Stick Dog, by Tom Watson (lexile: NA; AR book level: 4.5; 189 pp)
Subtitle: “…a really GOOD story with kind of BAD drawings”
The hero of the tale, Stick Dog, is not called that because he likes sticks. (Though, as the author observes, all dogs like sticks.) He is called that because the author is, by his own admission, not very good at drawing. As long as you agree not to hassle him about his drawings, he will get on with telling you the story of Stick Dog.
Stick Dog lives in a nice dry empty pipe under Highway 16, complete with an old couch cushion to sleep on and lots of cast-off tennis balls to chew. He has four good friends who often come to visit: Poo-Poo, Stripes, Karen, and Mutt. (Poo-Poo is NOT named after you-know-what — he’s called that because he’s a poodle.) It’s a good life. But Stick Dog is always on the look-out for something even more important than a home and friends: FOOD!
So when summer comes, it means one thing to Stick Dog and his friends: humans grilling hamburgers. When one afternoon that meaty scent comes wafting over from a nearby park, the dogs decide they MUST have hamburgers. But of course humans are not just going to GIVE them hamburgers, are they? The dogs will need a PLAN.
And so begins the Quest for Hamburgers. There are distractions along the way (including an evil squirrel), and outrageous schemes suggested by the dogs (driving a car? jumping off a cliff?) In the end, nothing happens quite as planned, but everyone is happy (including the picnicking humans).
The story is cute and funny, and the dog’s dialogue and thinking seem perfectly, well, doggy. Some adult reviewers bemoan the simplicity of the plot, but kids love it. And Stick Dog is an admirable character. He’s loyal and patient with his friends, a good leader and team-builder.
The text resembles a kid’s school notebook with lined paper, amply illustrated with lots of the author’s kind-of-bad drawings (jumping on the ever-popular Wimpy-Kid-format bandwagon). It may just inspire would-be young authors into thinking, “Hey, I can draw better than that! Maybe I’ll write a story ….” And don’t let the page count scare away readers wanting something shorter; the large font and pictures make this more the equivalent of a 90-page chapter book.
The sequel, Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog, came out October 8 — I loved it, too!