CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 15. . . .December 15, 2017
Dog Night at the Story Zoo.
Dan Bar-el. Illustrated by Vicki Nerino.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, 2017.
112 pp., hc. & epub, $17.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-101-91838-8 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-101-91839-5 (epub).
Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.
Review by Elaine Fuhr.
“When I finally found him, he wasn’t showing any indication that he was impressed.”
“So I was a bit confused. Maybe he had a different style from my usual fetch partners.”
Again? Don’t you understand? I don’t want Jason’s stupid toy anymore! We were supposed to be best friends forever. We were a team. No one was supposed to move away. Now I have no one!
“I could see that the kid was unhappy but I wasn’t really an expert at these kinds of situations. Sometimes I’d watch pet dogs at parks. I’ve seen what they do. In all honesty, I... I wasn’t sure I could. But deep down, I guess I really understood what the kid was feeling. And I just hated that he looked so miserable! Then it dawned on me. As a professional fetcher, maybe I could do something.”
My favourite character in Dog Night at the Story Zoo is Boomer, mentioned in the excerpt above. He’s a freelance fetcher, meaning he doesn’t have a human of his own, but he is happy to fetch for anyone. Boomer is a very good fetcher, but he also needs a very good fetchee. Boomer loves a challenge, and so when a kid throws a toy into the river, though becoming battered and bruised throughout the ordeal, Boomer fetches it and returns the toy, only to find that kid doesn’t want it back. This boy’s best friend had told him he would never leave, but he did, and now the boy has no one, just like Boomer. So Boomer is just going to have to find a new best friend for the kid. He fetches every size, shape and age of human that he can, but the kid just turns them all away. Though frustrating for Boomer, there is a happy ending. The kid, a very good fetchee, chooses Boomer for his new best friend, and one could say that they lived happily ever after.
Young readers love graphic novels. They contain the elements of a comic but with lots of great literary material. Children forget they are actually reading a chapter book or novel because the graphics are generally awesome without pages and pages of print. And this graphic novel is exceptional. Story Zoo is no ordinary zoo. At this particular time, it is Dog Night, a time when dogs are able to get up and share their stories. Boomer the Fetcher, along with Wilmette, a bloodhound who sometime works as a sniffer for the police, and two other very interesting pooches tell their heartwarming and often very funny stories at Dog Night. The illustrator, Vicki Nerino has developed excellent graphics that depict the characters and their surroundings in great detail and colour. Each dog, male or female, looks just like he should for the breed of dog but also for its distinct personality. The dialogue also truly fits the mutts, and as readers enjoy the story, they may hear each dog’s voice in their heads. Many other zoo animals and insects also add to the fun with their conversations.
The youngest suggested audience age of seven years may be a bit early unless the child has an exceptional vocabulary and excellent reading skills. But, what I love about this novel is the fact that it will be of interest to many ages, whether read to or read alone. Many other zoo animals are also involved, and their chatter keeps the reader giggling.
Well written with excellent illustrations, Dog Night at the Story Zoo will pique the interest of the most reluctant reader.
Elaine Fuhr, who lives in Alberta, is a retired teacher of elementary and middle school.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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