Reviewing ''Carl'' -- A look at four picture books by Alexandra Day about the lovable canine baby-sitter

Part of Alexandra Day’s technical brilliance is her ability to keep Carl — the most lovable canine baby-sitter since Nana the Newfoundland in Peter Pan — faithfully dog-like. Day convinces us visually that Carl can really turn on the stereo, push elevator buttons, and think like a human. Emotionally, these four almost-wordless picture books — celebrations of playful curiosity-ring true. Carl’s eyes almost speak, gleaming with excitement, irony, and affection. Day’s loving, sharp-eyed observation makes the pictures irresistibly funny.

Good Dog, Carl (first published in 1985) is the first book and maybe the best. ”Look after the baby, Carl. I’ll be back shortly,” says Mother. The baby gleefully climbs out of its crib onto Carl’s back for a romp through the house, including a slide down the laundry chute. A+

In Carl Goes Shopping (1989), the daring duo indulge in the universal fantasy of having free run of a department store. They spring the pet-shop animals from their cages, dress up, and mug for the closed-circuit TVs. A+

In Carl’s Christmas (1990), Day’s pictures capture the good feelings of the holiday: coziness, warmth, generosity, and the excitement of waiting for Santa. A

Carl’s Afternoon in the Park (1991), despite touches of sophisticated humor and the addition of a new rottweiler puppy to the cast, somehow lacks the freshness and spontaneity of the other books. Still, it rates a B+.