A puppy’s dog parents find him a better home in this debut children’s chapter book.
Growing up with his parents, Marf and Darf, the puppy narrator of this book enjoys playing in a dirt yard with his seven brothers and sisters but fears the human owner. His mother warns him, “You know to stay away from the Man in the Bad Boots. He’s mean.” Though he tries to be a good boy, the puppy sometimes thoughtlessly gets into trouble and especially can’t help barking. Remembering a kind couple who helped them once, Marf and Darf lead the narrator and his sister to their door. Kate and Leo can’t take in puppies right now, but it’s Christmas, so they give the pups as gifts to family members. The puppy, named Bandit, is placed with Leo’s nephew, Eric, and Sis—renamed Noel—with Eric’s grandmother. Settling in has its difficulties, like baths, learning new routines, and dealing with Moka, the household’s large and rambunctious dog. It’s also tough not to annoy Eric’s father, who likes his peace and quiet. But Bandit proves himself and becomes part of the family—though he still needs to reduce the barking. Bandit’s story will continue in a planned second volume. Langson takes a simple story of dog adoption and adds several notes of suspense: Will the puppies escape Bad Boots? Will Eric’s grumpy father agree to the adoption? Can Bandit ever stop barking? But the hints of maltreatment by Bad Boots and the specter of homelessness for Bandit never become overwhelming for young readers. May’s pencil illustrations capture Bandit’s personality and emotions well, although the human figures look a bit awkward.
Young readers are likely to be drawn in by Bandit’s plight, his energy, desire to please, and affection for Eric, his boy.