Based on a beloved dog’s true story, this debut picture book celebrates hard work and determination.
Originally from Denmark, Soren the French bulldog is adopted by a kind American woman named Deb. Soren dreams about becoming a show dog; unfortunately, he grows too large to compete in his category. Then one day, Deb notices he jumps quite high, so she thinks he can enter agility contests instead. To begin training, Deb takes Soren to a special park with planks, tunnels, jumps, and weave poles. After months of practice, Soren and Deb attend agility trials, where a couple of rude folks scoff that a Frenchie can never prevail because of his large head and short legs. Undeterred by these judgmental individuals, Soren continues to prepare, even running through tricky weave poles, which is the most difficult maneuver for him. With much effort and an indomitable spirit, Soren eventually becomes the first French bulldog to ever win a Master Agility Championship. Told from Soren’s point of view, the story features kindly Deb, with “wild, curly hair,” as the main human character and effectively emphasizes Soren’s devotion to her. Playful and often humorous, Soren’s voice should appeal to a wide array of primary school kids (Stevenson’s work is aimed at ages 5 to 8). In one amusing part, the bulldog’s excitement wreaks havoc with his tummy: “Deb’s eyes got wide and she blurted out, ‘Uh oh. Soren, noooo!’ But before I could stop it…blarrgh! I threw up—right on Deb!” Spicer’s (Sashi and the Puppy Mill Girl, 2016, etc.) bold color illustrations are eye-catching and complement the exultant message; for example, gleeful Soren flies in the volume’s margins with winged pigs because critics said a Frenchie would claim victory “when pigs fly.” (The small human cast, however, lacks diversity.) Reminiscent of a cute Disney character, Soren has huge adorable, expressive eyes, lending a classic feel. A compelling close-up of bug-eyed Soren as he makes the triumphant jump takes up two pages—requiring the book to be turned for optimal viewing—and adds vivid excitement to a jubilant climax.
A canine tale offers an exuberant reminder that winners come in all shapes and sizes (and should never listen to naysayers).