Newbery Medalist MacLachlan continues her series of early chapter books with this second offering about Barkus the dog, his feline companion named Baby, and the child who owns them, Nicky.
The story unfolds in five short chapters narrated by Nicky, with bold, bright illustrations on every page and some pages printed on colored backgrounds. The episodic chapters include a visit to the vet, attending a town party, and rescuing some lost farm animals. Barkus makes friends with a neighbor’s dog, Millie, when they trade toys back and forth, and in the concluding chapter, Millie and her owner stay with Nicky’s family during a storm and power outage. Each chapter has some sort of reassuring development for Barkus, showing that he will be cared for and protected and appreciated. The plot also subtly reinforces the importance of helping others, with the rescue of the runaway farm animals, with Barkus rescuing a struggling singer with a convenient howl, and with Nicky's family kindly opening their home to Millie and her owner during the storm. The illustrations are varied in format and size, with amusing, buggy-eyed humans and animals, and each chapter has humor and surprising developments to keep young readers turning pages. The main characters present white, with supporting characters of different ethnicities, including a female vet with brown skin and black hair.
A solid entry in an entertaining series foreshadowing more adventures for the trio of Barkus, Baby, and Millie on the horizon. (Early reader. 4-7)