Chowder is one bad-a** bulldog, clearly a cousin twice removed from the canine Spike in the MGM Tom and Jerry cartoons. Capable, self-sufficient, and canny, he is clearly more of a dream roomate to his owners than a pet, for they noticed early on that "chowder had better things to do than fetch newspapers or go for long walks." The illustrations of Chowder comfortably being toted around in a baby backpack, searching the 'net, and austerely managing his business on the potty are at once shocking and hilarious. But be good and you will be lonely, a situation that Chowder hopes to rectify by making friends with farm animals at a petting zoo. Stylized illustrations done in acrylics are so sharp, they look almost computer-generated. Continuing the irreverent, high-stakes storytelling he exhibited in FLIGHT OF THE DODO, Pixar would be wise to pick up on Peter Brown's talent while they can still afford him. Not since Ian Falconer's OLIVIA have we encountered an animal character with such charisma, and like Olivia, he can be enjoyed by both adults and children on different levels. And he's housebroken. (6 and up) Also of interest: The only pet I can think of that might be as unconditionally loved by his owners as Chowder might be Kate DiCamillo's pig, Mercy Watson, and her fans might be glad to know that her latest in the series is on the way: MERCY WATSON FIGHTS CRIME by Pat Hutchins (Candlewick) (5 and up).