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CHAMP AND MAJOR by Joy McCullough


First Dogs

by Joy McCullough ; illustrated by Sheyda Abvabi Best

Pub Date: Jan. 19th, 2021
ISBN: 978-0-593-40714-1
Publisher: Dial Books

Two German shepherds take on the very important job of keeping their newly elected “dad” from working too hard.

As the Bidens’ dog since vice-presidential days, Champ knows his duties well and readily assumes new ones when Major arrives—first teaching the rambunctious shelter pup how to behave at home and in public and then, after the election, taking him on a tour of the White House. The low-saturation, generic, sparsely detailed cartoon illustrations look as whipped out as the blandly minimal narrative, which is so simple caregivers may need to fill in quite a lot for little listeners—like what is the job Champ and Major’s dad does that’s so tiring. Only one scene, of Biden addressing reporters with Vice President–elect Kamala Harris at his side, includes human figures wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Still, the newest first family is at least recognizable, and Abvabi Best also gets the dogs’ coloring right as well as populating the backgrounds with a diverse cast (including an Obama-era flashback of the African American first couple next to the White vice-presidential couple). If her final view, of the canines snuggled down in the Oval Office, is a bit speculative (not to say idealized), it does bring the double tribute to a cozy, companionable close. A closing timeline of U.S. presidential pets and a note on the histories of the two dogs and information about shelter pets in general add a few morsels of fact to chew on. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 79% of actual size.)

A superficial tail wagger, but it’s good to see the White House going to the dogs literally again rather than otherwise.

(Picture book. 5-7)