There are some literary characters you wish were real, so that you could be friends with them, and Mal and Chad may belong on that list.
Talking dogs are the subject of a lot of jokes, but they have feelings, too. Chad, for example, has two shameful secrets: He’s frightened by his dreams, and he’s afraid of cats. Every night, he dreams he’s being chased by a cat of monstrous size. Luckily, his best friend is Mal, who’s invented a machine that lets them walk into dreams, and the two of them can face the monster together. Dream sequences are a gold mine for a cartoonist. McCranie has seized the chance to fit every item in his sketchbook into the story. The high point is a forest made out of snack food. Mal immediately starts making snow angels in the chocolate-chip ice cream. The inventions and talking animals may remind some readers of Calvin and Hobbes, but surprisingly, the graphic novel doesn’t suffer much from the comparison. The timing isn’t quite as sharp as Bill Watterson’s, but some panels achieve a poignancy that makes this its own kind of story.
Some readers will come for the heartbreak, others will come for the forest of cupcake trees, but everyone will be cheered by the happy ending, which involves the “biggest, bestest bark ever!” (Graphic novel. 8-11)