Thanks Kidlit Exchange and Little, Brown and Company for the ARC of James Patterson & Steven Butler’s newest Middle Grade contemporary book, DOG DIARIES. It released Dec 3, 2018.
DOG DIARIES opens (dare I say appropriately) with a polite butt sniff rather than a traditional human intro. Patterson’s latest Middle School spinoff is narrated by the loveable though slightly emotionally bruised Junior, the last mutt standing in his pack at the Hills Village Dog Shelter.
Fortunately, Junior meets a boy who smells like junk food and broken rules – none other than the great Rafe Khatchadorian (“Katch-a-doggy-bone”) – who decides to become Junior’s pet human.
Narrated in the hyper-enthusiastic, just-punny-enough voice of a doggy lifestyle guru who promises he isn’t judging us for our rainy poop-rooms, DOG DIARIES takes a bit longer than usual to orient the reader in the story. However, short chapters, frequent illustrations and graphic texts, excessive pooping in shoes, and wacky/absurdist action should keep reluctant readers engaged.
Junior tears up the Hills Village Dog Park (not his fault, there was a raccoon) and gets on the wrong side of crabby, middle-aged lady Whistle Pants. The self-proclaimed dog obedience guru and maybe closet cat lover Iona Stricker, is of course niece of Rafes nemesis/principal, and is determined to have Junior sent back to the shelter.
To prove himself, Junior must pass Whistle Pants’ obedience class. While he’s determined to ace it… Rules aren’t for Everyone, and Junior is Rafe’s dog. For starters, “play dead” to Junior means “walk like a zombie”.
The satisfying and hilarious climax ends with a mass rebellion at the dog show, with the cheating antagonist maybe breathing fire and definitely being launched into a giant tub of dog food.
On the surface, these are silly books with a bit much potty humor, but the real genius of Patterson/Butler’s character is that others’ perspective (Georgia and now Junior) make Rafe even more endearing.