Taking a new way home from the park, 7-year-old Tom encounters a trio of “not very nice blokes” and fears the worst. But the three bullies, rather than harassing Tom and his “sausage dog, Max” (who can secretly fly, thanks to his rotating tail), look frightened, cross the street, and take off running. Tom realizes that he is standing in front of the eerie house that is home to a mysterious someone known to his peers as the “Wicked Witch of Windy Way.” When Tom learns that the “Witch” is in reality Miss Amersham, a lonely old woman whose own beloved dachshund has died, he decides to keep it to himself, show up the bullies, and fulfill a Cub Scout goal by cleaning up her tangled garden. How Tom solves his bully problem involves Miss Amersham’s discovery of Max’s secret and her illuminating advice, his mom’s clean laundry, a nighttime campout, and the dachshund’s tail-whirling enthusiasm for grilled sausages. This is the latest book in the “Max” series about an English boy and his special pup by O’Driscoll and Kelley (Tails From the Pound, 2015, etc.). Although it offers less sly, poke-in-the-ribs humor than the authors’ previous volumes, the genuine fun and unsentimental charm in the telling remain intact. Robins’ eccentric full- and partial-page illustrations—a fluid line, rich in detail and color—are again a delight, balancing sweetness and comedy with expert artistry and wit. The authors again include a page of words and phrases unfamiliar to young American readers: “Working a treat” means something is working very well. Dachshund is pronounced “dash-hound.” “Y-Fronts” are boys’ underwear. As before, the last page offers a captioned photo of the real, now-departed Max.
This offbeat tale delivers a winning mix of quirky humor, real-life dilemmas, plot-propelling canine aeronautics, and a dash of compassion.