Rascal's sympathetic protagonist has ample personality to carry an entire book on his own. In Bogaerts's pictures, bold, black strokes outline heavily painted images whose lumpiness seems just right for this somewhat lumpy character. The frequent dog's-eye perspectives are captivating, as exemplified in a closeup of toys in a toy shop--all of which seem to be smiling. And so will all those fortunate enough to share this book's uplifting experiences. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)