cover image Trouble with Mister

Trouble with Mister

Chronicle Books, Debra Keller. Chronicle Books, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-0358-8

Hints of the Calvin and Hobbes formula crop up in this story, a debut for both author and illustrator. Alex, the protagonist, has a purple dog named Mister. But Mister is no stuffed animal--he's a painting that Alex makes when his parents won't get him a real pet (``Alex folded Mister over and over until he was pocket size. In school, Mister lay in Alex's backpack. On the playground, Mister snuggled in Alex's jacket''). Late one night, Mister turns 3D, and he and Alex happily romp through the house. But Mister disappears by morning and Alex takes the blame for the mess; in a semi-satisfying resolution, Mister returns via envelope. McNeill works in vibrant complementary hues, pairing an orange hat and turquoise sky, Mister's purple fur and yellow socks, and Alex's lime-tinted pajamas and red blanket. Her spreads are artfully composed, with splotchy watercolors and gouaches and distorted cartoon figures, but her single-page illustrations appear cramped and awkward. The text, too, lacks polish--why does Mister disappear? It's an uneven effort, not delivering on its full potential. Ages 3-8. (Oct.)