HarperCollins, 2013 192 pgs
Stick Dog series #1
Our narrator is an amateur cartoonist who claims to be terrible at drawing. He draws stick dogs instead of people and offers an original story on notebook-lined pages about his muse's adventures. In this first installment in the series Stick Dog and his buddies Poo-Poo, Mutt, Stripes (who is actually spotted), and Karen smell a wonderful smell from their home in an abandoned pipe under a bridge. Its the smell of hamburgers in a near-by park. Naturally the dogs are drawn to the source of the smell and after an initial distraction by a treed squirrel find a human family preparing for a BBQ. Immediately the team goes into planning mode on how to get their hands on the coveted burgers. One dog after another offers a hilariously terrible and inconceivable plan, all while giving the reader glimpses into their pasts, until Stick Dog diplomatically comes up with a solution. The four other dogs provide crazy distractions, sure to elicit giggles, while Stick Dog is suppose to steal the goods. All goes according to plan until the family reacts in a way that stops Stick Dog in his tracks. The ending may not be according to the dogs' plan, but will prove to be satisfactory to both the cast of characters and the reader. Four other adventures await Stick Dog and his pals and a companion series, Stick Cat, was launched last month.
I put off reading Stick Dog because, well, it seemed kind of stupid. I thought this was another fiction/comic hybrid published to hop aboard the Wimpy Kid train. Because of the popularity of the series and the advent of the companion series, I finally broke down. Is Stick Dog the stuff of great fiction? Uh, definitely not. Did I laugh out-loud throughout the whole book? YES! This was a truly funny story, gently sarcastic, yet mindful of the target audience and never over their heads. I was expecting more potty humor and was pleasantly surprised that the author did not rely on the cheap laugh and wrote a truly clever, yet plot-driven and linear story.The cartoon illustrations, based on the original sketches by the author, were created by Ethan Long, one of my favorite illustrators, and are simple, yet convey meaning and add to the hijinks. Reluctant readers will tear into this book and it will be enjoyed equally by both boys and girls. It reads quickly with wide margins, large print and breaks between paragraphs. Even though the book appears to be a bit of fluff, their is some deceptively advanced vocabulary that will encourage readers to broaden their reading skills. Recommended for kids growing out of Captain Underpants but not quite ready for Big Nate or Wimpy Kid or anyone who needs a good laugh.