Friendly neighborhood dogs become vampires in this fun but gruesome middle-grade story.
The second installment in Woolworth’s (The Kindness of Strangers, 2012) series about Winnie, a paralyzed corgi, gives readers a tale from a dog’s point of view. Winnie and her friend, a wolf named Parsi, communicate via a software program called DOGSPEAK, which was introduced in the series’ first book (but helpfully explained in an afterword here). The story begins with an animal rights activist breaking into DuPont Experimental Station and stealing a test tube carrier containing an experimental material called Phyto 710. The burglar falls and releases the chemical into the Brandywine River, where it later infects a bat. This sets into motion an epidemic of bats biting dogs, turning them into “Dogpyres.” One affected neighborhood dog, Nigel, sinks his sharp canines into Winnie’s stomach when she wanders out of her yard one day. Fortunately, Parsi is immune to the syndrome and rescues Winnie. Parsi’s “primary,” or owner, Paulette Espin, is the chemist who invented Phyto 710, so when the dogs start changing, she’s able to figure out what’s happening with the help of Winnie’s owners and other scientists. In order to track down the source of the infection, though, they need Parsi to go on a dangerous mission. This wacky story seems aimed at older children, and ends on an upbeat note. The book breaks its fast-moving plot into short, snappy chapters with titles sketched in a blood-red typeface, and colorful drawings by Carol Tippit Woolworth illuminate key details, such as Parsi’s protective K-9 suit. However, its frequent use of undefined technical terms such as “phytohemagglutinins” and “macrophage” may confuse readers, and the doggie narration sometimes becomes repetitive. Some grotesque elements, such as dismembered baby bats and a dog falling down a well and breaking his neck, may disturb squeamish readers.
A humorous, suspenseful twist on the vampire tale for young readers who don’t mind horror.