Saturday, May 08, 2021

Dogs Named Hugo

Smith, Renée Felice, Gabriel, Chris and Hanson, Sydney (Illustrations)
Hugo and the Impossible Thing
March 30th 2021 by Flamingo Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Haven't we all been doing things that seem impossible lately? Hugo, a small bulldog, has always been told that no one knows what is on the other side of The Impossible Thing, because no one can get there. No one even tries because, well, it's impossible. Not even the huge Mr. Bear, the slippery Miss Otter, the sly Little Fox or Mr. Goat, who is so good at climbing. Hugo decides he will get to the other side, tells his friends, and when he starts his journey the next day, they all offer to go with him. They all have skills that prove useful, and before you know it they have overcome the obstacle and gotten to "the most perfect place in all the forest". Because Hugo took a chance, he made life better for all of his friends. 
Strengths: This had a very good story about pursuing dreams even though they might seem difficult, and it was nice to see that Hugo's friends came to his aid instead of just waiting to see if he would be successful. The illustrations are very attractive, and the use of greens is impressive. Little Fox is absolutely adorable, and I may have developed a fondness for illustrated foxes to rival my love of illustrated mice! Hugo is delightful, and his "dogged" pursuit of his dreams will charm many readers. 
Weaknesses: I would have enjoyed this a little more had it been the huge MS. Bear; there is a gender line in children's literature where all the cats are female and all the dogs are male that could be shaken up a bit.
What I really think: I have a weakness for picture books involving dogs like Please Take Me For a Walk, A Family for Louie, War Dogs, or Kate McMullan's wonderful As Warm as the Sun. I used to check them out to read to Sylvie. This one would be good for small humans, too. 

Sidorov, David, Wenitsky, Rachel, and Freeman, Tor (Illustrator) 
Good Dogs on a Bad Day
March 16th 2021 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Hugo's family is very busy, with three children and frenetic parents. He is afraid that no that he is no longer a cute puppy, they no longer care about him. The older boy forgets to walk him, the youngest child wants a puppy, and the family will leave him alone in the house with a robotic vacuum cleaner, which is horrific! Luckly, he sometimes goes to day care with Erin at Good Dogs. He is joined by Erin's own dog, King, and sometimes Cleo, although she does a lot of agility training. Also in day care is Lulu, who is an Instagram star whose owner is an aspiring actress who gets a role. The three are out with Erin in the park, being good dogs, when they encounter Napoleon, who proceeds to do all of the things that our three good dogs would never consider. When they see how much fun Napoleon is having, they do join in, shedding their collars, chasing a squirrel with whom they have an agreement, and getting pastries out of a dumpster. They are beset with anxiety about how their owners will react (especially Hugo, who has help destroying the vacuum), but their humans are just glad to have them back. 

Sidorov, David, Wenitsky, Rachel, and Freeman, Tor (Illustrator) 
Good Dogs with Bad Haircuts
March 16th 2021 by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

The dogs families get even busier. Lulu's owner has a role on a show and gets offered an opportunity to have Lulu appear on film to discuss her internet fame. Erin and her boyfriend Jin decide to get married very quickly, when his mother is coming to visit, and Jin works from home planning the wedding while Erin takes Cleo to agility training. Hugo's family offers to help with the wedding party, and Waffles, the puppy they found after Hugo's romp in Good Dogs on a Bad Day, needs some training. When Jasmine takes Lulu for a very bad haircut, she worries that her career is over, and when King pees on Jin's iPad, the dogs are concerned about their continued place in their families. Napoleon's family understands his need for socialization with other dogs, so he joins the group at day care and does spice things up a bit. Another romp around town ensues, involving the local friendly squirrel as well as a cat of questionable moral values. Will the dogs make it home yet again?

Strengths: Hugo, Lulu, and King all get their own chapters, in distinctive font styles, so it was fun to see their personalities emerge. They all have their personal foibles and concerns, and their underlying belief that they were GOOD DOGS who needed to behave in responsible ways made all of their actions even more enjoyable. I loved their detente with Nuts, the squirrel! Napoleon is an auxiliary character, but he does experience some growth. Seeing the humans engaged in their daily lives, in projects like putting the wedding together, while not really think much about the dogs was kind of fun and highlights my own basic fear that my own dog was super sad while I was at work. It's interesting to see what the secret "inner" lives of dogs might be! Fans of Ahn's Pug Pals or Surovec's My Pet Human will find this a great next step. 
Weaknesses: I did worry for the dogs safety on numerous occasions, but they did mention, as they shed their collars, that they were microchipped, and their humans were very caring despite the lax security that enabled the dogs to escape. 
What I really think: This is a fun series, but they didn't speak to my soul the way that Stick Dog or Two Dogs in a Trench Coat did. They are great choices for humorous books for both elementary and middle school students, and the mix of pictures and text doesn't quite make these Notebook Novels, but goes a bit beyond just page decorations. 

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