According to the off-putting jacket flap, ""Chris Van Allaburg decided to create a picture book because he was interested in applying fine-art drawing style and sensitivity to the problems of illustration. The artwork in the book explores. . . creating a balance. . . constructing space. . . using a light source. . ."" and so on. Whatever ""fine-art drawing style"" might be, Van Allsburg's technique is impressive; and beyond these technical considerations he has also succeeded in evoking a surreal, slightly sinister, and decidedly mysterious world that invites long, uneasy looks. The story is less compelling. A boy charged with minding a dog loses Fritz in a magician's garden, is told by the magician that Fritz has been changed into a duck, but finds on his return that Fritz (as a dog) has beat him home. The obligatory teaser at the end (Fritz turns up with the boy's cap, which was last seen flying. off in the duck's beak) doesn't give the story any of the pictures' hypnotic power; and the book's oversized format (9 3/4 x 12Â¬) establishes it as essentially a showcase for the illustrations--a dubious reason for ""creating"" a picture book.