Saturday, September 25, 2021

Cartoon Saturday- The Ghoul Next Door, Good Dogs #3

Bunn, Cullen and Farris, Cat (illus.). The Ghoul Next Door 
July 13th 2021 by HarperAlley 
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Grey has done a really great history project on the local cemetery in his East Coast town of Ander's Landing, and when he is carrying it to school with his best friend Marshall, two things happen: he finds a penny on the sidewalk from 1919, and picks it up even though Marshall doesn't want him to, and he decides to take a shortcut through the cemetery. Marshall won't go with him, and things don't go so well for Grey-- he trips, and his project falls into an open hole. When he peers in to investigate, he sees a shadowy, creepy hand take his project! He's normally a good student, and claims that he just left it at home, since his story seems unlikely. He's given another day to bring the project in, and spends the evening recreating it, only to find it smashed the next morning. However, there is a completed project on the porch that he takes to school. His teacher finds strange things inside the project (a bone and hank of hair), and advises Grey's parents to keep him away from the cemetery! Grey eventually meets the ghoul who is leaving him disconcerting presents. Lavinia is not supposed to be talking to humans, but she's tired of living in the graveyard and having to be a ghoul. She enjoys hanging out with Grey, and he warms to her a bit, feeling somewhat sorry for the huge group of ghouls in the cemetery, and grateful that Lavinia saved him from a rat attack. When Marshall is taken by the ghouls, Grey goes in search of his friend in Lavina's dangerous and scary world. Will he be able to save both his old, surface dwelling friend as well as his new ghoul friend?
Strengths: This booked sucked me right into Grey's world and I believed right away that, sure, a slightly flirtatious ghoul is following him home and getting him in trouble with his parents and teachers. I was glad that Grey was able to tell Marshall what had happened, and whether or not Marshall believed him, he told Grey to keep the truth to himself. Marshall then getting involved with the ghouls and getting taken made for a great reason to have a quest. The illustrations are done in an interesting way-- I think the black lines around the characters are not quite as pronounced, which I liked. This could be a stand alone, although the ending hints at the possibility of a sequel. 
Weaknesses: I wish there had been a little more explanation of why Lavinia wanted to befriend Grey. Maybe a family connection, or a connection through the house he lived in. She was taking a lot of risks to show herself to him, and I wasn't getting her motivation. 
What I really think: This was more along the line of Tapalansky's Cast No Shadow than Steinkeller's The Okay Witch; creepier, with disturbing ghouls and other menacing creatures. The rat attack and other scenes make this a bit gorier, which is exactly what my students want. I need to start thinking of my graphic novel section as a smaller version of my regular collection and try to get different genres, cultures, and themes represented, so I should buy this one, even though I am not personally a fan of rat attacks. 

Wenitsky, Rachel and Sidorov, David. Freeman, Tor (illustrations)
Good Dogs in Bad Sweaters (Good Dogs #3)
September 28th 2021 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

The good dogs from Good Dogs on a Bad Day and Good Dogs with Bad Haircuts are back and ready for the holiday season! Erin, who runs Good Dogs day care, has gotten married to her boyfriend Jin, and is still having Cleo and King compete in agility contests, and Napoleon is training to be a therapy dog. Patches, the wise old sheep dog, wanders about vaguely reminiscing, and Petunia also is in the day care. Lulu's hair has grown out, and she is preparing for the streaming show she is doing with Jasmine, who is putting aside her own acting career for now. Hugo and Waffles are living with their family that includes three boisterous children. The dogs are surprised when a dog who looks very much like Hugo shows up in the park, and turns out to be Waffles' litter mate, fuzzface, who is the adopted only dog of a family who has renamed him Bentley. Bentley's parents are glad to see Waffles, and invite Waffles and Hugo over for a visit. Hugo is concerned that Waffles will want to be adopted by Bentley's family, who spoils him with presents and treats. Cleo has done poorly in a competition, and is very sad. King is trying desperately to cheer her up, but failing miserably. Jasmine's parents come to visit for the holidays, which throws Lulu's social media presence into chaos, especially since they bring their pet teacup pig, Buttercup, who turns out to be an excellent snuggler. Let's not forget the squirrel in the park, Nuts, whose wife, Berries, is having a litter very soon! As the holidays approach, the dogs' various worries are shared, and they all try to help each other, especially Napoleon, who tries out his therapy tactics on the dogs, with surprising success. When Hugo is afraid that Waffles won't have a good Christmas because Santadoodle won't show up, the group decides (and I loved this, from the E ARC) to "go on a crazy caper all over town to save Christmas and learn lessons along the way". (They've been watching a lot of Hallmark movies.) With the help of Nuts, who is trying to avoid being home with his vast new brood of babies, as well as ornery cat Pickles, the Good Dogs set out to find a gadgety ball for Waffles present, saving Christmas and learning many lessons. 
Strengths: This is MY idea of a "heart print" book. The dogs are good friends, and look out for each other's interests and are all so sweet. If humans were this good to each other, there would be fewer problems in the world! There are so many funny scenes, and the language is very clever. Napoleon doesn't appear very often, which is a shame, because hearing therapy language applied to dogs is hysterical! I enjoyed the fact that the dogs all had different backgrounds, and yet got along well. Their adventure, while they are all wearing sweaters, was a lot of fun, and in the holiday spirit. Just a fun, pleasurable book to read.
Weaknesses: There are a LOT of characters in this book, and it was somewhat difficult to keep them all straight. Patches and Petunia didn't do much, and I wonder if there will be more about them in the next book, which MUST be published, because Erin and Jin are expecting! 
What I really think: This will be an enormous hit with readers who are fans of Watson's Stick Dog and Falatki's Two Dogs in a Trench Coat, as well as Crimi's Secondhand Dogs. This series is perfect for elementary schools, with its occasional illustrations, but I'm going to hand the first book to an 8th grader the first day of school, and I think he will be very pleased. Invest in this series for readers who love dogs, humor, and of course, bad sweaters!

1 comment:

  1. I am not into scary books, but I can see how middle grade students would love "The Ghoul Next Door." And, the timing with Halloween makes it a great pick.

    I am not familiar with the GOod Dog series, but will definitely check it out after reading your review of #3. It sounds like a lovable story with lots of humor. Know a kid who would love this book/series! Thanks for the recommendations!