Belenky’s (Capt’n Bob’s Adventures in Child Psychology, 2015, etc.) new children’s book charmingly relates the adventures of Milly, a black Labradoodle with a flair for persuasion.
These five tales, perfectly pitched for middle-grade readers, begin with a first-person (or rather, first-dog) origin story. Readers learn about where Milly was born and about her human “parents,” Mother Mary and Capt’n Bob. Milly is smart—so smart, in fact, that she attends a local law school and receives a degree. This helps her defend herself from accusations of stealing tennis balls, and her argument convinces the judge, a miniature schnauzer: “I say that if a ball is thrown to someone, whether dog or person, it becomes a gift, fair and square,” says Milly. “It is then his or hers to chomp on. That is how the world works.” At the end of this tale, questions for the “Intelligent Reader” appear: “Does Milly really steal tennis balls?” What makes a dog “good” or “bad”? “If you needed a lawyer, would you or would you not hire Milly? Why/why not?” Not only are these queries amusing, but they also encourage youngsters to appreciate the differences between species. In addition, the book helps readers appreciate pets’ quirky personalities. The use of Milly’s voice instructs in lively ways, as she says early on: “Capt’n Bob writes short stories about me that are mostly lies or exaggerations at best.” Of herself, though, she says that she’s “famous everywhere for my open mindedness.” At one point, for instance, Milly desires a pet of her own, so she goes to an elementary school to see if there are any children on sale. The book is full of humor and worldly awareness; a tale about Milly’s distrust of squirrels, for example, ends on a compassionate note when she visits an elderly pair of them at their home to sip some fermented pine sap. The final story, about why wolves (and sometimes dogs) howl at the moon, looks at the mysteries of mortality in a gentle, magical manner.
A kids' tale that features a vivid storyteller who’s also a wise teacher.