The tale of a young pup whose good deeds only appear naughty falls flat due to the repeated use of judgmental phrases in speech bubbles.
In four brief chapters, young readers meet Sam, an exuberant, somewhat impulsive pup whose heart is in the right place. While he does run amok through the grown-ups’ activities (“Bad boy!”) on the way to finding a friend’s lost hat (“Good boy!”), he is very careful not to make the same mistakes upon his return, though the adults don’t notice. When banned-from-cooking Sam helps blind-without-his-glasses Grandpa with his midnight snack, the large cartoon panels show Mama’s progression from anger to understanding. Some quite accidental mishaps at school provoke his teacher to call him a “Bad boy!” and send him to the corner, where he purposefully starts trouble and, confusingly, is dubbed a creative “Good boy!” In the final chapter, Sam slips out unseen during a storm; his frantic relatives find him sheltering a fallen baby bird. Watercolor, gouache and pen illustrations show anthropomorphized dogs whose expressions speak volumes, especially the angry and fearful ones. Unlike Chorao’s Kate (Up and Down with Kate, 2001), Sam doesn’t face everyday situations, so readers may find it difficult to relate…unless they often hear the titular phrases. What is most worrisome is that even when the grown-ups seem to recognize that Sam is trying his best to do the right thing, they don’t see that he learns from his mistakes and is a good boy indeed.
Readers will be left saying, “Poor Sam,” after this one. (Picture book. 4-8)