Pinky and Rex (Pinky and Rex and the Bully, 1996, etc.) return in this entry in the Ready-To-Read series, intended for emerging readers to tackle independently, with a plot to draw them in but little grace or style in the writing. Pinky wants to be the star in a school stage production; Rex isn't interested, although she attends the try-outs in support of Pinky. Predictably, Rex lands the lead; Pinky, given the role of a monkey, is mortified. In a huff, he stops speaking to Rex. Eventually, Pinky gets over his bruised ego--it doesn't hurt that he saves the play--and patches things up with Rex. Howe hits upon many sensitive issues here, from dashed hopes and inadequacy to envy and hurt feelings. He counters them with unforced forgiveness and some manner of acceptance from his characters: They may be hurt when things don't pan out, but they are open to finding something good and satisfying in the experience. Unfortunately, the language is inexorably sterile, without even the humor of previous Pinky and Rex installments.