Mother-daughter, author-illustrator team Hughes and Vulliamy collaborate for a low-key tale with an old-fashioned feel, decidedly British flavor and cheerful illustrations.
Digby O’Day and his best friend, Percy, are anthropomorphic dogs in natty suits. Digby’s neighbor (and nemesis) Lou Ella is a stylish young woman with a fondness for fast cars. Secondary characters range from human (the members of the “friendly family,” among others), to badger (entrepreneurial brothers Don and Ron Barrakan), to various other, unnamed animals. The slight plot focuses on an auto race from one small town to another; the message, meanwhile, has more to do with kindness and altruism versus thoughtlessness and selfishness. Spelling has been Americanized, but some vocabulary may momentarily stump readers on this side of the Atlantic. Red-and-pink–tinged illustrations, created with pencil, ink and digital collage, appear on every page, breaking up the text, adding humor and clearly depicting the events as described in the straightforward text. A simple map allows readers to follow the racers along their routes. A two-page profile of Digby precedes the first chapter; car games, a quiz, drawing prompts, and brief bios of the author and illustrator as well as a preview of the next book follow the final one.
Digby and Percy are slated to return in additional adventures; whether they can win the contest to capture the interest of young readers and listeners remains to be seen. (Fiction. 6-8)