This British import mixes outlandish adventures (or possibly very vivid dreams) with intentionally juvenile jokes to create a zany first (U.S.) entry in a series for transitioning readers.
The episodic plot follows two days in the life of Claude, a talking, beret-wearing dog, and his best friend, a sentient, independently mobile sock named Sir Bobblysock. On the first day, Claude and his friend visit a cafe, enjoy a shopping spree in a hat shop and finish up with a trip to the art museum, where Claude inadvertently foils a robbery. On the next, they take a trip to the hospital since Sir Bobblysock is feeling poorly. While there are no comics or superheroes, some of the wordplay (the doctor’s name is Ivan Achinbum) as well as the display of underwear (both men’s and women’s) in numerous illustrations may remind readers of the perennially popular Captain Underpants series. Smith’s text varies from short, simple declarative sentences typical of early readers to longer, more complex sentences and paragraphs that feature sophisticated vocabulary and concepts. The digitally created artwork resembles pen and ink with pencil shading, and the palette is limited to black, gray and red with coral accents. This color scheme gives the illustrations a distinctly retro feel, while Claude’s vague resemblance to both Underdog and Snoopy creates a cartoon vibe.
Quirky and cosmopolitan Claude’s audience on this side of the pond is likely to be limited, but it may well also be quite enthusiastic. (Fiction. 7-9)