A pampered French bulldog experiences a sudden decline in her eyesight, affecting her mobility and perceptions of potential threats.
Little Mabel established her opulent lifestyle and divalike demeanor in her previous self-narrated story, Naughty Mabel (2015). In this sequel, Mabel’s eyesight mysteriously goes haywire, and she runs into walls, mistakes a bowl of potpourri for her dogfood dish, and begins to experience double vision. The meandering, overlong text describes how Mabel’s eye problems worsen at night, when she perceives large shapes as monsters about to attack her. On a sleepover with friends, she smashes dinosaur skeletons and, back in her own home, beats a gigantic armchair with her pink baseball bat, leading to a trip to the eye doctor for an exam. (Another dog owner there is a black woman; Mabel’s owners and her next-door neighbor are white.) Mabel tries on different kinds of “very attractive” glasses, but her owners choose contact lenses as “more practical for an active girl.” Mabel’s sassy attitude and over-the-top antics have a slapstick appeal, but several of the jokes in her witty dialogue are way over the heads of young readers, who likely won’t be familiar with potpourri, couscous, Martha Stewart, or black-and-white movies starring Bette Davis. The final gag depends on readers having a fairly sophisticated, well-developed sense of irony—debatable for the younger end of the audience range. Clever, cartoon-style illustrations and a supersized format provide visual heft for Mabel’s narrative but can’t compensate for the weaknesses of the text.
Mabel has moxie, but she deserves a better story. As Mabel herself might say, “Send for the script doctor, darlings.” (Picture book. 4-8)