cover image BAD DOG MAX!


Marina Windsor, , illus. by Steve Haskamp. . Chronicle, $15.95 (24pp) ISBN 978-0-8118-3700-2

The title interjection is repeatedly hurled at the young narrator's pet, a pooch that can seem to do no right. Debut author Windsor nails the grave tones of a child recounting the crimes of others: "When my aunt came to visit she didn't call Max bad, she called her dreadful. That's even worse!" Haskamp's (Double Those Wheels) bright, poster-like acrylics portray a view of the world from Max's hyperactive perspective (when a human appears at all, she sees them only as a pair of legs). At breakfast, the dog swoops onto the scene from the right-hand side of the spread, sending a place setting flying, along with blobs of alphabet-cereal–dotted milk. But Max isn't bad to the bone—there's a winning eagerness in her eyes, and her streamlined, spotted body exudes a zest for life. When a vet identifies Max as an Australian Cattle Dog, a breed characterized by a high level of energy, the family realizes they've played a role in Max's mayhem-making. A new regimen of vigorous play and exercise doesn't turn Max into a perfect angel—the penultimate spread finds her happily tussling with a feather pillow—but its overall success underscores the importance of allowing someone (or some dog) to be who they are. Ages 3-7. (Aug.)