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The Strange and Wonderful Tale of Robert McDoodle, The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Dog, by Steven Bauer, illustrated by Brad Sneed; Simon & Schuster, $16 -- A talented author and illustrator team up for this original and energetic romp of a story, told in rhyme, of a boy who sees a dream come true when he enrolls in a school for dogs. After a few lessons in Drinking from Bowls and Pushing Your Muzzle Deep Into Holes, Robert decides he'd rather be a boy. ("He felt that a bed would be nice for a change, and not having to fret about fleas or the mange.) Bauer's rhymes are very funny; Sneed's exuberant watercolor paintings, with their play of perspective, bring to life both humans and canines.

Animal House, by Melissa Bay Mathis; Simon & Schuster, $15.95 -- A child designing the perfect house gets some useful advice from the animals in this charming and playful story with whimsical, brightly colored, cherry illustrations. (The otter suggests a giant bathtub, the rabbit a hidden door, the giraffe windows way up high.) -- Jean Westmoore
The Rip-Off and The Kill-Off, by Jim Thompson; Vintage Crime, $11 each -- Two winners by America's foremost practitioner of the extreme thriller. "Rip-Off" is screwball comedy of terrors; "Kill-Off" reconfigures the whodunit as a wickedly ingenious who'll-do-it. -- Ed Kelly

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