Toby is a precocious tan-and-brown hound who learns to get along with a neighbor cat in this mildly humorous sequel to Always in Trouble (2008).
In the previous story, Toby learned how to behave in obedience school, but now he reverts to mischievous behavior such as running into the road and digging up daffodils. Toby’s antics fail to impress Pandora, the “slinky and spunky and snooty and snobby” cat who lives next door. She ignores Toby completely, until she comes for a visit while her owners are on vacation. Then, as Toby continues to misbehave, Pandora follows suit, though the family members now inadvertently ignore her as she has ignored Toby. When Pandora gets stuck in a tree, the dog saves the day by spelling out “CAT IN TREE” in muddy paw prints on the kitchen floor. In an amusing conclusion, cat and dog celebrate together by jumping up and down on Emma’s bed in conspiratorial hijinks. Bold, cartoon-style illustrations with exaggerated shapes refreshingly depict an African-American family, and Toby’s bulgy eyes and winsome expressions steal the show.
Though Toby is a pleasing pooch, ultimately the canine-vs.-feline conflict is less than compelling. (Picture book. 3-6)