Spunky Tells All
Ann Cameron, author
Lauren Castillo, illustrator
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2011
I’m a dog lover, to be sure. We had two mixed breed dogs (aka “mutts”) for the first decade (roughly) of our marriage. Then, after an eight month gap, we recently rescued another mixed breed. So, a book like Spunky Tells All, in which a beloved family dog of indeterminate breed is narrating the story… well, it’s a given I’ll willingly give it a whirl.
It’s easy to be cutesy when adopting an animal’s “voice” in a book, but Cameron nails it. That is largely what makes this short chapter book stand out. Spunky is concerned that after the years he’s lived with his Human family (2 years in “human,” and 10 in “dog”), they still don’t understand Dog. After all, he’s learned a lot of Human. So, when he tries to argue against their decision to get a cat, the family only hears “Yerf.” (sigh) What’s a dog to do?
When the family comes home with the new cat (Fiona–who smells Foolish to Spunky), Spunky is determined not to like her. After all, she’s a cat and foolish to boot. The second half of the book follows Fiona’s and Spunky’s begrudging acceptance of–and even friendship with–each other without ever being cheesy or trite. Illustrations are done in heavy black line and are a good complement to the text. It’s another great animal friendship story in a long history of solid animal fiction. Animal lovers and especially pet owners will enjoy this one.
This is a terrific early chapter book for those in the transitional reading stage between easy readers like Henry and Mudge but who aren’t quite ready for a regular chapter book (along the lines of Charlotte’s Web). Recommended for ages 7-11; a good read aloud for younger.
Book from my local library; cover image thanks to goodreads.