WHAT PETE ATE FROM A-Z

Pete is a dog of alphabetic appetites, who eats everything, from cousin Rocky’s accordion to a whole lot of yo-yos. What he will not eat, however, is his “Zug Zug Dog Grub (zip, zilch, zero.) Can you blame him?” Although the work dutifully features representations of each letter in cursive script as well as both upper- and lower-case Roman letters, this is clearly not your beginning alphabet book. Some of the letters are glossed with alliterative energy—for “H”: “He ate half (1/2) of my homework. But did Mrs. Hoogenschmidt believe me? HA! (Hardly.) Horrible dog.”—but others are illustrated so subtly that the reader loses touch with the theme. The typography has a baroque, expansive quality in keeping with Pete’s excesses, but unconventional capitalization and coloring muddy the alphabetical relationships further. The paintings carry Kalman’s (Next Stop Grand Central, 1998, etc.) signature zany energy, with Pete, a blond, bearded mutt, frequently portrayed with the remains of his unconventional diet hanging out of his mouth. The practice of using the alphabet as an organizing principle for a children’s book is a long and honored one, but this is an example of one of its pitfalls. While it begins with promise, it has no actual narrative and the reader loses energy by the time the 26th letter rolls around. For an equally fizzy celebration of doggy greed that manages to maintain its momentum, try this year’s Swollobog, by Alistair Taylor (p. 339). (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-23362-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2001

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HENRY AND MUDGE AND THE STARRY NIGHT

From the Henry and Mudge series

Rylant (Henry and Mudge and the Sneaky Crackers, 1998, etc.) slips into a sentimental mode for this latest outing of the boy and his dog, as she sends Mudge and Henry and his parents off on a camping trip. Each character is attended to, each personality sketched in a few brief words: Henry's mother is the camping veteran with outdoor savvy; Henry's father doesn't know a tent stake from a marshmallow fork, but he's got a guitar for campfire entertainment; and the principals are their usual ready-for-fun selves. There are sappy moments, e.g., after an evening of star- gazing, Rylant sends the family off to bed with: ``Everyone slept safe and sound and there were no bears, no scares. Just the clean smell of trees . . . and wonderful green dreams.'' With its nice tempo, the story is as toasty as its campfire and swaddled in Stevenson's trusty artwork. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-689-81175-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1998

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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