“It’s not fair, Barney,” grouses Spencer to his brown-and-white mutt. “Susan is treated better than me. It’s like…it’s like she’s the human and I’m the dog!”
When Great-Aunt Alice visits Spencer’s family with her indulged Afghan hound, Susan, poor Spencer is aced out of a steak, the last piece of breakfast bacon, and a visit to the zoo, among other indignities. Boy and mutt take the royal creature to an off-leash park, where Barney teaches her how to eat garbage, roll in a mud puddle, play with other dogs, and run loose. Great-Aunt Alice is appalled at her muddy, tangled hound with garbage breath, and they leave in a huff so that both may return to their regular, disciplined lives. Will Susan revert to being a real dog after her brief time of true dogdom, or will she once again be a princess? Readers must decide, though Spencer thinks he knows. Action is strongly portrayed in Arnaldo’s mixed-media drawings, which show personalities, activities, and characters—the dogs are especially well-done. (Spencer and his family are white.) The story is overextended, however, and it raises some questions. Children may wonder whether it’s meant to be humorous when Spencer is deprived of food and Susan of activity. The illustrations convey the humor and fun, while the anecdotes sometimes seem selfish and mean.
A shaggy dog story that’s both funny and disquieting. (Picture book. 5-8)