cover image Just Dog

Just Dog

Hiawyn Oram, Chronicle Books. Chronicle Books, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-2247-3

""Dog was a dog and that's what everyone called him. Dog. Just Dog."" So starts Oram's (Badger's Bad Mood) story of a pooch who longs for a ""proper name."" After all, as he complains to Midnight the cat, ""Dog"" is ""just something that says I'm not a cat."" Such spry lines give this brief tale its understated humor. Dog attempts to acquire a stronger-sounding moniker via his actions (perhaps, he reasons, if he digs up the lawn, they'll call him Digger), but these backfire ("" `Bad Dog!' was all they said""). Plan two involves being a model dog--tidying up the garden, fetching slippers and collecting newspapers, etc. This plan does work, but the flowery names his owners propose--Sweetheart, Honeybun, Sugarpops--make him realize that ""Just Dog"" suits him just fine. Pointedly, Dog's owners remain nameless throughout the story; Oram refers to them simply as ""everyone"" or ""they."" The humans stay out of sight (save a hand on a doorknob) in the illustrations as well. These are cleverly conceived: snapshots capture Dog in his moments of good behavior (""Very touching!"" reads the caption for a view of the dog posing peacefully with a hen and chicks). The execution, however, is only ho-hum, with colors that run toward dreary and a visual rhythm that does not vary. Ages 2-6. (Oct.)