CM . . .
. Volume XX Number 32. . . .April 18, 2014
The “Embassy dogs,” JR and his friends Beatrix, Robert, and Pie, are in Prague for a summer visit, together with George, George’s girlfriend, Nadya, and John (Robert and Pie’s owner). As in the previous book, The Metro Dogs of Moscow, they see some of the city and are faced with several problems to solve. The Circus Sergei, which Nadya’s brother is a part of, is not doing very well; Nadya’s niece, Masha, is unhappy; George and Nadya have begun to fight over George’s many phobias which prevent them from enjoying much of Prague; and to top it all off, Nadya has picked up a stray cat and seems determined to keep it as a pet. JR’s Terrier Senses are constantly in action, in both the good (have brilliant ideas and keep everyone happy) and the bad (chase something furry and shred the furniture) ways, as he scrambles to make things work out in the end.
While it can be enjoyed on its own, The Circus Dogs of Prague is closely connected to the first book and will be more interesting if the reader is already familiar with the characters and the previous adventure. As before, the book includes some of the famous places a tourist would want to visit, while using George’s reactions to several of them (the Kafka museum, for example) to move the story along. As Nadya and George’s tensions develop, JR is going through a mixture of sibling jealousy and distrust over Kisa, the stray cat, whose overtures of friendship he rejects (from a dislike of cats, and a fear of having his life changed permanently should the cat become a part of his family). The embassy dogs now display a stronger team dynamic, having discussion times and looking after one another, than when they were hardly friends. Their characters are more prominent, as well: JR’s need, as a terrier, to keep things under control and running smoothly so that everyone is content was something that was not evident in the first book when he was too frustrated with being cooped up. Likewise, Beatrix’s flouncy attitude is not her only trait as she shows a strong animosity towards cats followed by a practical, no-nonsense attitude towards JR’s moodiness when he is unhappy. Pie is not just a zany dog that eats towels; he is an artist who enjoys spoken-word performances and is also the only dog that is willing to be friendly with Kisa from the beginning. Instead of being horrified or excited about leaving their humans’ rooms to have adventures on their own, the dogs are now quite confident in their abilities to think and act away from human supervision, and the main emotional focus is on JR’s reluctance to include a cat in his family life. The energetic, humorous writing also contains fun references to the previous book, such as the expensive watch JR destroyed in a fit of frustration, Anya and Boris, the strays who befriended them in Moscow, and the dogs’ newfound ability to easily get across town on “the metro.”
Sae Yong Kim has an MA in Children’s Literature and is now studying in the MLIS program at the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies, University of British Columbia, BC.
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