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Too bad that Bernie, rebuffed at home (""No one needs me. I'll run away""), is pictured--winningly--in a small town that could come out of Booth Tarkington: two of the townsfolk who make him feel needed are a peddler, with a horse and wagon, and an elderly cobbler, with a pair of high-button shoes. Even auto mechanic Carl, who asks Bernie's help in fixing a car (""Please tell me when these headlights go on and off""), is working on a tailfin model. But given that generalized old-timey glow, runaway Bernie's encounters with, also, delicatessen-keeper Mr. Dimple (who asks his help hanging up salamis in the window) and baker Bertha (who asks his help stamping and stacking paper bags) have stand-in appeal for small children, even if they've never felt shunted-aside at home. (Though that is indeed unlikely.) And, as a bonus, each of the merchants gives Bernie something in exchange for his help (mechanic Carl, a road map; Mr. Dimple, a salami and a sour pickle; etc.)--which, when he does head home in satisfaction at day's end, his mother, father, and brother welcome. The message is put across by the appealing pup, an unsaleable mutt, that pet-shop proprietor Mrs. Byrd presented to Bernie: ""You need Bernie and Bernie needs you,"" says Bernie's father to the pup, ""especially when we're busy."" And, adds his mother: ""We need help from one another, Bernie. But we really need you to love."" A warming item, then, with plenty of real-world doings--even if in a slightly antiquated setting.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Viking