DEAR MRS. LARUE by Mark  Teague


Letters from Obedience School
by & illustrated by
Age Range: 6 - 9
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An epistolary picture book detailing the misadventures of a very imaginative dog at obedience school. Ike the terrier is a reluctant student at the Igor Brotweiler Canine Academy, and sends daily letters home describing the tortures he’s undergoing at school: “Needless to say, I am being horribly mistreated. You say I should be patient and accept that I’ll be here through the term. Are you aware that the term lasts TWO MONTHS? Do you know how long that is in dog years?” In a series of inspired double-page spreads, the bright acrylic illustrations depict Ike scrivening away in the plushest possible surroundings, while he imagines (appropriately enough in black-and-white) what he describes. As Ike complains about the food, the reader sees him seated at a table covered in a white tablecloth and decorated with roses; his fevered imagination, however, conjures up a vision of a burly, tattooed cook standing over a cauldron and pointing at a sign that says “No howling, biting, scratching, growling, slobbering, or barking, and no seconds!” as Ike, prison-stripe-clad, forlornly holds up his dog dish. The concept is fun, but it’s a one-note joke that depends on a highly developed sense of irony to appreciate. Teague’s first offering as author/illustrator since One Halloween Night (1999) demonstrates a mastery of illustration without an accompanying command of textual narration; the overlong text bogs down as the reader attempts to figure out what’s really going on: does Ike really want to go back home? does he really believe what he describes? is he simply trying to make Mrs. LaRue feel guilty? The work as a whole is energetic but ultimately fails to follow through on a promising concept. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-439-20663-4
Page count: 32pp
Publisher: Scholastic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2002


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