December 07, 2006


PAWFILES: Portraits of Dogs. By Kim Levin. Andrews McMeel. $14.95.

You and Me, Baby. By Lynn Reiser & Penny Gentieu. Knopf. $15.95.

     Cynics, begone!  These are books for the warmhearted, for those not afraid to coo and murmur over an adorable puppy or an unbelievably cute baby.  These books are all about cute things in closeup photos – and if that’s too sweet for your blood, look elsewhere.

     Okay, these are super-sweet books, to the point of overdose.  But they make no pretense about being anything else: they deliver their sweetness straight up, without attempting to conceal it behind a lot of verbiage.  PAWFILES: Portraits of Dogs is the latest “Bark & Smile Book” by pet photographer Kim Levin, who obviously gets great joy out of finding lots of different ways to pose dogs to bring out, or reflect, their personalities.  Each dog here gets a two-page spread – usually with two photos – with a listing of name, breed, age, home, and a little descriptive information.  That’s it – there’s no narrative here.  Anita, for example, is a seven-year-old Chihuahua mix from New York City, “intensely loyal if she likes you…a real people dog.”  The larger of her two photos shows her sitting, wide-eyed, on a produce scale.  Tuck, a three-month-old Rhodesian ridgeback from Little Silver, New Jersey, is a “mischievous troublemaker” who “steals baby’s food and toys” – and who looks up at you endearingly from a face-to-the-lens photo that makes his head look even bigger than it is.  Ozzie and Wilbur, cat-and-dog pals, are shown nuzzling each other.  Truman and Darla, brother and sister, sit alertly side by side.  And then there’s Tito, seen peeking through a fence, his nose pointing toward the camera, only his left eye visible.  These are uniformly clever, uniformly loving photos…and, yes, uniformly sweet.

     You and Me, Baby, is all sweetness, too.  Picture-book author Lynn Reiser and baby photographer Penny Gentieu offer lots of photos of lots of babies, with just enough text to create a heartwarming sort-of narrative.  This book is all about the ways little people look at big people: with open-eyed (and, often, open-mouthed) enthusiasm, with curiosity, and above all with love.  The words “Hey, baby!” go with a little one looking hopefully and curiously up from the floor.  Next, “Look at you, looking at me…” brings a woman – legs only – into the picture, as baby looks way up at her.  And then the woman gets down to the baby’s height and both are all smiles, as the words continue, “…looking at you, looking at me.”  This is a multiethnic book, and one baby even interacts with a man – a rarity, still, in books like this.  There’s an especially adorable “peek-a-boo” segment, with the “BOO!” in extreme closeup and simply delightful.  The whole book, in fact, is like that, because “simply delightful” = “simple” + “delightful.”

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