Venden Heede’s Dutch chapter book is gracefully translated by Nagelkerke, who renders even its rhymes and wordplay in natural-sounding English. Wolf is an ill-mannered boor of a carnivore who devours his bacon straight from the pan. His cousin Dog is a creature of civilization, with “a basket. And a boss .” In nine loosely related episodes, the meek and nervous Dog begins to probe Wolf’s weak spots, verbally fencing with him and taking advantage of his inability to read. Vanden Heede is careful not to choose sides; both creatures have their moral failings. “I’ll do it,” Dog says, when Wolf asks for a favor. “But I want to be in the news.” The bloodthirsty Wolf, for his part, has some poignant vulnerabilities. “I can’t bark,” he tells Dog. “The kitty just laughs at me.” Tolman’s miniature color vignettes are gems, but they have bite, too; she draws Wolf sitting atop a stool of bones eating meat from a tire balanced on an old toilet. While it’s not for the fainthearted, readers who enjoy battles of wits will savor Vanden Heede’s dark comedy. Ages 7–up. (Sept.)
- Lois Rubin Gross
Wolf and Dog are cousins, but their lifestyles and work are very different. While roly poly Dog guards the house for his human “Boss,” Wolf lives in the wild, forages and steals food, and contends with other animals. Dog is trained and literate, while wolf is flea-bitten and cannot read a word on signs or in newspapers. The two canines squabble and deal with each other’s differences in sequential, loosely related stories. More prose than free verse, the stories are sprinkled with rhyming couplets because Wolf likes rhymes. The book is a translation from an award-winning Dutch original story, and it seems that word play that may work in Dutch does not translate smoothly to English. In one sequence, Wolf and Dog deal with word reversals and palindromes. While “did” is fine when read in both directions, “cap” and “pack” are not exactly correct and do not fit the pattern of the joke. Author Sylvia Vanden Heede loves word play, which may have to be explained to the youngest readers. By format, this should be an easy-reader book. Words are simple, mostly single syllable, certainly accessible to young readers. It is also somewhat hefty for an easy reading book which will certainly give beginning readers a feeling of accomplishments. Illustrations are small and scattered within the text. They are charming and may be a strong selling point for the book. Overall, however, the “laugh-out-loud” stories seem a bit mean-spirited thanks to Wolf’s basic nature. This may not be a first choice for most young readers. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross AGERANGE: Ages 5 to 8.
School Library Journal
Gr 1–3—The wild clashes with the civilized in this quirky book of interrelated stories about a decidedly odd couple. Wolf and Dog are cousins, but they lead very different lives. The former lives in the woods and has no loyalty to anyone. The latter lives in a house with a master and takes pride in being responsible and orderly. These creatures share an ambivalent friendship that is chronicled in a series of scenes in which the two interact. At times their relationship is less friendly and leads to tricks and one-upmanship, but they manage to work things out in the end. Ranging from small inserts to full page, the color and line illustrations capture the differing natures of Dog and Wolf perfectly. However, while the text and subject matter are appropriate for younger readers, the language play and subtle humor may be over their heads.—Stephanie Whelan, New York Public Library
Translated from Dutch, this brief import describes the sometimes-humorous interactions between Dog and his toothy cousin, Wolf. Presented in nine chapters, with just a few scant stanzas of free verse to a page, the stories evoke simple situations and minor conflicts, including a very scary (to Wolf, anyway) cat who has invaded his woods. Wolf, full of bluster, is never really as frightful as he thinks himself to be; Dog is mostly calm, although when faced with the stress of driving away the cat with a fearsome bark, he can only manage a pathetic "Weef!" This is all the funnier since the illustration shows him giving it his all before an unimpressed feline. In a typical passage, Wolf intends to raid Dog's refrigerator: "Give me beer and meat and soup and cheese. / And half a dozen loaves of bread. / Heap the plate high. / I need to build up my strength!" In another, which seems to suffer from a translation issue, Wolf rearranges the letters of some of Dog's words, creating new ones. Unfortunately, the rearranged word that confusingly sets the scene is "pack" to "cap." Others--"live" to "evil" and "star" to "rats"--work better. More appealing than the text are Tolman's delicately detailed, yet childlike color-infused, anthropomorphic illustrations that appear on almost every spread. A quirky little tale with appeal to newly minted independent readers with sophisticated senses of humor. (Fiction. 7-10)