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Animal Character, Early/Young Readers, Humor

DOG DIARIES #1 by James Patterson & Steven Butler; Illustrated by Richard Watson

I enjoyed several of the books in the Middle School series written by James Patterson & Chris Tebbetts featuring Rafe Khatchadorian (which now includes 11 books). Dog Diaries is a newer “spinoff” series featuring Rafe’s dog, Junior. The first book in the series introduces us to Junior from his perspective, beginning with the first time he meets his pet-human (Rafe).

Junior’s style is what you would expect. He’s rambunctious and impulsive, and (like most dogs and young humans) is 100% into whatever he’s currently doing–regardless of whether that’s chewing, eating, running, enjoying a belly rub or hiding from someone who called him “Bad Dog.” Junior has his own terms for people, places and things that humans refer to differently–for instance, he believes Rafe Khatchadorian’s name is Ruff Catch-A-Doggy-Bone…the perfect name for his pet-human! It’s not too hard to figure out what Junior is talking about and if you are confused, there is a “How to speak Doglish” glossary page at the back of the book.

The plot is basically that Junior is not very well behaved and causes an uproar at the dog park that catches the attention of Iona Stricker, a Dog Obedience Trainer who just happens to be the niece of Rafe’s Middle School nemesis, Principal Ida Stricker. Appalled by Junior’s behavior and Rafe’s inability to control him, Iona Stricker threatens to report Junior to the police and have him taken away if Rafe doesn’t enroll him in Dog Obedience Training immediately. Dog Obedience Training goes about as well as you might expect and everything comes down to a last-ditch effort to win the Basic Beginners category at the Dandy-Dog Show with just one week to prepare. It’s predictable, but skillfully written.

The last third of the book is a fitting finale Junior’s silly, light-hearted, melodramatic narrative. This book is pure fun from beginning to end. There are more poop/pee jokes in it than I personally care for–but they seem just about right for 7-9 year-olds. I could see my kids enjoying this one at that age as both an independent and a read-aloud choice. If you’re looking for something light and fun–added bonus if you have a young reader who loves dogs–then Dog Diaries is a great series to check out. This is also a great series for young readers to use as a springboard into series like Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Liz Pichon’s Tom Gates and Patterson’s Middle School.

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